IT has been really revealing and interesting…
speaking with the L.A.-based songwriter, Lindsay Kay. She has been talking to me about her latest track, Invited, and the inspiration behind it. I probed Kay about her upcoming album and what the reason was behind hiring an all-female team – she reveals to me the artists and albums that have impacted her the hardest.
The Canadian-born talent tells me how she spends time away from music; what her favourite memory from music is; why she relocated from Canada to L.A.; which new artists we need to keep our ears peeled for; what she hopes to achieve before this year is through – Kay ends the interview by selecting a song perfect for the sunnier weather!
Hi, Lindsay. How are you? How has your week been?
Hi! I’m doing well, thanks for asking. My week has been really nice. The weather in L.A. is super-beautiful right now - it’s that end of spring/beginning of summer vibe where it smells like jasmine everywhere and still isn’t too hot and it’s staying light out later and later…the best time of the year!
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
I’m a Canadian singer-songwriter based in Los Angeles. I play and write quiet, melancholy; acoustic-based music with a subtle Jazz influence and I’m currently finishing up my debut, full-length album.
Invited, your new single, is out. Can you talk about its story and what influenced it?
I wrote Invited, and a big chunk of this album, in the fall of 2016…right before the Women’s Marches and the #MeToo movement popped off, but right in the midst of the pussy-grabbing chaos of Trump’s campaign and eventual election. So, there was a definite stirring in the air amongst women happening. One particular night, when I was walking down Hollywood Blvd, I passed a group of men and one of them started hassling me and wouldn’t let me pass.
He touched my arm and pulled on my shirt and was just really in my space and whispering whatever in my ear. This is certainly not an isolated incident: this type of thing happens to me and all women daily, weekly, etc. But, this guy just caught me on a bad night and, because of the climate politically and socially, I was starting to awaken and realize that normalizing these events was the opposite of normal.
I was examining my experiences as a woman more whereas, prior to that, I was just letting these things roll off my back and barely acknowledging them because, if women allowed ourselves to feel every event like this, we would just unravel, because they’re so frequent. I just remember feeling really upset and so violated and thinking to myself: ‘Why is this a difficult concept to grasp? Why do you feel entitled to my time/space/body/energy? Why do you feel no need to ask me if I want you near me? Do not touch me unless I INVITE YOU TO DO SO’. I wrote Invited the next day and it kind of felt like taking some semblance of my power back by being able to articulate this very simple idea in a concise, well-organized song form.
I know you have an album coming out. Is it true it was created, top to bottom, by a female team? Is that a reflection of the album’s themes and meditations?
Yes, that’s true. The album centers around women’s experiences and the way in which we compress ourselves for our masculine counterparts and stay quiet; pretty and do what is expected of us and many other things pertaining to femininity. I had to enter into a really vulnerable space both to write the music and to realize it on a recording, and I simply didn’t feel comfortable putting those songs into the care of men in any sense.
I wanted to be understood in the studio and not challenged or undermined because of my gender. I wanted the songs to be understood by people who had lived those same feelings and who could really connect to the words. I wanted to see if it made a difference; if I’d be able to hear that authenticity in the music and I really believe that you can! It’s subtle but it’s tangible. It felt so wonderful to be surrounded exclusively by feminine energy in my creative life for an extended period of time.
How was it putting an album together? Did you learn anything about yourself when recording?
This was my third go at a studio project (I have two independently-released E.P.s out under my given name) and, with each, I have learned so much and refined the process a little. This was definitely the most successful endeavour thus far, and I feel like for the first time I was really able to make an album that sounds like me. This is my voice, this is my sound; this is my message and it hasn’t been muddled or messed with in any way.
I self-produced and am the sole writer on the album, which felt very empowering and important to me - and I did all of the arranging and handpicked all of the instrumentalists myself. There were so many wonderful folks involved that helped me bring the album to life and who offered their collaborative efforts and expertise and, while I certainly couldn’t have done it without them and their incredible talent, I am really proud of the fact that I maintained complete creative control and saw my vision through exactly the way I wanted.
The main lesson I learned while making this album is that this is truly what I am meant to do with my life – this is what I was built for. In the past, I may have lacked the confidence to give myself the credit where it was due or to walk into a studio and really feel at ease and like I had business being there. I always felt like I was faking it, or like I had something to prove (to men). But on this project, because so much of the creation of it was on my shoulders, and because I am truly so proud of the music that we made, I started to finally see that I absolutely do belong and that I’m really good at my job. Certainly, there are always moments of doubt and stress and feeling stuck – days when you’re exhausted and burnt-out and unsure of if what you’re making is working or if it’s ‘good’. But, on the whole, the experience was so creatively-fulfilling and really instilled in me a sense of confidence in my abilities that I was lacking on previous projects - and which had been holding me back creatively and otherwise.
When did music come into your life? What was the reason for taking it up?
I started singing when I was really young, just along with songs in the car or at home and my mom noticed that I had an affinity for music and enrolled me in some children’s choirs and provided outlets to channel that into. There was no rhyme or reason to taking it up except that I just loved singing so much. I can’t remember a time that I wasn’t singing on a daily basis…I’ve been fortunate to be actively doing the thing I love most for nearly my entire life! I started playing the guitar around the age of twelve as a means to begin writing my own songs and, from there, it really started to feel like a career path.
