Interview: Lucy Roleff is near Paradise

Lucy Roleff

Melbourne folk artist and long time friend of Something You Said, Lucy Roleff is just about to release her debut solo album. Bobby Townsend has a chat with her: 

Hi Lucy. It’s been a couple of years since we last spoke to you. How have you been? Is 2016 treating you well so far?
Hi Bobby! Yes it has been a while, hasn’t it? I’ve been very much under the radar finishing the album and doing some other projects. 2016 has been pretty nice so far – adequate levels of relaxing times and healthy stress. I’ve taken up swimming again, so that’s nice!

You’ve got your debut solo album coming out next month. What can you tell us about it?
Yes. This Paradise is a collection of songs written and recorded over the past three years or so. I was lucky enough to get an Australian Council grant to make it – which was actually about two years ago so it’s been a real slow-burner. I recorded with Tony Dupé (who produced and arranged my EP Longbows) in his former studio – a 100 year old former parish hall, attached to his old place in South Gippsland.

This was my first time arranging for my music which was a steep learning curve – though very fulfilling to do! After recording the guitar and vocals, I arranged for harp and flute, which I played, as well as clarinet and saxophone played by my long-term collaborator Rosalind Hall. Alex Badham added some beautiful electric guitar soundscapes and bass and then Tony and his partner Claire Deak got to work adding subtle string arrangements and other stunning elements; pump organ, bowed glockenspiel, cymbals, cello, piano. We also had violinist Dayna Roberts come in and add some gorgeous touches. I feel very lucky to have worked with such skilled and like-minded people! I couldn’t imagine the album without them.

What prompted the name, This Paradise?
It’s the name of one of the songs on the album. The song refers to a sense of paradise which is elusive – always a centimetre or so out of arm’s length. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it has something to do with desire and mystery. Which I guess in itself sounds mysterious! Haha.

So this record has been a long time in the making and some of the songs been around for a while?
Yup, so as I mentioned earlier, recording started in December of 2014. That sounds so long ago now but it just worked out that way and i’m glad it did because this is really an autumn/winter album to my ears and I can’t imagine it coming out in the summer! Some of the songs are a bit older than others – the oldest song is maybe three years old but I don’t mind because those songs have taken a well-deserved break from my live shows and I’m looking forward to reimagining them for the launch.

You’re launching it at the The Gasometer. What can people expect from this show?
The launch show will be quite a mix of things, I think! We have supports from Mallee Songs and On Diamond (Lisa Salvo’s new outfit). I love these bands and can’t wait to hear them play again. We also have James Tom DJing. You may have heard of James from his bands, Krakatau and Hyperborea. He has excellent taste. As for the Lucy Roleff part of the evening (haha) it will be me with Alex and Ros and perhaps some other little extras which aren’t locked in yet… so I’ll keep it a surprise!

Are you planning to take the album on tour as well?
I’m in the midst of arranging a Sydney launch show with my friend Rubi who plays as Slow Ships. He’s a Sydney guy so I’m looking forward to not being a total stranger! We think it will be in mid-August – I’ll keep my Facebook page updated.

What’s happening with Magic Hands at the moment?
Well Alex and I have been working on our solo stuff lately. Alex has been making beautiful stuff which I can’t wait for people to hear. We’ve also been working on an animated video job together which has been really fun! I draw and Alex animates. Kind of like Magic Hands I guess where I would say ‘can we do this?’ with zero vocabulary and Alex would make it happen. I hope we can make some more Magic Hands music once our solo stuff is out.

As well as being a musician, you are also an illustrator. Can you bring us up to date with what you’ve been up to on that front.
Yup. I’ve been in music mode the past little while but have also been working on some neat projects. This year I worked on a video series with Medibank which was really fun and rewarding. It’s called School of Better and covers the topics of health, wellbeing and food. Interesting work which I illustrated for and art directed. Other than that I’ve been doing private commissions for people, and pretty much settled back into pencil illustration which feels good. It was where I started and then experimented with digital stuff, and came back full circle. I seem to do that all the time in life!

How is life in Melbourne? Are you still finding it a good place to be creative?
Melbourne is pretty good! I do think it’s a good place to be creative, yes. I am keen to explore other cities again. I miss Germany and want to go to America. Would be much easier if I wasn’t terrified of flying. Sigh. Different story. Anyway… I feel pretty lucky that I have the freedom to work on my ‘creative pursuits’ at all. I know it’s not always easy to find the time.

What do you have in store for the rest of the year?
Since we finished up with the album, I have written more songs accompanied by harp which I took up about 18 months ago. So I’m really looking forward to getting cracking on the next album and exploring new things. I think I almost have enough new material to start pretty soon, actually! So weird how music backs up like that. Other than that, I have another secret music project coming out soon with some friends of mine – dipping my toe in the electro field again. It has been really fun and I’m looking forward to sharing it.

This Paradise is released on July 15th. Lucy launches the album on Thursday, July 28 at The Gasometer, Collingwood, with guests On Diamond + Mallee Songs + James Tom. The Facebook event is here

bobby t


Interview by Bobby Townsend.