Concert preview: Lucy Dacus finds confidence in vulnerability

Elizabeth Weinstein, Columbus Alive contributor

If you ever find yourself deep in conversation with Lucy Dacus, and seemingly out of the blue she announces that she has to run, don't take it personally. In fact, consider it a compliment.

Some musicians are most productive when they block out chunks of the day to sit down and write songs; Dacus is not one of them. In a phone interview earlier this month, the 21-year-old singer-songwriter from Richmond, Virginia, said the lyrics to most of the songs on her debut album,No Burden, came to her on long, meditative walks. But inspiration often strikes her randomly, as well.

"Some of the weirdest times I've had lyrics come up in my head are in conversations with other people. It's hard to delicately be like, 'Um, I'm sorry. I value what you are saying a lot, but I need to go because I am getting all of these ideas,'" she said with a laugh. "It always feels funny to just kind of run away from a conversation when someone else is inspiring me, and to go make it into something else."

A product of her hometown's growing DIY music scene, Dacus spent her teen years honing her craft at intimate house concerts. House shows, she said, offer a strong sense of community she has yet to find elsewhere. "It's like you've found a church of people who are that dedicated [to the scene]," she said.

That church, however, is beginning to expand - both literally and metaphorically. In June, Dacus signed to independent music label Matador Records, which will reissueNo Burden on Sept. 9, and she's currently touring the country and performing in venues that are considerably larger than a 20-something's living room.

Dacus' introspective lyrics, deep and textured voice, deadpan delivery, and sometimes disarming self-awareness have earned comparisons to the likes of Courtney Barnett, Sharon Van Etten and Angel Olsen.

"All of their voices are very different," she said of such associations. "But I think what people are locating is that all of those people - and I'm glad to be included - are really honest in their lyrics. And even in their vulnerability, they are very confident. They are willing to share things that are not so easy and ask people to think about more difficult topics."

Dacus doesn't shy away from singing - or talking about - sensitive subjects. Her own press release notes that she was adopted at a young age "and it's totally shaped how she views humanity and how she relates to other people, and especially how she writes songs."

"We put it in the press release so that people would ask me about it, kind of as a challenge to myself to talk about it more, because it matters to me," Dacus said of her adoption story. "Basically, I was raised being told that a bunch of people worked together to give me a life. If so many people were coming together to make me have one, what was so good about this? Why do humans want that for each other? Why do we keep making other people to live these lives?"

Existential questions like these permeateNo Burden. On the beautiful "Map on a Wall," for instance, she sings, "But here we are and something about it doesn't feel like an accident. We're all looking for something to adore and how to survive the bending and breaking."

The album's catchiest and most radio-friendly song, "I Don't Wanna Be Funny Anymore," grapples with the mechanics of choosing, rather than being assigned, an identity. "I don't wanna be funny anymore," she sings, with a hint of sarcasm. "I got a too-short skirt, maybe I can be the cute one."

Now, she's negotiating what it means to be identified in mainstream publications as a musician to watch. So far, she's enjoying the ride.

"It's really the coolest thing ever, seeing all of these places and getting to meet the cream of the crop of every city," she said. "That's how it feels - like we are meeting all of the coolest people in one place."

The Basement

7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 26

391 Neil Ave., Arena District

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