[INTERVIEW] Jess Wolfe of Lucius Talks Touring, Roger Waters, Jeff Tweedy, and Recording “Gone Insane”


Nobody knows this, but Jess Wolfe of Lucius has a heart, and it gets loud.

Okay. That’s really just a guess, I suppose.

But by talking to her for twenty minutes, one thing’s clear: she is confident in her abilities to keep this train of musical success moving.

On Wednesday, Lucius will stop at The Ready Room in St. Louis. Tickets are still available, but don’t wait too long. Get them now while you listen/watch their new video for “Gone Insane” below.”

I recently had the chance to talk to Jess about touring, Roger Waters, Jeff Tweedy, and recording “Gone Insane.”

So, I must congratulate you. I just read that you’ll be singing with Roger Waters at Desert Trip.

Pretty exciting. (laughs) It’s so crazy.

How did that all come about?

Well, we sang with him at Newport last summer for a special thing — My Morning Jacket was the band, and Holly and I sang. And after the show he was like, “we’re gonna do this again.”

And, you know, sometimes people say that and you never hear from them again. But he reached out a couple months ago and said, “there’s this crazy thing that’s going to happen — what do you think about joining me for it?” And, you know, I don’t think anyone would say no to that kind of experience. So, it’s happening! (laughing)

So what’s a conversation with Roger Waters like?

He’s very smart. Funny…quick-witted…

I wouldn’t have guessed that (laughs)

(laughing) Come on. He’s incredibly kind, too. And very generous and effusive, you know? Offering compliments. He let us know how much we were contributing, and what it meant to him, and how much he loved it. So it was just such a lovely thing have such an iconic figure offering those lovely words, you know?

Well, absolutely. I got turned on to your music a few years ago, by a random tweet. And I went and saw you play in St. Louis, which is where you’ll be Wednesday. You’re quickly moving up the venue ladder. It’s so great to see that. How does that feel?

It’s just been a wonderful experience, a learning experience. We work our butts off, so seeing the return is definitely…it just makes it all worth it. If we weren’t seeing the response that we are, I would imagine it would be very difficult to keep going. But, we’re very fortunate that we have a fan base that is growing, and people that we respect are respecting us.

I read about the latest album, and how you were on the road forever. It always seems you’re on the road.

Yes, (laughs)

So you write all these songs about being on the road, and the reality is that you have to get back on the road and tour them.

Right. The feeling is strange. You’re gone for such a long time, hoping for a break, hoping for a rest. And then when you get home, it’s almost like you don’t even know how to do such a thing. And by the time we got home, we had experienced so much, been to so many places, worked so hard that we had so much to say, and we couldn’t let the time go by. We needed to say it immediately, or else you lose the opportunity of capturing meaningful emotion. And it definitely was a struggle to say it all, but also if we hadn’t … you know it’s funny, just saying it, just putting it out there is the healing part. Just being honest about it helps you move forward. So while it is hard to be on the road, it’s also one of our favorite places to be. (laughs) Things are different now. We have a bus. We know how to take care of ourselves. The first time through, though, you just don’t know that stuff. You don’t know.

Your music is so emotional. I haven’t heard the new songs live, but I heard the old songs live, and you really let it all out. For example, a song like “Go Home” — how do you prepare yourself to deliver that one every night?

(laughing) You just do! It’s funny, because the energy that it takes to sing something like that, to say something like that, is also what fuels you. It sort of goes hand in hand. And the energy from the audience is what makes it possible. Seeing an audience sing along, it’s a wonderful responsibility to give that to these people who are paying attention to your art, who are caring for it.

Take me back to when you were in school. You attended Berklee College of Music. How was that like, and do you remember meeting Holly for the first time?

(laughs) I don’t remember the very first time, but we had mutual friends, so we were sort of hanging out in the same crowd. And one night we had a girls night in my apartment, and we were drinking wine, and her and I started talking about our influences, and we decided we were gonna do a cover show, like a female version of the White Album. And we never ended up doing the show, but we started writing the next day, and we never looked back. I mean, I don’t remember a time when we said we’re not going to do this. It just felt right and we respected each other so much, and there was this musical sisterhood.

It’s funny you mention musical sisterhood because I got to interview Jeff Tweedy a couple years ago and he told me that he loved how you sang like siblings.


What’s that mean to you? That’s got to be pretty cool, right?

(laughs) Uhh…yeah. Jeff’s a huge inspiration for us, and we’re so fortunate to have worked with him so closely and that he’s let us come in on his own personal projects and have added our voice. It’s a fantastic feeling. It’s just another affirmation that things are in the right place. But it’s just something Holly and I do; we’ve been singing together now for eleven years, so we do have that … there’s a musical soulmate in there, and I think we’re just trying to honor that.

Eleven years. How important is work ethic to you?

(laughs) Everything. Nothing happens if you’re not willing to work for it 150 percent of the time. (laughing) You could be wildly talented — there are so many talented people that for whatever reason, it doesn’t happen. And I think a lot of it is how hard you’re willing to work for it. There’s room for everyone to find success, but it’s a lot of parts that make up the whole, you know, making it work. Determination, hard work, perseverance … and … and luck (laughs) have their equal share.

Well, I watched the video for “Gone Insane” the other day, and I don’t know, sometimes videos don’t capture the spirit of the song, but yours did.

Thank you.

You’re welcome. And I read something about the recording of that song — that there was an argument between you and Holly. I got the feeling that that doesn’t happen too often.

What? The fighting?


No, we never fight!

But it happened. How did you deal with it?

We went into the studio and recorded the song! (laughs)

Well, isn’t that great…

(still laughing)

That feels really honest to me as a listener.

I hope so. It was real! (laughs)

Well, I only say that because something like that could easily go the other way, right?

Yeah, you’re right. It could feel hyper-dramatic. Not that hyper-drama doesn’t happen in real life. (laughs) But it could feel insincere. I totally understand that. And we always do our best to avoid that at all costs. It’s kind of the reason why no one can fit us into a box, because we’re trying to be honest with ourselves, and there are so many of our inspirations come into play. We’re not just one thing.

That’s what I like about you.

Thank you. And I don’t mean to sound boastful at all, but I don’t like the idea of being one thing. The artists that inspire us, like David Bowie, he had a million different visions, and they all were him. Prince, same thing. How many musical lives did they live? So we’re open to all the possibilities. And I’m proud of that.

Lucius performs at The Ready Room in St. Louis on Wednesday, May 18th. Purchase tickets here.

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