Lucy Dacus has always been a reflective songwriter. But on her third album, “Home Video,” she ups the ante, poring over memories of growing up in a religious household in Richmond, Virginia. It’s almost as if she’s taking us through specific pages of her teenage diaries and contemplating them with us—although not in a diaristic sense, like how many others have suggested.
My misgivings about the term notwithstanding, I’d argue that her writing is less confessional than it is revelatory and historical. It’s not lost on me that her previous album was called “Historian,” after all. She’s not “loading a canon of clickbait” into song, like how Taylor Swift described her own old diaristic writing. Instead, she’s presenting carefully chosen memories and revealing important, if personal, truths.
“It feels a little bit like a memoir,” Dacus told me over Zoom one early morning.
“Home Video” is also her most visibly queer album. “When I made ‘No Burden,’ I wasn’t out to myself. When I made ‘Historian,’ I wasn’t out to my family. I wasn’t embodying queerness. Now that most people that I know know this about me, I feel more comfortable writing songs examining that fact and letting it be a part of my identity instead of just a footnote in the back of my brain.”
It’s not by accident that “Home Video,” where Dacus waxes poetic over her childhood, is also where she examines her own queer identity. Those two aspects—the nostalgia and the queerness—are acutely interlocked.
“I think a lot of my early friendships were romantic and I didn’t realize because I was too busy loving God to realize that I might be a little bit gay,” she laughed. “That’s why it was so intense… It makes me wonder what could’ve been. I guess I technically don’t have regrets, I just have curiosities.”
What themes does Dacus explore in the record? “Friendship, queerness, parents, faith, being stupid when you’re young, sexuality, being delusional, growing up,” she listed off.
In case you missed it, I had a chat with Dacus on her new album, her quarantine hobbies, and how songwriting helped her find her identity. It’s over at Preen’s kinda-sorta talk show “Dialing Up,” where the team has a cozy chat with the artists we love. If you’re curious, the video interview is down below.
As a huge fan of Dacus—I’ve had “Night Shift” on permanent repeat and I’ve joined the swell of fans clamoring for her to release “Thumbs,” which she finally did for “Home Video”—I was extremely nervous to hear her thoughts on her own music. For her part, she was extremely gracious about my barely concealed fangirling.
Here are some more bits from my interview that didn’t make it to the show:
Do you have a particular favorite in “Home Video?”
I feel like “First Time” is the most hyped song. I can’t wait to play that one live. It just feels very high energy and urgent. I think “Partner in Crime” is kind of a cool song and much different than anything I’ve done before. And “Triple Dog Dare” is almost eight minutes—I’m a sucker for a long song. I just really like the story of that one.
I’ve also been recently realizing that “Christine” was such a big deal when I wrote it. I showed it to my friend who it’s about and it meant a lot to our friendship for me to be honest with her, even though she didn’t break up with that guy and they’re still together. She was happy that I cared about her enough to speak up. So on a personal level, that one’s a big deal to me.
You mentioned “Partner in Crime,” which is the song where you used Auto-Tune. It makes sense to me, but I wanted to know why you chose to use it for that song.
It wasn’t a choice at first. I just wasn’t sounding good that day so we did it temporarily so we could do the guitars and stuff. But then I just loved how it sounded, and once I realized it made sense with the lyrics—because it’s a show about falsifying yourself to become more attractive to someone—I was like, “This fits perfectly.” It felt exciting. It felt different. I don’t know really if people think of Auto-Tune as a creative choice. I think a lot of people look at it as a way to compensate for not being able to sing. But, you know, most of the record you’re hearing my unedited voice so it makes it feel more like a choice than a necessity.
The album is called “Home Video.” Did you go through any of your home videos while making it?
Whenever I go to my mom’s house, she wants to pull them out and watch them, so I definitely watched them while I was writing. But we digitized them in order to make the “Hot and Heavy” video so after the album was done, I’ve been watching them more. It’s really trippy. Some ages I think are very cute and other ages I just remember feeling terrible all the time. Just really low self-confidence. It’s weird to watch those.