'Now I make records and I get to travel the world. I have a really great life'
Lucy Spraggan is back with her fifth album, and a newfound positivity about life. The singer-songwriter and former X Factor star tells Lucy Mapstone about the inspiration behind her new record, how it feels to be achieving her goals despite her reality TV starting point, and how she feels about the programme now
Lucy Spraggan is brimming with glee after being announced as a performer for this year's Glastonbury Festival. It's actually the second time the former X Factor star will perform at the prestigious event, this time on the Avalon Stage after taking to the Acoustic Stage in 2017, but the accolade is no less special.
"It's amazing," she says through a beaming smile.
"As far as I'm aware, I'm the only person from reality TV that's played Glastonbury.
"It feels like I'm finally crossing over that border," she says, slightly dubiously, her disbelief at her own accomplishment clearly visible.
"I feel like people are finally seeing me as my own artist, even though I've been touring since 2012.
"All the time other places have poo-pooed me and been like, 'She'll be gone soon', and I'm actually still here, I'm serious about this.
"Sometimes the stigma that's attached to the show can be really difficult to overcome, and that's within the industry - you can never be cool ever again.
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"I've been trying for seven years now, not to get rid of the label as such, because that's part of my career, but it's been very, very difficult."
Becoming a household name overnight while in the 2012 series of the talent show was just one small step in what she jokingly refers to her as "journey", mockingly shuddering at her own use of the hackneyed term.
Spraggan, now 27, was instantly lovable during her time in the competition thanks to her personal brand of music, mostly playing her own songs rather than belting out recognisable pop hits like so many of her competitors.
With self-penned songs such as Last Night - which peaked at number 11 in the charts while she was on the show - and Tea And Toast, she was a favourite to win the series, but was forced to pull out due to illness.
Despite the early exit, Spraggan avoided slipping into obscurity like so many of her X Factor peers and has spent the best part of the last decade toiling, releasing her often quippy, unique music, and becoming successful in her own way.
As well as Glastonbury, she has performed at other festivals such as Kendal Calling and SXSW in America. She recently supported Melissa Etheridge on tour before going on her own headline tour around the US.
With her four albums hitting between number seven and number 22 in the charts, Spraggan has never been too far away from the limelight, although she chuckles while regaling a story from the day before our chat.
"I was checking into my hotel and the woman at reception looks up at me and says, 'Are you the girl from The X Factor? What happened to you?'
"And I'm like, 'Well, I've had four top 40 albums since then,'" laughs Spraggan.
"People that watch The X Factor don't really buy music," she notes, before adding: "That's a sweeping statement to make, but people that buy music and go to shows and stuff..."
She trails off, perhaps not wanting to seem unfair to fans of the programme, and adds: "It was great. It was an experience."
Spraggan is happy to reflect on her time on the show, even though it seems quite the cross to bear.
"I don't think anyone can emotionally prepare for it. That level of overnight success is a phenomenon that very few people get to witness, so it's very hard to deal with."
She says she is unable to imagine her life without The X Factor and is grateful for the exposure - "Marketing couldn't buy what it gave me," she admits - despite the difficulties she faced through a combination of the sudden fame, constantly being judged by millions of viewers, and the mechanics of the programme itself behind the scenes.
"There were definitely elements of the show that were very toxic for me, and it flipped my life on its head for at least five years," she reveals.
"The last couple of years I've started to claw my own personality back, but it took me a very long time."
Releasing her fifth album, Today Was A Good Day, marks a positive step in the life of the guitar-wielding singer-songwriter.
Having been open in recent years about her battle with mental health issues - which prompted her to nearly take her own life several years ago - she is now feeling much better thanks to her happy relationship with her wife Georgina (left), being healthier mentally and physically, and just finding her place in the world.
"It's considerably happier than my last record, and that's because it's a reflection of where I'm at," Spraggan explains.
"Every album of mine is an observation of what's going on around me and each album, weirdly, has been two years apart, so it reflects on the past couple of years.
"I've been married for three years in June, and me and my wife have been fostering and settling in, and it's like a different step in my life."
Georgina, she says, has been a large part of her life improvements and being with her helped her to "filter out all the negativity".
Commenting on her noticeable recent weight loss, Spraggan adds: "I still struggle now, f****** hell, I eat pizzas whenever I want to and get really drunk, but it's about trying to make better decisions.
"My life just arrived at this place where I am now.
"I got to morbidly sad places, I nearly killed myself in 2014, and I feel like, from then, it was like, 'Oh God, I'm going to have to sort this mess out', and it's been a planted seed that's grown since then, and is only just flowering."
Laughing, she adds: "Well, a cactus maybe."
While more focused on looking ahead than dwelling on the past, Spraggan does have one piece of advice that she would love to tell her 19-year-old self embarking on her X Factor journey, if that was at all possible.
"I'd say, just be aware that you can't change things, because that's what I thought," she says.
"I thought I'd be able to change the perception, because I'll do my own songs and be myself, wear my own clothes, and then it didn't make a difference because the stigma was too strong."
She adds: "I'd also say you need to be kinder to yourself, look after yourself.
"And that would probably mean not going on The X Factor."
But, for now, she's glad she did go on the show. Mostly.
She reflects: "I might have stayed working with a clipboard on the street, that's what I was doing at the time.
"And now I make records and I get to travel the world.
"I have a really great life."
Today Was A Good Day by Lucy Spraggan is out now