How Lights’ first album colored my journey with mental illness--and helped me heal
In the spring of 2011, fifteen-year-old me was a sophomore in high school. I was depressed, and had been since middle school. I had one close friend. My peers and I competed within a hierarchy of class ranks, and smart phones, and annotated novels in our English classes.
The internet offered some escape. It was an unmemorable, not-special day on YouTube. Until it wasn’t.
Subscribed to British musician Ed Morris, who in late March, under the username “MrMusicman284” posted his latest cover--of Canadian singer-songwriter Lights’ “River”--I clicked.
“Absolutely love it,” Morris began, gushing. “She did an acoustic performance on Billboard[‘s channel], and I’ve just been watching it for, like, days now.”
Without even giving the music stylings of Ed Morris a chance, I clicked off, and searched for said performance.
I remember it being the best song I had heard in a long time. From there I found the original, in all its pulsing, electropop glory. And then I unearthed more--her complete first album, The Listening.
When it arrived in the mail from Amazon, I had just arrived home from school. I immediately put it on.
The first notes of “Saviour” trickled into my ears: The night is deafening when the silence is listening...
Now the proud owner of Lights’ downcast debut disguised as 13 bubbly, brilliant bops, in physical form all the way from Canada--I grinned. I can’t say I remember many individual smiles, but I remember this one.
Five months later, I realized how timely Lights’ entrance into my life was. Especially that very first song.
On the edge of my junior year, I was diagnosed with anxiety. I had always been a nervous, socially-hesitant kid, but I wasn’t prepared for panic attacks, nor their entwinement with my pre-existing depression. They proved so jarring, were so consistent, and felt so permanent, that suicide returned to my mind as a viable solution.
My family had delayed our summer vacation that year, slated for a week or so after my diagnosis. My packing included a new addition this time: a translucent orange bottle with some 15 chalky capsules. No refills. Any moment could trigger my anxiety; I had to pick my battles wisely.
The car ride to the beach was no exception. Besides stops to eat, I was trapped for at least four hours on bustling highways. With iPod Touch in tow, I blared music in my earbuds and tried to sleep. It was lullaby-esque “River (Acoustic)” that diffused the tightness in my chest and my shallow breathing.
For every bout of anxiety thereafter, I turned to that song. For nearly every morning drive until I finished high school--perhaps to combat it proactively--I would play The Listening for the hundredth time before I’d reach for the radio.
And there were 12 other songs on the album, of course:
“Face Up” captures isolation and discouragement.
“Second Go” paints insecurity and compartmentalized emotions.
“Pretend” and its reprise reflect on growing pains, and the innocence of childhood.
“Drive My Soul” presents an identity crisis--her “Landslide,” if you will.
“The Last Thing on Your Mind” talks of support, accountability, and validation.
And “Lions!” and the title track have some of the most poignant imagery I’ve heard in pop music, or all of music for that matter.
A few years ago, I found my misplaced amber bottle. Its label bore an expired date, with a few capsules remaining. My anxiety (and depression) has since waned significantly, but the medicinal remnants served as a tangible symbol for my self-empowerment. As a therapist once told me, even when I didn’t believe it: “You are in charge of the way you feel.”
During my freshman year in college, however, it was hard to remember that mantra (or even recall the cathartic power of Lights’ music, despite her poster adorning the wall beside my bunk.) My depression resurfaced for the first of many additional times throughout my undergraduate years, and my anxiety remained crouched right behind it, ready--unlike I ever was for it. My university’s Health & Counseling Center, shrouded in a wooded part of campus, offered 12 free sessions a year.
“And sometimes,” an evaluator assured me with a wink, “we lose count.”
A few months in to the fall semester, I starting seeing a staff psychologist named C*. I didn’t know what to expect from state-school therapy, but to my pleasant surprise, we meshed well. Somehow, during one of our earliest meetings, music was brought up. Then Lights, and her striking diction on The Listening, my favorite album. C turned around right there, mid-conversation, to Google song lyrics. She loved them.
The next time I met with C, no sooner had I taken a seat in my usual chair, than she spun around to her desk once again--this time, to my disbelief, with her own copy of The Listening CD in hand. I was touched; from a small gesture, C made her investment in me clear outright. In that moment it all came full circle, in the likeness of a trusty chorus:
Take me river, carry me far
Lead me river, like a mother;
Take me over to some other unknown
Put me in the undertow
To C, Ed Morris, and to Lights herself--I owe you one.
