Interview with Lacey Sturm at Carolina Rebellion

Rei: All right, Carolina Rebellion! Rei Haycraft here with Lacey Sturm who just got off stage a little while ago. Your set was killer by the way!

Lacey: Thanks!

Rei: How’s this experience been for you so far?

Lacey:  It’s been amazing. It’s been such a great journey. My kids are on the side stage playing air guitar and that’s just when I can see that everything’s good, you know? It’s also been just fun getting to perform again and play for people who are really excited to hear you. It’s totally awesome.

Rei: And to this kind of crowd, my goodness.

Lacey:  Yeah, I couldn’t see the end of them today, so awesome.

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Rei: So Life Screams has been out for a little while and I think “critically acclaimed” is the right phrase? It is amazing… It’s been in my car nonstop, it is fantastic.

Lacey:  Thank you. That’s awesome to hear.

Rei: And so poignant and so emotional, your debut back. What has this experience

been like for you coming back as a solo artist?

Lacey:  It’s been freeing. That’s the word I would say is the word of the season: freedom. It just feels like I get to be myself and I get to do what is true to my heart and if people like it then that’s amazing and if they don’t, it’s still honest to me. It’s been great to see the responses so well received, because that really isn’t the goal, as much as it’s just to be genuine and honest and to do what we love.

Lacey: So that’s what brings the freedom, because we don’t have a record label to please right now. We started our own record label with our management, Followspot Records, and we did that because we just wanted to go out on our own. We tried to go with some majors awhile ago and see how that worked out and the doors weren’t open there… so it just seemed like the timing of everything for us to do ourselves and we were able to invest in it, we’re still investing. But it’s so worth it because we believe in it so much. And it’s not that we’re trying to make a big splash because obviously with Flyleaf, it was ten years and I was ready to give it up. But it was just to get out what’s already in your heart. Whenever, however it happens is providential so we’re just thankful. [LAUGH]

 

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Photography by Gary Carota Images.

 

Rei: Absolutely. What song off the new album would you say has been resonating with fans the most?

Lacey:  We’ve gotten the biggest response from the song ‘Rot.’ And ‘Rot’ is actually one of my favorite songs on the record. I also got a big response from the song ‘Run to You.’ And I think the common thread message wise of those songs is again freedom. It’s the honoring of someone’s freedom. Because Rot [is] actually from the perspective of someone who is in a relationship where they don’t feel free. And Run to You is from the perspective of somebody who’s honoring the freedom of someone who wants to leave. And so both of those perspectives are important to know that true love honors your freedom. Not just in romance, but there’s a lot of times as a parent too… I mean, one day my kid is gonna gonna go off and be his own human. [LAUGH] And I’m gonna have to honor his freedom. I’ve seen it in my own family too, like sometimes parents don’t want to honor your kids’ freedom. But in the end they’re gonna be their own human and you’re working yourself out of a job. You know what I mean? Eventually you’ve got to.

Rei: If you’ve done a good job, yes.

Lacey: [LAUGH] Hopefully, you can be happy with that, but freedom is so beautiful and it’s such a new concept to me because when I was younger, I thought love means you trap someone and they trap you, and if they’re not trying to trap you, they don’t love you.

Rei: “And I will love you until I die—”

Lacey: ”And I will die if you don’t love me.”

Rei: Mm-hm.

Lacey: It’s emotional blackmail, and I’ve done that. And I thought that that was love, and I’ve been in relationships like that… but it’s just so suffocating and we’re not meant to carry the weight of being the savior for someone. Because I say this a lot, but “only God is God enough to be God for someone, and we can’t be God enough for them.” I always fail ending that way. So I talk about that a lot in messages in songs, because it’s brought me so much freedom. And it’s really just my own heart working out what I’ve learned, and hope it’ll help other people who are trying to process the same kind of situations.

Rei: I mean, I can speak from my experience, I’ve also had relationships like that. I listened to your TED Talk about freedom and love and was just going ‘yes, yes, yes, yes’ the whole time. It was amazing. Not to mention, the acoustic set, that was really awesome. Hearing you speak about freedom and love and what that means and then hearing ‘Rot’… and how poignant that message is. … [‘Rot’ and ‘Vanity’ are] so different, being a spoken word piece like that, how was that experience of recording?

Lacey: Well, it was crazy ‘cause there’s a guy named Propaganda who is a spoken word

artist. We became friends through this tour that we did where I was going to talk about how I overcame suicide and how I barely survived being 16. And I talked to kids about that because of my book, The Reason, I was making sure that I could give that out if people wanted it to read about that. And I met Propaganda there—his name is Jason but his name is ‘Propaganda’ on [the credits]—and so he was just in LA when we were recording and so I was like, ‘hey, want to come hang out in the studio?’ And we’re in the middle of recording ‘Rot’ and he’s asking me what this song’s about and I’m trying to explain all that.

Lacey: And he’s like, ‘so it’s like somebody feels enslaved and somebody’s trying to point out all the beauty of it.’ And I was like yeah, ‘cause there is beauty in it. There’s this passionate tension and you can be addicted to that drama. And it feels beautiful and tense.

Rei: It’s romanticized, so much.

Lacey: Yeah. That’s what I wanted him to show. The poetic nature. He says, ‘it’s like cocoa butter mixed with sand paper. This is love. The gritty, gory.’ She’s just trying to say, ‘but isn’t love kind? Isn’t it patient? Isn’t it free?’ That back and forth… I wanted it to feel familiar to those who are in it, so that person can be justified in the way they think, but then the person can still choose to get out of it.

