In the same way her instantly charming accent reflects her upbringing in both New Zealand and the southwest London area of Kingston-Upon-Thames, the latest album by Lucie Silvas, E.G.O., mixes its share of musical cultures and sonic influences. Steeped in Dusty Springfield soul, Fleetwood Mac pop and Nashville’s collaborative songcraft, E.G.O. is the singer-songwriter’s rapturous follow-up to her 2015 LP, Letters to Ghosts. Moving beyond the heartbreak that permeated that underappreciated gem, E.G.O. has, at its incendiary center, the soul of a self-assured rocker who’s also in touch with her own vulnerability. Laced with humor and self-awareness and buoyed by the sense of community she has found since relocating to Music City from the U.K. in 2007, E.G.O. (an acroynym for “Everybody Gets Off”) also explores the pitfalls of a social-media-driven culture in post-Trump world.
Married to musician John Osborne of the country duo Brothers Osborne since 2015, Silvas has toured with Miranda Lambert, Chris Stapleton and Little Big Town – not to mention playing shows with James Bay, Tom Jones, Elton John, Lionel Richie, Skrillex and many others. Having scored Top Ten hits in the U.K. and a Number One single in the Netherlands, Silvas, whose international sales have topped one million, will be featured this fall on Cam’s Road to Happiness Tour, which opens at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium on September 26th.
Rolling Stone Country sat down with Silvas to talk about E.G.O., her husband’s infleunce on her music, her obsession with the Netflix series, Black Mirror, and the “horrendous” performances she gave as a teen in a band with lifelong friend – and E.G.O. producer – Jon Green.
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Letters to Ghosts was such a great album, but E.G.O. seems to have quite a different tone to it. What was your mindset while making this one?
It felt like I was going through years of an aftermath of a breakup and heartbreak and figuring out how to move on, while I was carrying so many different emotions with regards to hurt, anger, guilt, all this kind of stuff, with Letters to Ghosts, but with E.G.O., I’ve managed to put that behind me, but also reflect on the kind of person I was, the kind of person I am now, and the kind of person I want to be. I feel like in songs I’m touching on maybe the sides of me I’m not in love with, like even in “First Rate Heartbreak,” talking about that destructive side of me. Before I met John, I would always gravitate towards things that were fiery, and I’d find a way to sabotage things, just because I was afraid of it, and afraid of being my most vulnerable self, taking a risk.
You seem to have a more confident streak reflected in this album compared to the last one — assertive but not aggressive.
I’m not prepared to play this game anymore, of pretending to be anything other than what I actually am. If I’m not grandiose, I’m not grandiose. If I’m not successful in your eyes, I’m not successful. And if I don’t look like that, or if I don’t look like this, it’s just a bit of waving your hands up, going, “Yeah, I’m a little bit crazy like a lot of people,” and yet I’m willing to better myself. I feel like this album, especially “Black Jeans” and “E.G.O.” talk about the fact that I’m not afraid to just be exactly what I am.
The title track, “E.G.O.,” seems almost tailor-made for the times we’re living in.
It’s a bit of a humorous look at how vain I, and everyone, can be. And how much fame just gets diluted and used in the wrong way. I wrote it because it was cathartic for me to write it. I wrote it with Natalie Hemby and Elise Hayes. All I want to do is come home and look in the mirror and think that I’m not an idiot. And some days, I don’t achieve that. Everyone just has to be visible in order to feel seen. It’s really, really scary. I didn’t want to go too deep on it. I just kind of wanted to take a little tongue-in-cheek pop at it, because I’m such a sucker sometimes, too. It’s this unending siege of narcissism that just dilutes everything that you love, that you feel. You buy into this popularity contest and this idea that fame makes you a better musician, and it doesn’t.
Sometimes it feels like we’re in a really freaky episode of Black Mirror.
Oh, I’m obsessed with that show. I’ve actually seen all of it a few times over. I think it’s so clever but it is deeply unsettling. Episodes like “Nose Dive,” and “Shut Up and Dance,” or even “Hang the DJ,” where it’s like looking at the ways we find love now. My dad was just not OK watching “Hang the DJ.” He didn’t like the sinister, unsettling nature. I’ve always said this about any art whatsoever, I love to be riveted and unsettled by something, because I feel like if I’m unsettled that means I’m thinking about it.
“Girls from California,” which you wrote with Natalie Hemby and Liz Rose, is an interesting track. It feels very hypnotic and Beach Boys-like, but when you listen closely to the lyrics it’s really about insecurity, comparing yourself to some kind of ideal.
California is one of my favorite places, but the song was really a way to look at the fact that I feel… I know I’m blonde and whatever, but I feel scruffy compared to girls… even here, I look at how pretty everyone is and how glamorous they look. Do they just wake up like that? I wake up and it takes me hours just to look presentable! I feel like I’ve rolled out of a hedge most mornings. [Laughs] But John sees all the sides to me, which I think, I’d hope, that most people don’t have the misfortune of seeing! But he loves those sides. But in the beginning, you think, what kind of woman do you want, and is it that? Because I’m not that. It was really a vulnerable moment, and the sound of it very much came from my love of the Beach Boys and Dusty Springfield and that old sound of Burt Bacharach that I loved. I wanted to feel like I was in a movie, walking down a pier somewhere by the ocean, just reflecting on who I am and who I’m not. It’s supposed to be empowering, too.
What kind of influence did your John have on the album?
He has an influence on me overall, in that he is so committed to what he does. We love a lot of the same music. When we first met, that was one of the things that we found – common ground. Our love of old country, Motown, gospel, jazz, old crooners like Nat King Cole and all that stuff we both loved. He loves blues and so do I. I think musically we’ve helped feed each other with that. He was so busy that he’d come in and play guitar on songs like “Kite” and “First Rate Heartbreak” and “Smoking Your Weed.” He got to do the fun stuff without feeling like he was responsible, not too heavily involved in it.
John also co-wrote “Smoking Your Weed” with you and Kate York. Did that come about from some personal experience?
We wrote that quite late at night one night, when we were all living together. We were talking about somebody we knew back in the day. John used to hang out with a group of friends, and there was this girl that his buddy had a huge crush on, and she would come over every night, and he’d be like, “I’m totally in there with this girl, and she’s into me, I know.” John would be like, “Dude, you know why she’s coming here?” Then she started to bring her boyfriend around with her and now they’re both smoking his weed. “I think she just wants to smoke your weed, and if you stop smoking weed, you probably won’t hear from her again.” It’s really a metaphor for you’ve got to be mindful of what people want from you. Not every friendship is authentic. I’ve become better at knowing what people want from me; whether it’s an authentic friendship or it’s not.
The other Jon who’s important to this project is Jon Green, the producer. The two of you have quite a long history together.
He’s one of my best friends. We grew up together. I’ve known him since I was 14 years old. He is so incredibly gifted at everything he does: piano, drums, guitar, singing, songwriting. When we were about to start recording, he was so busy. He was doing the James Bay record and he’d only finished that a week previous to coming to Nashville.
You also used to perform together in a wedding band in London. What was that experience like?
We didn’t just do weddings, we did bar mitzvahs and other functions. It was ridiculous. His brother Daniel, these people are still my best friends. This was from the ages of like 15 to 18, maybe 15 to 17. We were really young, and we even played at a show at their school, which was an all-boys’ school. I remember being terrified, being like the token female. They actually let me play a flute solo when they were doing a cover of “November Rain,” which was literally one of the most horrendous moments in musical history. [Laughs]