Singer songwriter Lucy Spraggan plans many happy returns to the Scottish Highlands and Islands after enjoying some intimate gigs last year she rates as among her most enjoyable experiences.
The former X Factor finalist visited a number of smaller venues during an acoustic tour of the Highlands, travelling between gigs in a camper van, and will be back in the area later this year as part of a recently-announced tour.
This summer she will also make a welcome return to Stornoway to take part in the award-winning Hebridean Celtic Festival where she will spend her 26th birthday on stage.
“Those intimate Highland shows were some of the best I've ever done”, she said. “That tour was something magical; it'll forever be one of my favourite experiences.
“The smaller venues are very different, they take me back to my roots. The Scottish crowd are probably the best bunch for those smaller shows though, always a very entertaining crowd.”
At HebCelt, where she is headlining along with The Waterboys, Dougie MacLean and Imelda May, she is preparing for a party on and off stage when she appears on 21 July: “I love being up in the Highlands. There is definitely a vibe that far north that is unlike any other.
“Even better, the show lands on my birthday, so I'm looking forward to partying with the locals afterwards.
“It's a super fun and inclusive show and there's a lot of audience participation, so hoping everyone is up for a sing along.”
Lucy, who describes her music as 'A-Flop' - a mixture of acoustic, folk, and hip hop, appeared on the X Factor in 2012, although her stint was cut short by illness. Her audition video has been viewed 35 million times on YouTube and she was the most Googled musician that year. She also scored a Top 40 single and album before the live shows even aired.
Three other successful albums have followed, including last year’s ‘I Hope You Don't Mind Me Writing’, which featured the single ‘Dear You’.
She completed an 18-date European tour in March to promote the album and will start a new tour in September, taking her across the UK, from Portsmouth to Shetland. In between, as well as HebCelt, she will also be playing the acoustic stage at Glastonbury.
The latest album is more personal than others, and deals with ‘darker’ subjects such as depression, suicide and dementia.
“They just came out like that. I don't ever think 'I want to write about that subject'”, Lucy states. “I often just see something or hear a story that moves me and when I get home I write it.
“It's always been very natural and I wouldn't want to do it any other way.”
She admits some of the songs were difficult to sing in public at first because of the subject matter: “But it's always been like that for me. I cried the first time I ever sang 'Uninspired' (about her experiences after X Factor) live.
“For me, that was a massive release of so many emotions I'd been holding back on and I became completely overwhelmed. It was at The Leadmill in Sheffield and I'll never forget it, mainly because it's on YouTube.
“I was hysterical! It was a great moment with the audience though.”
Another song, 'All That I've Loved (For Barbara)' was written for Lucy’s wife's grandmother who has dementia, and has received a huge response from friends and families who are caring for someone living with the condition.
“It's such a bittersweet feeling to have people share their stories with me on such a personal level”, she said. “It's so sad to hear of the struggles that so many families are facing, but also so beautiful to hear of the memories that shine through those dark times.”
While social media can provide these positive connections, it has a downside and Lucy is careful to find the right balance:
“If I don't like what someone says on my page I quite simply block them. Or mute them. Or give them some abuse and then block them. It depends what mood I'm in.
“I put a lot of personal things on my page because I want to share who I am. That's my choice, and I love reading what people share with me because of that.
“Most of all, I never let any of it get to me. I have thick skin and that's how I survive social media.”
Ahead of her appearance at HebCelt, she will be sharing with the audience by hosting the festival’s Instagram page on 21 and 22 July.
So, what can we look forward to? “Probably lots of pictures of my dog. Don't worry - he's very cute. Maybe I'll record some little live clips of a song or two as well.”