LUPA J IS REBUILDING A BROKEN HEART
Lupa J has not defined her purpose as an artist yet, and that’s okay. Growth isn’t art, it's a human process. Off-stage, she is Imogen Jones, a real person who finds the familiarity of her own music to be her solace in uncomfortable environments. Walking towards a stage still terrifies her, yet she muses, “I love singing words I’ve written about really emotional experiences directly to a crowd”. It’s this intrinsic desire for two-way interaction that keeps her active both online and offline. She likes having direct lines to artists she admires, and is pro-digital dialogue. “Anyone releasing music in the age of social media is interacting with their listeners more directly than any musician has before. There’s no way you can’t do that anymore, it’s just how the music industry works now. I think it’s kind of cool”.
Open-dialogue isn’t always a positive thing, however. Boundaries are necessary for self-preservation, and while she is adamant that she has not experienced negativity as yet, Imogen is conscious that “the more this project grows the more inevitable it will become. I just need to continue working on understanding myself and my potential sore spots, as well as recognising my self-worth. If it ever reaches that point, I’ll have a solid grounding from which to deal with it”. Because growth is inevitable, it’s essential for Imogen to think more holistically about her career. As with any pursuit of success, the question of what it means to “have it all” looms on the horizon. Imogen is uncertain for now - “I don’t really know yet, but I think having it all is being able to continue making music the way I am now, meeting like minded people, and doing what I love. If that means never making much money, that’s okay. I’d sacrifice wealth for that”.
The current transactional landscape of music consumption lends to singles being treated as commodities; traded off to platforms in exchange for plays. The exchange can be challenging for an independent artist, and Imogen admits that “the way the music industry currently works is really difficult. It definitely feels like if you want to get anywhere, and reach enough people, you have to play some sort of game”, alluding to the strategic pitch to streaming and radio gatekeepers, which ultimately dictates what is prioritised to consumers. Imogen isn’t jaded by the ‘format’, she’s confident that she can stand by her creative vision enough for it to feel authentic. “I don’t let people tell me how I should write my music. I do all the writing and producing myself, and only take feedback from people I really trust. Even if it’s just within a 3-minute song someone stumbles across on a Spotify playlist, I’m still putting myself, and my emotions into that person’s listening experience as honestly and as purely as I can”. Laying all of her cards on the table and allowing anonymous people into her deepest thoughts and emotions is jarring. Imogen doesn’t shy away from feeling exposed, admitting “I’ve recently been realising that I’m more comfortable with vulnerability than a lot of people - I cry pretty frequently, and people can find it confronting, or weak. Part of me is definitely afraid of being ‘too much’ for people, but I think another part of me is quite content with being emotionally honest. It’s not something everyone can cope with, but I think there’s definitely a power that comes with being that vulnerable, and sharing that side of yourself with people”.
At the end of 2017, Imogen decided she wanted to write a full-length Lupa J album, and without hesitation - she did just that. She didn’t leave the house for 2-weeks straight in January to complete the bulk of the release, adding the finishing the foundations in April last year. Swallow Me Whole is pipelined for release this June, and it is her whole truth. “I have a song on my album that deals more directly with my sexuality than anything I’ve ever written. I always feel really nervous just before I perform it - but also, it nearly always gets a few enthusiastic cheers mid-song once people realise what I’m saying”. The album finds Lupa J speaking on very personal experiences about discovering her sexuality, and falling in and out of love. As difficult as it was to write the album, it became simultaneously therapeutic. The writing process led her to realise it was time to leave a long-term relationship that she had become very dependent on. “I hadn’t allowed myself to really think about the possibility that it could be hurting me before I started writing about it, but I guess writing music is the one place where I’m always 100% honest about what I’m feeling. Before I even really knew what I was trying to say, or what needed to happen, it all just started to come out in the form of these songs”. She recalls admitting to her now ex-partner, “I feel like I’m trying to lift this boulder off of myself, and carve it into a piece of art, but it’s so heavy I can hardly see what I’m doing, and I don’t know that I can do a good job”.
Imogen definitely feels more in touch with herself now, still broken, but rebuilding. “I feel like growing older is just a continuous process of realising what you feel and need more and more - but it happens in bursts. Writing my album was a big step forward. I was at a comfortable–but unhappy–standstill for quite a while. After this massive, painful excavation, I’m the most happy with myself that I’ve ever been. It’s still not easy, there’s been an ongoing string of difficult changes that have occurred in my life ever since, but I’m getting closer to feeling emancipated from it all everyday”.
So how does she define love in the space of an album? “I don’t know if I can confidently ‘define’ that yet. I think love takes many different forms”. To love, and to be in love are the same yet different. Imogen ponders, “I would say I’ve been ‘in love’ a few times. In fact, I believe I am right now - but it feels different to the kind of love I’ve felt every other time. What I know for sure is that it can sneak up on you, and can be about everything other than the person themself”. She reflects on an intense crush she developed last year, on someone she had previously no interest in. “I reckon it was to do with the circumstances around my relationship with them more than anything - they were just in the right place at the right time while I was processing a very intense breakup, and in order to cope I think my feelings just needed somewhere, or someone else, to be focused on. I don’t know if I would say that was love though; I think love has to be more reciprocal”.
While the definition of love may be contextual, it’s still something that Imogen still seeks to understand. Perhaps it is this emotional curiosity that what will form her purpose as an artist. On a whim, she divulges one last theory, “I’ve recently become close with someone I previously didn’t know that well, but the more I get to know them, the more I feel comfortable and trusting in their care, and the more I want to be around them every second of every day. I think that might be love?”