When did you move from Canada to L.A.? Are there big differences in terms of sound and the feel of the place?
I left Calgary when I was eighteen-years-old to go to Berklee College of Music in Boston and lived there for five years before eventually moving to L.A. in 2016. Canada has a wonderful and thriving music scene and, sometimes, I feel a little sad that I’m not as actively involved in it as I could be, simply because I’m not physically there and haven’t been in a long time. The fabulous thing about the Internet is that it makes the world so much smaller and so I am able to be actively part of the scene here and still keep up with what’s being made in Canada. I always felt drawn to being down here in the U.S. I don’t know exactly why, but I had this feeling, from a pretty young age, that it was where I was meant to be and I followed that intuition.
I love the music being made here right now. It’s an exciting time for music in L.A. It feels like anything is possible. It’s hard for me to pinpoint whether there’s a distinct difference in sound and feel between the places, but I will say that Canadian artists do seem to have this community and camaraderie and support for each other that is very special. I’d love to see more of that here.
Which artists would you count as influences?
So many…I find myself being influenced by a lot of music that sounds absolutely nothing like the music that I make, and yet, I still learn deep lessons and store away information from them for my own work. Solange Knowles, Leonard Cohen; Sufjan Stevens, Kendrick Lamar; John Mayer, Joni Mitchell; Esperanza Spalding, Bob Dylan; Chance the Rapper, Chris Thile/Punch Brothers; Herbie Hancock, Cardi B; Frank Ocean, Harry Styles; Sampha, SZA; Elton John, John Coltrane; Miles Davis and Ryan Adams…just to name a few off the top of my head.
Can we see you tour this year? What gigs do you have coming along?
As I’m still finishing up my album and have yet to set a release date (late summer sometime!), we haven’t booked a tour as of now. However, I will, of course, perform an album release show here in L.A. and in my hometown of Calgary when the time comes and I am in the beginning stages of conceptualizing and planning a live show, which I intend to be very visual and perhaps even a little theatrical. So, I’ll be spending the next few months plotting that and am looking forward performing again very soon.
What do you hope to achieve in 2018?
My perfect 2018 looks like: I release this album, it resonates in a meaningful way with women and female-identifying people, I play some shows, someone somewhere pays me money for it and I have some very good meals.
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?
Wow; this is a tough one…
There have been lots of great moments, but one is coming to mind. I seem to remember being a very quiet, socially-anxious teenager in high-school and feeling a little invisible and generally unsure of how to relate to my peers. There was some sort of an open mic thing happening at a coffee shop in town and everyone at school was going. I decided to go for it. I’d been playing out around town a lot, but no one at school really knew I played music. I was sort of living this double life: going with my mom to open mics on school nights and being exhausted the next day at school because I didn’t get to play until like midnight; recording demos on weekends, just doing whatever I could…but I hadn’t yet played my songs in front of people I knew.
I was terrified, but I got up there in front of everyone and played one or two of my own songs and people were shocked. I remember, just for this one night, feeling like people finally saw the real me and feeling appreciated and special. It was a nice moment and one of the first instances I can remember where I fell in love with performing my own music in front of people because it enabled me to be my truest self and made me feel like I had a superpower.
Which three albums mean the most to you, would you say?
John Mayer – Continuum
Sufjan Stevens – Carrie and Lowell
John Coltrane – A Love Supreme
That was a very hard question to answer!
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
Get good first.
PHOTO CREDIT: Pisces Dreams/COVER DESIGN: Mark Nubar
Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?
Yes! My dear pal Alec Watson has a solo project called DPCD – he makes super beautiful acoustic music and has a truly stunning album out called Good Visions. It’s a must-listen. My friend Elizabeth Goodfellow, who is an amazing drummer and played the drums on my album, just released a fantastic album called Silly Sun. It’s the perfect summer album – super groovy, lots of synths; great balance of fun and depth.
Lara Somogyi, who I was also so fortunate to have play on my album, is an incredible harpist and she does a lot of really innovate things on the harp…she plays with pedals and different effects, ventures into electronic production; incorporates movement and just generally does a lot of unexpected and beautiful things on the instrument. Highly recommend checking out her work.
IN THIS PHOTO: Lara Somogyi
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
Yes, I definitely do. Although I do work really hard, I try to make a point of checking in with myself often and making time to relax and unwind. I’m really introverted and need quite a lot of alone time to feel good and I love being in my little apartment and cooking delicious meals.
I can get burnt-out quickly with music if I’m not feeding my creativity in other ways; so I try to consume a lot of art outside of music by going to galleries and museums frequently, going to the movies; seeing live theatre, reading lots; watching T.V, and spending quality time with my friends, who are an amazing group of creatives who understand this weird lifestyle and can commiserate and ease some of the pressure.
Routine is also really important to my well-being, and I have my little daily and weekly rituals that help me stay balanced (hiking, coffee-making; going to the farmer’s market, podcast listening etc.)
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
Sister Golden Hair – America
A classic bop for this current L.A. weather!
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