Lucy Billings Carries a Tune in her New Album Carry the Water

By Dylan Mullins

June 23, 2015

Folk Singer and Clean Water Activist Lucy Billings

Photo courtesy of Diane Graham

Imagine working as an attorney for the state of California for 20 years, then finding out just before your 60th birthday that your position has been eliminated. Most would take it as a sign to retire, but Lucy Billings decided to pack up her car, travel cross-country to Nashville, and make her dreams of becoming a professional musician a reality.

"Shaking up your world can make you feel so vulnerable," she said in a recent feature in Oprah Magazine. "But I told myself, 'Just write about it. Turn it into a song.'"

And that’s what Billings did, with her recent album Carry the Water making it to number six on the Top 10 Folk Albums of 2014. “I write about subjects that move me,” she told Sierra by email, busy working on the new album she plans to release in 2016. “I’m passionate about clean water access and conservation, and that inspired the album.”

A six-string guitar that her parents bought her when she was 10 sparked her love for music, and a childhood in Tucson, Arizona engendered a deep appreciation for nature. At 19, she traveled to the Appalachian Mountains where she witnessed the hardships the coal industry imposed on the people and the environment. It was one of Billing’s defining moments as an artist, long before the start of her career—being inspired “by the musicians in Appalachia that were using their music to raise awareness of these issues and trying to create a positive change.”

Her title song “Carry the Water” is about African women who must travel long distances to collect dirty water. She worked with acclaimed filmmakers Molly Secours and Jeff Wyatt Wilson to create the song’s music video.

But Billings is not just singing about lack of clean water. She’s also raising money to help provide it. She has teamed up with nonprofit organizations, Blood:Water and Amman Imman, both devoted to increasing clean water access in developing countries. Throughout April, May, and June she is donating 50% of all sales of Carry the Water to these organizations. 

“I love making albums, and it was very rewarding to create Carry the Water," Billings says. “The songs are so close to my heart and it was wonderful to be able to share them with others.”