Payin' Dues: Lucy Zirins

“I GUESS I’D be Bonnie Raitt or Susan Tedeschi for a day,” says singer-songwriter Lucy in answer to who she’d like to emulate. Like them, she’s firmly rooted in blues, but her musical scope is broad. Take her recent EP, What’s In Front Of Me, which also draws on country and folk. “The EP gave me a chance to explore different sounds and genres,” she says. “It gave us an idea of how we want the next album to sound.”

What motivated the EP?

I moved to London in September and decided to do an EP to introduce myself to the south and reflect where I’m at musically. I wanted a project that reflected transition: six songs for the first six months of the move from small town to big smoke, and all the moods reflected in that. It’s about looking forward and positive change, but all the bittersweet feelings too.

How did you first discover the blues?

Through Paul Corry, my music teacher’s husband. I used to go round to jam with him on a Sunday, we’d sit on amps and listen to Johnny Shines, Son House, John Hammond, John Lee Hooker, Charley Patton, Blind Lemon Jefferson. I got hooked.

You were playing guitar at the age of 12 – who inspired you?

My uncle Chris was an accordion player who was learning to play guitar, and after his death I inherited his acoustic and some books to learn to play. Once I picked it up I never wanted to do anything else except write songs and play. It was my way of taking something good out of it all. All my records have been dedicated to his memory, and on the latest record I also dedicated a track to my Grandpa Martin, Christopher’s father, who is also a talented accordionist and continues to inspire me.

Michael Messer was also pivotal.

Definitely, and he remains a respected friend and someone I continually go to for advice. When I was 15, Paul Corry gave my music to Michael Roach, the country blues and big band musician, and also to Michael Messer. Mr Roach ran a blues workshop and I was lucky enough to get the Sam Mitchell Scholarship to go. Michael was teaching. I was so nervous I couldn’t talk to him, I loved his music so much! But we kept in touch and he mentored me. I sent him songs and we made [2013 debut album] Chasing Clocks together. We recorded in analogue at Toe Rag with owner Liam Watson co-producing. He put together the team, studio, instrumentation and helped me arrange everything.

What’s In Front Of Me is out now on Gingersnap Music.