Lauren Gillis, better known by her handle Lucette, creates a solitary sound.
Two albums in, she’s established herself as an artist with a penchant for hushed melodies and introspective musings. With her recently released sophomore set, “Deluxe Hotel Room,” she shares darker themes that are common to many people these days: displacement, marginalization, isolation and, of course, the pitfalls of romance and relationships that tend to go astray.
Although she lists some disparate early influences — she checklists ABBA, Elvis Presley, Elton John and the Beach Boys as music she often listened to early on before delving into the classic rock that dominated her big brother’s record collection — the music she makes today has more in common with the fundamental sounds of Joni Mitchell, Emmylou Harris, Janis Ian and Leonard Cohen than the pop practitioners of her youth.
A native of Alberta, Canada, Lucette embarked on her musical career as a teenager, opting to use her grandmother’s name as her professional moniker.
“I always wanted to be in a band, not just a solo artist,” she said. “I’m hoping that eventually I’ll find a group of people who want to be Lucette, and we can create together. People I was working with at the time said I needed something a little more catchy than ‘Lauren Gillis.’ I’m fine with my name, but when you’re 18, you tend to take people’s advice. Besides, my grandmother loves it.”
After flying to Nashville and attempting an ill-conceived set of cover songs (“I hope it never sees the light of day,” she said), a friend suggested that she contact award-winning producer Dave Cobb to make a real record. After sharing some demos with him on Skype, he agreed to come aboard. With Cobb sitting behind the boards, she recorded her first album, “Black is the Color,” immediately after graduation at age 19. Although the album wasn’t released until 2014, it caught on quickly after a video for the single “Bobby Reid” made its way to the marketplace.
It was during the filming of that video that she met Grammy-winning Americana artist and producer Sturgill Simpson. Simpson, who had a role in the video, became a friend and subsequently tapped her to serve as the opening act for his 2014 tour.
It was little wonder, then, that Simpson also opted to produce her new album and recruit his backing band to lend its support. Although the sonics are varied, from the soft sweep of its acoustic textures to hints of synths and electronica, Lucette’s tender touch fuses its fragility with a dogged and determined worldview. It sometimes seems surreal, but the subjects that she sings about are grounded in real-world scenarios, all related from a personal and poignant perspective.
“It wasn’t necessarily a deliberate decision to do a certain type of album,” she said. “But I did some digging within my own life and my music, and I thought that people would be able to relate to me a lot more if I opened up about some of this stuff. The first album was a lot more about storytelling and cool folklore-type stories, but this album I tended to be really personal, because I wanted people to see what I can bring and understand who I am a little bit more.”
In the process of making the album, Lucette said she gained a new level of personal realization.
“I still struggle with a lot of things,” she said. “But I feel like I’m a lot more self-aware than I was in my earlier years. I’m better able to take care of myself in many ways.
“I don’t think I realized how therapeutic a lot of these songs were until now. They had been so close to me for a year and a half, up until I released this album. So for the first time, I’ve begun to discover that other people are relating to some of the things I’ve been through. It’s been very eye-opening. A lot of people have gotten back to me and said the songs have really meant a lot to them. I don’t want to sound self-involved, but I’m amazed at how many people have told me, ‘I struggle with the same things that you do and you did a great job of opening up.’
“I was always so afraid of being vulnerable and being that open, because with social media, it’s really just what you want other people to see, and not what you’re actually like,” she added. “This is me, and it’s a lot more real.”
She admits that initially it was difficult to share such intimacy, but the affirmation she received has helped her to confront the cause of her earlier disappointment and depression.
“As soon I opened up, and was honest with people, they told me, ‘We support you and we’re so proud of you,’” she said. “If I had hidden these things, I probably wouldn’t have gotten the same reaction. A lot of what we artists do through songwriting is explaining ourselves. I felt like I was fighting for these songs. I didn’t realize how cathartic they were until I made the record.”
Ultimately, Lucette feels like the new album has liberated her in a way she hadn’t experienced before.
“I feel like these songs have made me stronger,” she said. “Before I felt the need to explain myself and the need to defend myself. Now it’s like, this is who I am and if you don’t like it, that’s fine as well.”