About the Author
Stephanie Smith, 23, lives in Charlotte, NC and graduated from UNC Asheville in 2017 with a B.A. in Mass Communication. Previously, she's contributed news and features to Highlight Magazine and Charlotte's Nü Sound. Stephanie remains a huge fan of Lights and has seen her live twice.
Wisconsin based singer-songwriter Rändi Fay captivates us all once again with her new video “Supernatural”. Released on August 16th, “Supernatural” is a beautiful song co-written by Rändi Fay and Aaron Zinsmeister featuring Fay’s transcendent vocals paired with Timothy Perkins melodic bass lines. With inspiration from Joni Mitchell to Sade combined with her smooth vocals and Timothy’s dynamic bass, it's no surprise that she has been nominated for “Jazz Artist of the Year” for the past 4 years in a row by the Wisconsin Area Music Industry. Fay adds a healing power to her music that she shares with all of her fans.
The video is an enchanting and empowering display of Fay’s strength and beauty. She has a light that shines from deep within and out throughout her whole presence. The video opens to a mysterious, driving bass line and beat, and Fay singing out in a misty forest, then switches to the expressive and enticing dancing of Azure Hall for a display that will keep your attention throughout the song. The final line of the chorus “You’re supernatural and beyond the dawn our powers multiply… cause so am I,” reminds us that this is so much more than your typical love song, but rather an expression of a love between woman who knows her strength and and man who respects it and knows his as well. Her goal while writing “Supernatural” was to combine “traditional” instruments such a bass and vocal with that of more contemporary sounds like synth to create a masterpiece of sounds which blend together beautifully.
“‘Supernatural’ is about the surreal intensity of love and desire, with chemistry romantic and intense, but also equal. While writing, it had to be clear that the relationship is especially enchanted by the balance of attraction between both partners, not one fawning over the other. I wanted the music to support that concept by layering two very natural instruments, the voice and the bass, into a winding, ‘supernatural’ arrangement.” - Rändi Fay
Watch the new video for "Supernatural" below and add the single to your playlist on Spotify where the track has already reached over 1000 streams!
If you want to connect with Fay online you can find her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and hashtag #ConnectingWorlds on your posts about her and her work. If you love what you hear you can book a private concert with Fay here at her website and invite your community to share in the experience of Fay’s music. You can also join Randi Fay’s mailing list for a free download of “Supernatural” and to stay in touch with upcoming events and releases and experience the “ethereal symphonic pop-rock” of Randi Fay.
Written by: Hannah DiMo
Hannah DiMo is a singer/songwriter and novice music publicist and blogger for #WomenCrushMusic and Do It Anyway Coaching located in the heart of Portland, Oregon. She has been writing and performing music for over 20 years and is passionate about not only her own music and media but also promoting other artists that she believes are talented and deserve to be heard. For more information about DiMo’s music or how you can be featured on #WCM or #DIACoaching reach out to her at her website here.
“Music is my heart and my voice. I use it to connect, to process difficult emotions, and to heal myself and others. It's my anchor, and it taught me who I am at a very young age. It pulled me out of the darkest space I've ever seen. And it has been there, guiding me, my entire life. I write songs that repeat in a meditation, but grow and build from beginning to end--my goal is to lose myself in each one of them. I lose myself in the music in order to find myself in the world.“ - Dani Tanzella
It’s always a breath of fresh air to hear original music that doesn’t involve the same synth sounds as the top 40 charts; music with vocals full of emotion & stories, versus the usual pitch correction & one-liner hooks. It’s even more impressive when you learn that the artist behind the music is a one-woman band, and one with a hell of a story.
Portland artist Dani Tanzella is making a comeback in the local scene with the release of her debut single, “Heart Fall,” off of her upcoming EP “Time Space Love” (9/21). In this exclusive feature, she talks about the “chamber pop” genre, how she healed herself with music, and about what is next for her music career...
Tell us about the injury & journey to healing that led to the creation of your new sound that is featured on your new single “Heart Fall”.
(A little backstory--I am from AZ, and I was working as a musician and private teacher there until they cut music from the schools and I lost all my students. I went back to nursing school to support myself and my music career...this allowed me to move to PDX, where I planned to work for maybe 2 years, then go back to teaching and playing full time. I was a classical saxophonist--).