Rei: Absolutely. That’s what resonated with me the most during the first listen of your album… when ‘Rot’ came on it brought me to tears–

Lacey: [LOOKS CONCERNED]

Rei: –in a good way! In a good, healing, cathartic way.

Lacey:  First time I heard it, I cried too, when it was recorded.

Rei: It’s so emotional and you can feel like your soul being bared in front of everybody right there. It’s so powerful and it just means so much to so many people. I know, because I’ve felt it, I’ve been through it… and those are the things that I wanted to say, but I couldn’t say.

Lacey: That’s what I hope you can do.

Lacey: You know, my cousin was beaten to death by a step-father when he was three years old, right? And so my aunt, she was in this abusive relationship. She had gotten her nose broken, and her ribs broken, and all these things. [But] I didn’t ever see that side of him, I just saw that they loved each other, you know?

Rei: Right.

Lacey: And then to know why’s she in the hospital and then to find out that what happened to my cousin and realizing that tension of how you feel so committed like you can’t get out of it.

And just I wanted to validate that person because some people they’re like, ‘how could you do that. It doesn’t make any sense.’ But I just understand, when you’re committed, and you love, you’re just trying to work it out any way, no matter what. But there’s times when obviously you need to stand up and say ‘my heart is worth valuing, my life is worth valuing, I’m worth loving.’ And to know your own worth and to be able to stand up for yourself and make boundaries. You can’t cross this boundary of calling me worthless or of treating me like I’m worthless. You can’t cross that boundary because I’m protecting my own heart. It’s like what I want to give people the courage to do.

Rei: Absolutely, and you can feel that in every song.

Rei: My band [Raimee] opened for you at your first solo show back in 2014 [at The Blind Tiger in Greensboro, NC] and we talked afterwards for about an hour, and I was so impressed and in awe of how you were able to emotionally open yourself up to us. I mean, we’re strangers who came up, and you were like, ‘I really connected with this and I got to hear some of your set’ and you are a huge figure…that doesn’t really happen! You’re one of my influences and I don’t just say that, you were one of the reasons why I felt like it was okay to be a girl rocker! It’s okay to scream in songs! I saw you when I was in high school and I was like, she is so badass, I just want to be her friend… You made it okay for an entire generation of girls to feel like they could be themselves.

Lacey: Good. [LAUGH] We have stuff to say! I mean, we have to scream out too. [LAUGH]

Rei: Exactly, exactly! And still I feel like there’s no one who is parallel to your screams. They are unique, very much so. And I’m so glad to see you back here, creating beautiful, beautiful art.

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Rei: How has the book [The Reason: How I Discovered a Life Worth Living] been different from shows? I mean you’re here, Carolina Rebellion, one of the biggest festivals in the country. How is that different than promoting the book?

Lacey: Well, [the shows are] not as personal—although this has been deeply personal. The book, immediately we’re dealing with people who despair in life. And we get right to those

issues, and they’re asking for prayer, and they’re asking for advice. And here they’re like, ‘cool set, sign my CD’ and I’m like, ‘okay, cheese.’ You know what I mean? And I love that too because they’re just discovering what we’re about, and I love that poetry can be that way, it can be as deep as you want, it can be as lighthearted as you want, it’s up to you.

… You can take it and apply to your own situation however you want. So, I love that. That’s the difference. But as far as writing a book that directly deals with these subjects. It’s like you’re really in it. You can’t hide. It’s not poetry and art in the way that this is, that you can just kind of, that’s a good beat, you know what I mean? No, you’re like it’s all the words, it’s all the message.

Lacey: [LAUGH] So it feels good because it’s a relief that in a way that it doesn’t always have to be that heavy thing which I think I have the grace for only sometimes. And then I have to get back in play playdough with my boys and I like that! You tell them their feet stink and just kind of things that make you feel like you’re still human, and you don’t have to be the god for everybody that you can’t be. You know what I’m saying? I have to change a poop diaper right now and that makes me feel more human. I appreciate it. [LAUGH]

Rei: That happens. [LAUGH]

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Rei: We have one question left, so… no pressure. What is coming up next? You have a ton of festivals and tours booked, playing everywhere, so what is on the horizon? What are you excited about?

Lacey: We are excited about continuing the tour and at home we’re actually finishing a house that we’re building right now so that we have a place to rest when we get home. We’re staying with Josh’s parents in the meantime which is nice, ‘cause his mom is a great cook… but I want to be able to give them their house back soon and that’ll be nice. And my son’s going to start kindergarten this year and I get to be his teacher. I’ve always actually wanted to be, before I was doing rock I actually worked at elementary school one on one with kids who were having emotional problems in class. So it’s actually a dream of mine to actually work with kids. So I get to work with my own so, it’s awesome.

Rei: Do they go on tour with you?

Lacey: Yeah, they’re with us, as much as you can bring them.

Rei: I saw pictures of them and saw them running around by your set. That’s awesome.

Lacey: Thanks for asking. You’re doing such a great job, I mean, this is a great interview.

Rei: Oh, thank you!

Lacey: You really care about what you’re saying. You listen to my answers. It’s so awesome.

Rei: Well, I’m very, very passionate about it. So, once again—I’m getting the signal—this is Lacey Sturm here at Carolina Rebellion. Check her out, she is going to be playing a myriad of shows all over the country! Listen to Life Screams, it is amazing. And Rei out.