Cartier Masthead Final Weeks

Lucy Sugerman: On fame and overwhelm

Emma Grey

As the author of a novel about a teen singer-songwriter, I was delighted to chat with Canberra’s own Lucy Sugerman, 15 — a teenager whose name it’s a good idea to etch into your mind now so you can recall knowing about her before she was famous.

Although, perhaps you already do …

The Year 10 student is the current Australian National Busking Champion (frequently performing at the Fyshwick Markets on weekends). In 2011 she raised over $1500 in under two hours busking for the Red Cross after the Queensland Floods). She was the youngest to win the Canberra Liftoff Music Competition and was invited to perform at the recent TEDxCanberra and at the ‘Beyond’ and ‘Living Green’ Festivals. Not only does she write songs, sing and play the guitar, but she has her AMEB Grade 8 violin and graces the stage in school musicals, corporate events, pub gigs and weddings.

When I asked her how she juggles all of this with her schoolwork she was honest: “Sometimes I feel like I don’t. I just deal with every task (in both music and schoolwork) as it comes, and do it all to the best of my ability with whatever time I have.” (Hello, overwhelmed adult women of Canberra — isn’t this great advice?)

Photography: Andy MacDonald

Photography: Andy MacDonald

Lucy plans to pursue music after school: recording, writing and performing. She said, “I know a lot of people believe that music is a naive and ridiculous thing to pursue, because of how unstable it can be and how difficult it is to make a career out of …” and I thought about that.

We need only watch the X-Factor to realise that there are a lot of aspiring singers who’ll never cut it, but then there are people like my school friend, Sally Whitwell — who lived and breathed music at high school and has pushed through that instability and bagged two ARIAs on her way into a composing career that continues to unfold and blossom in her forties. In fact, when I flicked through Facebook I was reminded that I know several professional musicians, here and overseas — each of them as passionate now as they were at Lucy’s age.

“If you really want to do something as big as this,” Lucy explained, “you have to focus your mind and energy completely on it. I don’t want to get to the end of my life and regret all the things I didn’t do, that I could have done. I’m so in love with singing and performing and everything that comes with it that I just can’t keep away from it, so when there are setbacks or I do a bad performance, I remember the rush I get from music and just have to try again.”

Photography: Maria Kolouris

Photography: Maria Kolouris

Her enthusiasm is as infectious as her lyrics — about everything from crushes to the ‘popular girls’ to the plight of refugees, the weather and things she sees on TV. When she (and 76,000 other screaming fans) saw Taylor Swift in concert last year, dressed in big costumes with fairy lights and cardboard guitars, they were plucked from the audience and taken backstage to meet their idol.

Speaking with Lucy, you come away as excited about her career as your own. She has a talent and wisdom well beyond her years, and a perspective that’s as grounded as it reaches for the stars.

Lucy will be launching her EP, The Hilltop Sessions, at Smith’s Alternative on Saturday 26 November, from 4pm-6pm.

the essentials

What: Lucy Sugerman’s CD Launch, The Hilltop Sessions
When: Saturday November 26, 4pm-6pm
Where: Smith’s Alternative, 76 Alinga Street, Civic
Tickets available here.

Feature image by Shaylah McClaymont


Emma Grey

Emma Grey is the Canberra-based author of ‘Wits’ End Before Breakfast! Confessions of a Working Mum’ and ‘Unrequited: Girl Meets Boy Band’. She’s director of the life-balance consultancy, WorkLifeBliss and co-founder of a fresh approach to time-management, My 15 Minutes. She lives just over the ACT border with her two teen daughters and young son. More about the Author