The prospect of facing vast expanses of highway and innumerable hours in a vehicle by oneself would feel arduous for some, but this solitary time doesn’t appear to phase Lucette, who uses it to her advantage.
“There’s always a pile of records that I’m dying to listen to, but having a full-time job when I come home and friends … there’s always records that you kind of neglect listening to,” says the Edmonton-based singer-songwriter, who often tours without the accompaniment of a band. “So I love giving new music the time of day when I’m driving, because I actually have the time to sit and listen.”
Lucette (also known as Lauren Gillis) describes the thought of waking up with no one’s schedule to worry about but her own as nearly luxurious, but solo touring has also taught her the importance of organization and avoiding “rookie mistakes”—like not factoring a time change into her day and arriving late to soundcheck. But these slip-ups are par for the course, and certainly haven’t slowed her down: she’s amassed a solid network of musicians and producers in Nashville and much of her touring has occurred in the US, including several showcases at SXSW in Austin last year.
“It seems like the American market has almost come to me easier than the Canadian market,” she says. “The type of music that I play, a lot of it is very influenced by southern sounds—alternative country, Texas country, blues, sort of gospel—all those genres of music sort of stem from the southern states.”
Indeed, Lucette’s debut album, Black Is the Color, is steeped in haunting, pensive tones with strong ties to noir folk and alt-country, drawing on influences like Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson (one of her favourite songwriters) and Townes Van Zandt, with some modern edge—she notes listening to Ryan Adams’ Heartbreaker record on repeat around the time she was writing her own album. She had a number of songs written prior to going into the studio with Nashville-based producer Dave Cobb, but they had grown stale to her and the majority were ultimately scrapped. Lucette notes that it was the opening track “Bobby Reid,” a mournful tale about love gone wrong, that altered the album’s direction from its original ’50s/’60s country-pop trajectory.
“What’s great about it is it just took that one song to open my world up as far as writing,” Lucette notes, adding tracks like “River Rising,” “Darkness” and “Muddy Water” quickly followed. “It was just kind of magical, you know? It just sort of came out of nowhere, and the thing with me is I work well with deadlines. If I’m given a deadline I’ll get something done, but if not I’ll probably sit and let it fester until it’s aching to be finished.
“Dave uses such great musicians,” she continues. “These people heard the song once, and I credit them as much as Dave [for] creating the sound that we created, because they heard the song and that’s what you hear. We recorded everything live, so they just get it.”
Black is the Color was released earlier in 2015, and Lucette has her sights set on her next record once she wraps up touring with David Ramirez. During her time recording with Cobb, he exposed her to numerous artists beyond the scope she had reached, including Jessi Colter, and those artists have further informed her own style.
“She’s one of the only people that I know of that’s a female country singer that plays piano, and that’s my instrument,” she notes, explaining that discovering artists like Colter and Leon Russell have expanded her reach into a soulful sound she’d like to move towards on her follow-up album. “I think at the time [of Black is the Color] my knowledge of what I loved was just breaking into what I really love, you know?”