Five weeks postpartum, Lucy Rose, a singer-songwriter, had a question for her NCT baby group: “Is anyone else experiencing excruciating back pain?” Despite not being able to relate, Rose convinced herself that this was a common and expected part of the challenging postpartum period.
A few days later, Rose was picking up her son Otis from his crib when she suddenly felt her body give out and her back start spasming. This is likely when the initial vertebrae was fractured.
It took several months for her to discover the truth about her condition. During this period, she experienced intense physical discomfort and felt embarrassed and alone because she couldn’t even lift her child when he cried. She visited a doctor multiple times, who only did chest X-rays and blood tests and dismissed her pain as being in her mind, without examining her spine. When she requested an MRI, the doctor told her to calm down.
Rose was in desperate need of assistance, expressing her inability to perform tasks such as pushing a pram and leaving her home. She also mentioned that a physiotherapist had suggested she may have a fractured vertebra. However, the doctor dismissed this possibility, stating that if it were true, her pain would be unbearable and her back would not be broken.
I am currently sitting with Rose, who is 34 years old. She started her career as a backing vocalist for Bombay Bicycle Club and has since created her own successful brand of ethereally beautiful folk-pop. We are at her kitchen table in Brighton, where she lives with her husband, Will. One end of the table is covered in craft materials that she and her two-year-old son, Otis, have been using to make Christmas decorations. On the other end, Rose, who usually presents herself as no-nonsense and humble, is crying. This is the first time she has opened up about the difficult months at the beginning of her son’s life.
Rose paid for an MRI with her own money and the results showed that she had eight fractures in her back. She felt a strange sense of relief because she finally had validation that she wasn’t imagining her pain. She now understood why she couldn’t be the mother she wanted to be. However, she also realized that she must have osteoporosis, a condition that typically affects women after menopause but can also occur in new mothers in rare cases. With the help of a supportive Facebook group, Rose gained more knowledge about her condition than her doctors, who were openly searching for information online during appointments.
She was aware that the initial phase of healing required her to discontinue breastfeeding, which was believed to be a contributing factor to her condition (commonly known as pregnancy and lactation-associated osteoporosis). However, her son Otis refused to take a bottle and trying to use one was an upsetting experience for all involved: “I was crying, my husband was crying, my mother was crying.” The midwives advised Rose to abruptly stop breastfeeding and warned that her son would likely cry for two days, but she gave in after a few hours, not wanting to deprive her child and instead continued to breastfeed him until he was ready for solid food.
Currently, Rose’s bone density remains significantly low. She expressed concern that if she were to fall, the consequences would not be favorable. However, with the help of medication (which she had to obtain funding for from her local council, causing additional stress) and hydrotherapy, her life has largely returned to its previous state. She has even been able to resume her passion for music, which she thought may never be possible again after being consumed by caretaking and medical concerns for so long. Her identity as “Lucy Rose” had become a distant memory during this time.
Despite her illness, Rose has found a way to use her emotions to create her most exhilarating music yet. Her fifth album, This Ain’t the Way You Go Out, was inspired by the straight-talking hydrotherapist who treated her and marks a departure from her previous record’s somber soulfulness. Instead, she infuses hook-filled, intricately layered tunes with raw pain. The lead single, “Could You Help Me,” produced by renowned British producer Kwes, combines frenetic, jazzy beats with lyrics that convey the desperation of her early days battling illness. The title track, with its beautiful melody, has Rose blaming herself for her perceived weakness in her pure and clear voice. The album also includes a track expressing anger towards unsympathetic friends, particularly the deceptively upbeat “Life’s Too Short.” Rose shares, “It was shocking how some people lacked empathy.”
This Ain’t The Way You Go Out is a deeply personal project, but it was borne of collaboration. In late 2022, the US chart-topping rapper Logic offered to fly Rose to New York to sing on his new album (her vocals have featured on three of his previous records). During breaks she found herself jamming with the other musicians present, and their distinctly un-British zeal began to restore her confidence. “No one was self-deprecating; they were like: ‘We’re rocking this!’ I needed that sort of energy. Then I was like: right, I’m going to record these songs.”
In the United Kingdom, she sent a message to Paul Weller. In 2018, she provided backing vocals for his album True Meanings and he had given her the opportunity to use his studio. Five years later, she finally took him up on his offer. Weller was incredibly impressed with what she produced in just one day and encouraged her to use the studio as much as she needed. Rose expresses her gratitude, saying, “He has been such a supportive person. On my difficult days, I remind myself that Paul Weller likes me. It’s not all negative, Lucy!”
The communication did not end there. Wanting to step out of her comfort zone and “be courageous and have faith that others want to collaborate with me,” she targeted Kwes. A friend had given her his number, but Rose was unsure of how to approach him. “Do I simply say: ‘Hi, I’m Lucy Rose, assuming you know who I am, although you probably don’t.’ Or do I send a message saying: ‘I am a musician named Lucy Rose and this is my background?!'” she recalls, still visibly anxious from the memory. However, Kwes responded immediately – with enthusiasm. She also reached out to engineer Dan Parry (known for working with Adele and Lady Gaga), who responded with a resounding “yes!” These positive reactions made her think: “Maybe, just maybe, Lucy, you aren’t as terrible as you believe.”
It is not surprising that these individuals would eagerly accept the opportunity to collaborate with Rose, who has received critical acclaim. Rose herself attributes her feelings of shock to “typical self-esteem issues common among female musicians”, as well as her transition into motherhood. While she knows rationally that she has created a fantastic album and has much to be proud of, she admits that a voice inside her often questions her relevance: “You’re now a 34-year-old mother, making music that no one will want!” The reactions of some of her acquaintances can also affect her. When she mentions making an album to other parents, she says their responses are often along the lines of, “Good for you, still trying to make it work!” This can be disheartening for Rose, as she wonders if she is seen as “pathetic”. There seems to be a belief that if you’re not at the top, you are not successful in some way.
Upon learning her tale, calling Rose “pathetic” would be an inaccurate label. Despite previously struggling to walk, she is now gearing up to perform in London and eagerly anticipating the uplifting vibes of “This Ain’t The Way You Go Out.” Though the lyrics may be cutting, Rose finds that the music has been a source of strength and rebellion for her.
Rose is prepared to move forward despite the lingering pain. She underwent therapy to come to terms with her body, which she used to see as feeble and defective. She now recognizes its strength and perseverance. Rose is also committed to promoting awareness of the condition to prevent others from enduring months of intense pain and self-blame like she did. She also has hope for advancements in medical research and even contributed blood samples to a team of scientists at Edinburgh university who are studying the illness.
However, her son remains her greatest source of solace, as he always has been. Despite her feelings of despair over not being able to care for him as a newborn, Otis was the one thing that gave her the strength to keep going each day. She admits, “It may sound cliche, but Otis was my reason for pushing through. I felt unlovable and hated my body, but he loved me unconditionally and I was still his number one person.” Being a mother to Otis has been the most fulfilling experience of her life, and she would happily go through it all again a million times.
The release date for Lucy Rose’s latest album, titled This Ain’t the Way You Go Out, is April 19th and it will be available through Communion Records. On April 25th, she will be performing at London’s Roundhouse.