8 months after I arrived in Portland, I was seriously injured at work while moving a patient during an emergency (a pregnant mom--I work labor and delivery). I tore several muscles in my back and shoulder, several ribs popped out of place, and I have 2-3 bulging discs in my upper back. I had severe impairment and was unable to open and close my right hand, tie my shoes, wash my own hair--I lived all alone and had no family or close friends here yet. I was in excruciating pain, was devastated, as I could no longer play my instruments (saxophone and piano) at all, and was fighting the hospital for worker's comp which they denied me. I lost my case, went bankrupt from inability to work...I lost my car, and was close to losing my apartment. I fell into a deep depression which was exacerbated by medications that were given to me for my nerve pain and depression.
In a moment of desperation, I attempted suicide around Christmas of 2008. I woke up the next morning, and was terrified--wanting to live. I flew back home and stayed with a friend for a while before dusting myself off and heading back to Portland. I promised to work through my injuries and remake myself into a different kind of musician, since my days playing classical music were over.
I dragged my broken body all over town going to various types of appointments for my back (and mind): acupuncture, rolfing, massage, PT, chiropractors...I practiced picking things up with my right hand. Opening and closing drawers, cupboards, tightening bottle caps, etc. I tied my pinky and thumb together with string to form a grip. I worked tirelessly on my recovery. I still do. Eventually I started gaining back feeling and strength. I now have pretty decent motor skills in my hand although it's mostly numb, and excellent strength in my arm and shoulder. My back will never be the same, and will likely always cause me some level of pain--but it's manageable.
As soon as I started feeling a little better, I found a loop pedal that I had used to create some soundscapes and started working with it. I saw a few local musicians using the loop machine to create amazing sounds/layers/songs and knew this is what I needed to do. Eventually I could create lush, orchestrated parts for my songs--and ultimately that's how I heard them in my head! I generally write parts for rhythm section, string quartet, harps, bells/vibes, music box, and backing vocals. I imagine this as my tiny orchestra that lives in my keyboard--and I'm the conductor--placing the parts in loop channels, and cueing them up when there part is needed.
What was the inspiration behind "Heart Fall?”
"Heart Fall" is a song I wrote for nurses, for mothers, and for people who find themselves lost in the pace of life. It's a reminder to check in with yourself, acknowledge yourself, and take time for yourself. When we take a moment and breathe deeply into our tense and overworked bodies, our hearts relax--fall open--and love a little more freely.
Can you tell us more about the “chamber pop” genre you mention in your bio?
Chamber pop is the closest genre I could find that fit my music. I feel a genre is important for describing music (so as not to sound like a pretentious ass by saying my music fits in no genre!) Chamber pop is defined as "music with an emphasis on melody, texture, use of strings/horns/piano/harmonies, and other elements drawn from orchestral music and lounge pop of the 60's". This felt like a good fit. A nice blend of classical musician and singer- songwriter.
Do you feel chamber pop could be or is on the rise in the age of Spotify?
I don’t know if it’s on the rise, but it certainly seems to be a niche. I think there has been a sub culture of this kind of music for a long time--oftentimes showing up in movie soundtracks (Sufjan Stevens, Devotchka). And I think there is definitely a group of listeners who enjoy the challenge and depth of chamber music within accessible and meaningful pop songs.
That being said, what are your career goals as a musician?
I want to make my living completely through music; teaching, performing, and writing. I would like to continue to teach, and maybe have a few more steady students. I want to perform a lot more, in venues that fit my style--like wineries/upscale bars/etc. Venues that have daytime or early evening slots, and a friendly crowd already built in since my audience tends to be age 30+ (Edgefield tasting room, hood river/newberg). Along with some tours on the west coast. As far as writing goes, I want to write for film--or at least get my songs into films).
You’re a huge supporter of the #WomenCrush Music community in Portland and have been very active supporting other artists. Can you tell us about your own little community you’ve developed through teaching?
