Lucy Spraggan is back in Buxton on the trail of a festive hit
PUBLISHED: 00:00 19 December 2017
Christmas video for 'Drink Til We Go Home' filmed in Buxton
Eight years ago Ben Price was the News Editor at High Peak Radio. Fast-forward and Ben’s now a music manager and has worked with some of the biggest names in the industry including Ed Sheeran, Pharell, Donny Osmond, Take That and Bananarama.
It was Buxton singer-songwriter Lucy Spraggan asking to come in to the station’s Chapel-en-le-Frith studio to do an interview that changed both their lives for ever. Ben says, ‘I remember she came scurrying in, all nervous. I was on early shift and she arrived half an hour after I was supposed to leave. I was quite grumpy with her because she was late so I recorded the interview and said I’d listen to the track later. I put it on in the car driving home and she was really good. I got in touch with her on Facebook as soon as I got back.’
At the time I was working with Ben on the news desk. I heard the track and went along to a small gig at The Eagle in Buxton with my husband Nik to hear her play. We were looking for someone to perform at our 10th wedding anniversary at the Old Hall in Chinley. The minute Lucy started singing, tears welled up in my eyes. She had a similar effect on the 100 or so guests at our party at the Old Hall. Sitting nervously on a stool with her guitar, the moment she began the entire room turned round and we were all captivated. Eighteen months later she hit the national headlines when she got a standing ovation on The X Factor and the thumbs up from all four judges.
Since then Lucy has toured all over the world, selling more than 22,000 tickets for her live gigs this year alone, with tickets going like hot cakes. Now she’s returned to her Buxton roots and The Eagle to record the video for the Christmas song she hopes will finally help her get the national radio play she so richly deserves. And Nik and I have got ring-side seats.
It’s a bizarre experience, walking into a High Peak pub on a rainy night in early October to find a room full of rowdy revellers dressed in Christmas jumpers, dancing round a pub decked out with a Christmas tree, tinsel, and decorations. It’s been even weirder for the two dozen family and friends who’ve been singing and making merry since 10am. Lucy’s wife Georgina is behind the bar pulling pints while their Boston terrier Stephen wanders around oblivious to what is happening.
Lucy and the band are on stage by the time we arrive. Lucy’s asking Georgina where the Strepsils are. Little wonder. She’s had to sing each phrase of the song over and over and over, restarting so the camera team can shoot each segment from a different angle to be able to cut it together later. Ben keeps a sober eye on proceedings making sure everything down to the tiniest detail, such as the ashtrays, is in the same place for continuity. He says the video shoot is the culmination of six months’ hard-work, ‘You write a Christmas song in spring so it’s a long process to write it, produce it, get it mixed and mastered and get the right people on board and get a video shot. So even though it feels early to be doing a Christmas song, we’ve been planning it since April.’
I grab a word with extras Mark and Emma while a very jolly green elf props up the pool table beside us. Emma says, ‘As we turned up with the old Christmas jumpers and hats I’m sure people were thinking, “What on earth is going on here?”’ Mark agrees, ‘I was out this morning trying to find something Christmassy. I walked into a shop in Meadowhall and asked if they had any Christmas clothes and they looked at me as if I was drunk!’
The song Drink Til We Go Home is a crowd-pleaser that to me mixes the infectious energy of Chumbawamba’s Tubthumping (I get knocked down, but I get up again) with the enduring charm of The Pogues’ Fairytale of New York.
In a break between takes Lucy tells me she and Georgina have found a place to live in Stockport. ‘It’s always lovely to be back in Buxton,’ she says, ‘especially somewhere so nostalgic. These are all my friends and they’ve been my friends for years. For a while when I moved down to London, things were quite difficult and I felt quite isolated. I moved back up north and it changed everything. We settled down and I feel as if I have a really grounded atmosphere round me all the time.’
Dealing with her sudden fame has been a steep learning curve. Lucy is very active on social media, engaging with her fans, but takes a lot of flak from the inevitable trolls. She tells me, ‘It takes a long time to develop a thick skin and that’s not always completely healthy but in some jobs you have to have one.’ She’s been very vocal about the importance of being open about anxiety and has tackled the issue of mental health head-on by recording Dear You – with a heart-rending video featuring actor Thomas Turgoose from This is England – to highlight that the biggest killer among men in this country is suicide. She says the response was amazing, ‘We had people sending letters and emails and approaching me in the street saying how that song had made them stop and think.’
Ben and Lucy are too industry-savvy to predict whether Drink Til We Go Home will prove the breakthrough hit they’re hoping for but I’m willing to put a bet on it being a Christmas and New Year cracker that you’ll be dancing round the tree to for many years to come.