Whether it be through affirming mantras, a vision board or attempting not to dwell on the negative, most people you meet are trying their best to harness the power of positive thinking.
Lucy Dacus is too, albeit by a different method. The 24-year-old singer-songwriter creates hope for herself through songwriting. While some tracks might seem somber or dark upon first listen, Dacus directs the listener to the lyrics, pointing to a larger theme of hope.
“I feel like songs have a self-fulfilling prophecy power to them,” Dacus says. “So, I write these songs, often I try to write about hopefulness and then eventually I kind of take on the message that I project onto the songs.”
For instance, Dacus wrote “Yours & Mine,” a track from her critically acclaimed album “Historian,” about maintaining hope in the face of political unrest.
“When I play them live, I remind myself every night that people do want good for the world and want to treat each other right,” Dacus says. “So, it’s helpful to remind myself what I want to think.”
Dacus will perform songs from “Historian” and more when she makes her Lancaster debut at the Chameleon Club Tuesday night.
Dacus was raised in Richmond, Virginia, where she still makes a home when she’s not on the road. Her first album, 2016’s “No Burden,” was recorded as a favor to a friend for his school project. The album created buzz in her hometown scene, which grabbed attention from major labels before long.
The whirlwind success was a bit overwhelming.
“I was really stressed because I didn’t think anyone would hear that record, and suddenly people were interacting with it, and it didn’t feel like a full representation of who I am,” Dacus says.
She saw her sophomore release “Historian” as a way to reintroduce herself. The record earned glowing reviews from critics and landed Dacus on several “Best Of” lists in 2018.
Now that she’s established herself, she finally feels confident to release music for the fun of it, without overthinking it as a sweeping statement about who she is as a person. Dacus is relishing in that newfound freedom with her 2019 singles project, in which she releases a song in correlation to holidays throughout the year.
Dacus covered Edith Piaf’s “La Vie en Rose” for Valentine’s Day, and the originals “My Mother & I” and “Forever Half Mast” for Mother’s Day and the Fourth of July, respectively. A Christmas track, at the very least, is forthcoming.
“I feel like this has been the first time I have let myself make something that’s separate from my identity, specifically the Christmas one,” Dacus says. “It’s super silly, and I wouldn’t want anyone to draw conclusions about my work from it. But I finally feel comfortable enough to let it exist as what it is and not have it like answer for me as a person.”
Much like her “Historian” songs give her a reason to hope, these tracks give her a reason to like holidays. Like so many others, Dacus has complicated feelings surrounding holidays and the lofty expectations surrounding them.
“Now, I’ve given myself a way to look forward to holidays, like I have this new reason that’s completely of me and from me, that doesn’t really involve anybody else unless they want to be involved,” Dacus says. “So, that’s kind of been an unexpected gift to myself.”
In “My Mother & I,” the Mother’s Day song, Dacus explores the nuanced relationship between mothers, daughters and body image. “My mother hates her body, We share the same outline, She swears that she loves mine,” Dacus sings in the track’s opening lines. It’s a topic she hopes to explore further on her forthcoming third album, which she’s in the process of recording in Nashville in between tour dates.
She expects to move forward with more confidence on her next album, which she credits to her time working alongside Julien Baker and Phoebe Bridgers in boygenius. From the group’s name to its Crosby, Stills and Nash-referencing album cover, boygenius pushed back against the boy’s club mentality of the music industry.
The “boygenius” EP was also a critical success, and fans shared their excitement online by creating memes of the three young musicians, and even a Buzzfeed quiz: “Which boygenius member are you?” (Dacus took the quiz; her result was Bridgers.)
“All of the fandom — we are part of it, not separate from it,” Dacus says. “So, it’s really fun to watch.”
It’s easy for any solo artist to tear down her own work, Dacus says, but creating something with friends makes her more attached to the finished product.
“Because it’s shared, we can all practice just loving the work which is also our work which I think has influenced each of us into our next record, loving our material and kind of carrying that confidence into the future,” Dacus says.