I have been teaching since I was 16 years old (with a 5-7 year break when I was injured). Currently, I have a private music lesson studio in my North Portland home... My students are ages 3-70, some with special needs--and I teach general music, piano, voice, flute, saxophone, and theory, I also work with students on self-confidence and songwriting. I absolutely adore teaching privately, and love getting to know each student and their own learning style. Music is a gift that we all have available to us, and it brings such joy. Music can help a person process deep emotions, or escape stress for a moment--it can help someone cope, grow, create, and connect. Passing that gift on to as many people as possible is one of my life purposes.
Dani will be releasing her EP Time Space Love on 9/21, with a release show on 9/23 from 3PM-6PM at Kruger's Wine Bar on Sauvie's Island. FREE. ALL AGES. Support & follow her by connecting with her on social media @danitanzellamusic.
Written by: Ashley Kervabon-Stoyanov & Hannah DiMo
#WomenCrush Music To Launch Crowdfunding Campaign To Connect, Educate & Inspire Rising Women Songwriters
New York, NY (September 5th, 2018) - Since the organization’s launch in Spring 2017, #WomenCrush Music’s Founder/Executive Directress Ashley Kervabon and her team (now including over 30 dedicated volunteers) have made it their mission to connect, educate and inspire rising women songwriters. The organization has hosted over 80 events across 13 cities in the USA and Canada including showcases, networking events, and educational workshops, landing them local and national features in notable media outlets such as Lenny Letter, SF Station, KGW News, and more! Now, with a full Board of Directors comprised of radio hosts, national touring artists, and experienced industry professionals, they are ready to take their mission to the next level with a crowdfunding campaign launching through IndieGoGo on Tuesday, September 18th. Donations from the campaign will fund the nonprofit through the remaining months of 2018, and set its' team up to accomplish the goals in store for the new year.
The aim of this campaign is to raise money for the tax exemption application, program costs, merchandise, and staff education. As with most startup nonprofits, the staff has been working out of their passion for the cause, without pay. This crowdfunding campaign, however, will bring #WCM closer to some of its long-term goals which include: providing a salary for the core staff members, stipends for the chapter leaders, competitive base pay for artists and speakers who are a part of ongoing #WCM events, and hiring even more creative women to provide photography/videography services at events.
“This is only the beginning of our ultimate vision for the organization,” says #WCM Founder Ashley Kervabon. “Longer term, I’d love to be able to get A-list celebrities involved in mentoring our artists and promoting the organization. It is also my ambition to award recording scholarships, host songwriting retreats, own properties to accommodate touring women artists, and much more!”
#WomenCrush Music has entered the picture at a precise cultural moment when the value of supporting women is being emphasized by individuals and industries stronger than ever. At the same moment, this concern has brought to light the personal challenges and systemic obstacles many women still encounter in their careers. A recent study cited in Billboard reported that in 2017, 83.2% of artists in popular content were men and only 16.8% were women. Of the study’s sample of 2,767 credited songwriters, only 12.3% were female. Statistics such as these have inspired #WCM to start The Crush blog, where readers can hear stories from women within the music industry; and The #WomenCrush Music Collective, a career-focused Facebook mastermind group. At such a pivotal time, it is no wonder how the #WCM community has flourished. The money raised by this campaign will now be integral to the furtherance of the organization’s promising work.
Please see below for a schedule of upcoming events for September & October 2018:
SHOWCASE - San Jose @ Art Boutiki - Thursday, September 13th, 8PM
SHOWCASE - Portland @ The White Eagle - Wednesday, September 19th, 8PM
SHOWCASE - Nashville @ The Local - Thursday, October 4th, 7PM
Also in October: Stay tuned for the relaunch of the Chicago chapter and the unveiling of a NEW chapter!
In early 2017, Ashley Kervabon organized a live showcase to address the need for a stronger community among women songwriters in Portland, OR. The event’s humble turnout but overwhelmingly positive feedback struck a chord in Ashley. She quickly reached out to women in other cities, who also expressed the need for similar showcase series. Realizing this was an industry-wide gap, Ashley knew it was time to make a change: and so #WomenCrush Music began. Starting with Ashley’s hometown connections in NYC, #WomenCrush Music became a growing vision for women artists and the music industry at large. As the organization expanded to Nashville, and across borders to Vancouver BC, the #WomenCrush mission started attracting artists from across the USA and beyond in search of both local performance opportunities as well as a more expansive network of like-minded ladies. By January 2018, #WomenCrush was present in 13 cities, cultivating communities through events designed to connect, educate, and inspire. Since then, a Lenny Letter feature and big-name partnerships by the likes of SoFar Sounds have established #WomenCrush Music as a powerful positive force in today’s music industry. Ashley, her fellow team members, and a full board of directors look forward to the developments ahead in 2018 and 2019.
