With a melted-butter voice and a conversational lyrical style, Lucy Dacus has become the Southern gothic queen of the axis of her hometown of Richmond, Va., and in Nashville, Tenn. (where she recorded her debut, “No Burden,” in one 10-hour session). To go with her intimate, chatty style and weary discussions of love, fiduciary fairness and language, there is the quiet fact that Dacus has emerged as a humble gay icon and a distinguished live performer, the latter of which can be seen at her upcoming local shows, May 20 and 21 at Union Transfer.
PGN: What made you use a photo of yourself as a child on the last album?
LD: That picture of me was taken when I was 5. Then, I was a dreadless, guiltless, blindly courageous little thing. I often try to get back to that state of mind. “No Burden” has a lot to do with getting past what you were taught as a kid and becoming who you are. The next record also has to do with moving past the things that hold you back, but it approaches that goal through more difficult subject matter. I want it to communicate hopefulness through peril. We’ll see if that works.
PGN: What do you say a year later to the fact that listeners used “Trust” to discuss their own fears of a Trump-totalitarian regime?
LD: Seeing people find comfort in my lyrics around the election was the fulfillment of what I believe music is for at its best. In my darkest moments, I’ve looked to the writers I admire for the words I can’t come up with on my own. To have been that for others is a huge honor. There’s one song on the next record that relates specifically to national pride and shame and what I believe my role is as an American. Overall, the album is about deciding how to live hopefully in a world that feels hopeless, which is a daily thought for me these days.
PGN: You stated a love of Agnes Varda and Miranda July, for their honesty and fearlessness as well as containing fear in their work. How do you embrace that going forward?
LD: Not only do Varda and July express deeply comforting perspectives on humanity, they express their thoughts through many mediums — [as] directors, writers, actresses, visual artists. I respect them for their vulnerability — which might as well be a synonym for fearlessness — and for their example of unbridled creativity. I have aspirations beyond music. These women are part of the reason that those dreams are alive; they, through their lives, have shown me it’s possible to spin as many plates as you want, as long as you’re driven by a persistent message.
PGN: You are rightfully quiet, but not silent, about your sexual identity. With “fame,” do you think you can and will open up thusly in a lyrical sense? Or is this yours and yours alone?
LD: I think I don’t talk about it much because no one really asks. Plus, it has only been recently that I’ve felt comfortable identifying as a queer lady. I’ve only ever been in straight relationships, so externally, my preference has never been under scrutiny. My high-school boyfriend who I dated for five years was very uncomfortable discussing sexuality and was passively unsupportive of my own questioning. For so long, I looked at myself through his lens rather than my own. Luckily, I’m past that. There’s one song on the new record where I talk about a female friendship of mine that feels hung in the balance. And one song where I address someone with gender-neutral pronouns, but neither of those things are the focus of either of those songs.
PGN: Do you feel compelled to lift your voice about LGBT issues in the same way you have about wealth-oriented infrastructure, a concern close to your heart?
LD: No matter what the issue is, I never feel like I’m the right person or appropriately qualified to speak because my memory for facts is pretty poor. However, at each of our shows we raise money for local charities, many of which are LGBTQ resources. For example, we’re starting a tour with Sylvan Esso and we’ll be raising money for the Sylvia Rivera Law Project in New Yrok (https://srlp.org/) and Outright Vermont in Burlington (http://www.outrightvt.org/). I admire and learn from people who voice their support and I greatly respect those who choose to show their support monetarily. Asking for money is oddly taboo, but it is so vital for the groups who are spending all their energy on enacting progress and taking care of the LGBTQ community.