‘I want people to know that you’re so much stronger than you think you are’: A conversation with Lacy Wilder ahead of her second album release
This is the first installment in a new Cadenza series, Under the Spotlight, that will highlight the musicians, artists and other creators of the Washington University community. If you have suggestions for people we should interview in the future, fill out this form.
Junior Lacy Wilder is an indie-rock artist from Raleigh, North Carolina. Citing Victor Hugo, Fleetwood Mac and the Indigo Girls as her biggest influences, Wilder grapples in her music with issues of social justice and finding one’s own path in life. After releasing her debut EP, “I See Dark Lights,” in 2017, she is primed to release her new album, “Tempest Temple,” on Feb. 12. Student Life talked with Wilder about her new work, her inspiration and how her experiences in the past three years have shaped her musical growth.
This interview has been edited for clarity and concision.
Student Life: To start off, tell me a little about the new album.
Lacy Wilder: So this album is called “Tempest Temple,” and it’s kind of inspired by the idea of the body and the mind being a temple, a temple which is this strong confident person who is shaken by anxiety and depression and things way outside of your control. So the album is basically about how you either solve the Tempest Temple or learn to live with it. It’s kind of inspired by a lot of things that have gone on in my life over the last three years in terms of relationships and mental health, and learning how to find my own personal sense of validation and resilience from within myself instead of looking towards external sources to validate me.
SL: Your first album touched on a lot of similar themes you’ve mentioned. Do you see this new album as a continuation of those ideas or more of a new direction?
LW: I would consider it to be a new direction. I think, with my first EP, I was very much still finding my voice. A lot of songs on the first EP are actually not really inspired by my own life; I’m very, very into “Les Miserables,” and there’s actually three songs on the EP that are directly about it. On the new album, everything is directly about things that I’ve experienced in my life, and because of that I’m definitely a lot more attached to it and I’m a lot more excited about it.
SL: Since the release of your EP, you’ve graduated high school and gone through almost three years of college. Do you feel like your perspective has changed in that time?
LW: It’s funny you ask that. For a lot of writers, they’ll experience things in real life and then they’ll write about it; for me, it’s a little bit of the opposite. I’ll start to write about things, and then I’ll kind of seek out experiences in my real life. When I came up with the idea for the album, I hadn’t actually experienced what I was going to write about. That’s kind of what I originally came up with and that’s what I decided that I was going to experience in order to write about it. But that, of course, is not how life works. What I ended up writing, and what I ended up experiencing was actually the lesson that I actually needed to learn, which is that all those things are external. If you do ever find a sense of perfect inner peace from external events in your life, it’s going to last for like three days, and what’s really going to be important is like developing your inner world and your inner sense of [self]. [The album] ended up not being what I was expecting it to be, but it ended up being exactly what I needed to learn, which is why it’s so important for me.
SL: How has your music evolved over the years into the sound we’ll hear on the album?
LW: I think my style is pretty consistent over the two albums. I think with my first EP, I was just starting to commit to the fact that the music I make is rock. And so going into the album, I was very much ready to go in that sense, and so it made it come together a lot easier because I was so much more aware that that was my direction.
SL: Are you planning to pursue music after you graduate?
LW: Oh definitely! My plan is to move to Nashville after I graduate and work in marketing (I’m a marketing major). And I’ll also be pursuing music in the Nashville area and on social media in order to hopefully continue and grow my music.
SL: Everybody has been longing to get out after nearly a year of social distancing. What do you miss most about live music?
LW: Oh my god, I just miss performing so much, which is such a cliche thing to say, but it’s honestly so true. One of my favorite things about Wash. U. is the music community through things like Battle of the Bands and a cappella and all of that. The night before I went home for Spring Break in 2020, I was performing at the Battle of the Bands in Ursa’s, and it was the last live performance that I did when everything was normal. So that was really the last time when I felt that connected to everyone who was at that performance, so I think about that night all the time. I just miss it so much.
SL: What do you want people to take from the album when they listen to it?
LW: I want people to know that you’re so much stronger than you think you are, and the best thing that you can ever do for yourself is to build up your own self confidence and build up a sense of resilience within yourself, and nothing has the power to break you. I want people to kind of use this album to become more empowered within themselves. The album as a whole is loosely based around the archetypal hero’s journey that appears in a lot of classic literature. So as people listen to it, they can follow along with the different steps of the hero’s journey and then relate it back to themselves and gain something positive from it.
If you have suggestions for people we should interview in the future for the Under the Spotlight series, fill out this form.