Lucy Gaffney: Pitfalls and Highlights

May 15, 2024

For Lucy Gaffney, songwriting has always been the best mode of transportation. It has taken her from Belfast to London, Liverpool and the Outer Hebrides while gigging across these islands alongside the likes of Wallows, Inhaler and Snow Patrol. Over the past few years, the Belfast-based artist has amassed a following from her shoegaze-inspired guitar sound and realist lyricism.

Reflecting on her career so far, Gaffney points to her move to Liverpool as the catalyst which allowed her to thrive in a music scene for the first time. “It was basically where I learned to write songs”, she says. “I picked up the guitar in a city really famous for its music. It was important to really learn the writing process and I’d say it was akin to a folk artist going to Nashville. A lot of people there were from Belfast as well, so you never felt too far from home.”

She first began performing at the age of 15 alongside her brother Thom Southern in the bands Southern and MMODE, before they both decided to release music as solo artists. To this day, the duo continue to collaborate, writing and producing projects together in the studio with material that’s set for release later this year.

“It’s good to have somebody who you can bounce your ideas off, whilst also having space to kind of grow on your own. We both have two different studio setups and there are ideas we’re working on at the minute where Tom will pass me the music with no vocals on it and I’ll come up with a song on top of that and vice versa.”

Lucy Gaffney. Photo credit, Charlotte Patmore.

From a young age, it was Gaffney’s eclectic influence which fuelled her passion to be more experimental in her songwriting and production. Her love of Joni Mitchell, Chet Baker and The Jesus and Mary Chain all played a part in cultivating the melancholic, isolated and ambient vocals which stream through her entire discography. Her 2023 single ‘Daydream in Tokyo’, garnered attention for its nod to Sofia Coppola’s 2003 movie Lost In Translation, drawing from the film’s dreampop-infused soundtrack.

However, the release of her latest EP Pitfalls sees Lucy Gaffney reflect on the journey which led to her recording in the Outer Hebrides with producer Duncan Mills (known for his work with LCD Soundsystem, Florence and the Machine and Jake Bugg).

Pitfalls began when I was alone, recording in my little home studio. But then I felt like the songs could have a dark Jonny Greenwood-style guitar sound. We ended up taking it to Black Bay Studio and working with Duncan who is into those big powerhouse tracks. He was able to take my small Lo-fi demos and pump them up”.

She says the decision to record in such a remote location made the process all the more rewarding.

“It was a really interesting experience to have two weeks away in the studio to just lock yourself away on this little island, with nobody there but us. We just had two weeks where we were allowed to just go a little bit mad and finish a lot of the lyrics there.”

Lucy Gaffney. Photo credit, Charlotte Patmore.

Lyrically, she shows an unapologetic vulnerability when delving into memories which represent new beginnings in her life, particularly in ‘Forgive to Forget’. Depicting heartache through walks round Sandycove and nights out in Dublin, Gaffney opens up about using personal experiences of loss in her songs as a means of therapy.

“’Forgive to Forget’ was quite autobiographical. I would embellish parts to create more of a pop song out of it but I was reading Portrait of the Artist at the time. I’d be really into a lot of Irish literature and loved the idea of incorporating a bit of Joyce in there. I also thought of The Cranberries and how they would bring in Irish culture into songs and their music videos. So for me, it was lovely to create a short story as well.”

As a musician who has played throughout Europe and the UK, Gaffney still sees Ireland and specifically the Belfast music scene as a vital place for any artist looking to nurture their performance capabilities. “It’s really booming here. I feel like bands really want to be bands again.” She names Sign Crushes Motorist and the Pixie Cut Rhythm Orchestra as some of her favourite up-and-coming acts touring the island.

One of her favourite live performances was the Olympia Theatre, Dublin, supporting LA band Wallows.

“It was a massive pop gig and it was surreal to have audiences chanting as you leave the stage. I think what I’ve learned throughout the years is to try your best to be in the moment and enjoy it on stage. Being able to escape and pretend you’re in a rehearsal space is the best because as an audience member, I definitely have the most fun when a band is able to be really free on stage”.

She is keen to release music quickly after Pitfalls. “In terms of my mental creative space, it has changed since then. I’m making music that sounds different and I’m in the studio everyday, getting a bunch of songs together that will be released over the next few months.”

Ellen McGinn


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