To set up a feature, please contact the Founder directly:
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Some of you may know Haley Johnsen from when she was a semi-finalist on American Idol in 2012, but there is more to her than a powerful emotive voice and rockin’ guitar skills. Not only is Haley a force to be reckoned with but she’s also a role model for future boss ladies & a huge advocate for all ages music.
With two singles recently released, "Lift Me Up" and "Close to You", Haley is continuing to tour all over the states with bands like Wolfchild, The Wind and The Wave and Sawyer Fredericks. Still, even on long tours, Haley Johnsen stays connected to her local community in Portland. How does she do it? The Crush took an exclusive interview to learn a thing or two from the songwriter.
Congrats on releasing your new singles! Should we expect another full length soon?
Thank you! Absolutely…I have SO many new songs that I am just aching to get in the studio and record. My goal is to definitely have my first full length LP out by next year!
You've been on tour a lot this year! How did you get started in the touring world?
Honestly, it has just been a few connections that have enabled me to tour all over the country in the last year! I met my now Seattle based manager a few year ago and most of the tours I have gone on are with bands that he manages. If it wasn’t for Seattle based band, Wolfchild, I may not have been introduced to his connections and been able to tour the U.S with The Wind and the Wave, and Sawyer Fredericks. When it comes down to it, it really is all about who you know and if your music is a good match for that bands audience, which it was!
What is the most rewarding thing about being on the road?
Oh man, being on the road is like being in a time warp or different dimension. I would say the most rewarding thing about being on the road is bonding with the people that you are on the road with. Getting to experience a new city everyday with them, work beside them, watch them perform. You learn SO much from each other and just feel a lot more comfortable being vulnerable. When it comes to touring, performing, and selling your brand, there is no time for BS. I would also have to say that meeting new fans and gauging each new audience is a huge rush. You never know what to expect. Some nights, it might seem like you fell flat in your performance and then ONE new fan will come up to you at the end of the night, buy your CD, and tell you that one song moved them to tears and inspired them to make a change. So for me, to put it simply, touring is about CONNECTING!
What is the hardest part about touring? How can artists prepare themselves for it?
The hardest thing about touring is just the behind the scenes work that happens before and after you perform. You have to load all your gear in, set up all your merch, keep track of everything, play your show, keep a friendly face, tear down, making sure you don't forget anything, and finally have your beer or whatever and go to bed at like 2 am. It’s a wacky schedule and I have been physically and emotionally exhausted at times during tour. It is also VERY hard to be away from a partner for so many weeks in a row. Learning how to communicate while being on the road is in art form.
The world of pop music is laced with hidden gems. Around every corner, hiding behind the big radio hits and sometimes mediocre chart toppers, are new arrivals to the scene, sporting unknown names and fresh appeal. When digging into one of these findings, a rush of excitement washes over the listener. In the best of these moments, hearing these songs for the first time can feel like listening to the future.
Joyeur are a relatively new arrival on the scene, and their freshest single “Fast As You Can” is a bright gemstone of pop music. The brainchild of producer Anna Feller and songwriter Joelle Corey, Joyeur’s “FAYC” is a booming pop cut, lush with unique productions and tribal rhythms, and an anthemic chorus to tie it all together, worming itself into your ear. It’s an exciting thing to hear, as it’s polished pop surface seems to be begging for a spot on radio charts in the near future.
“FAYC” isn’t Joyeur’s only venture thus far, though. And it’s certainly not a fluke. The duo are in high-gear, ready to premiere new music within the coming days, and are scheduled to make their official debut with an EP, titled LIFEAFTER, this October. Like this first single, the full EP packs in plenty more ear-catching moments, exceptional pop flavors, and endlessly repeatable plays.
With so much on the horizon for the duo, #WomenCrush Music caught up with Anna and Joelle to discuss their origins, inspirations, and the creation of “Fast As You Can…”
Prior to forming Joyeur together, what projects were you individually involved with?
Joelle Corey: I was rather a closeted creator before we met. Anna spent a lot of time at the piano and although she was producing other artists and I was getting into the studio as well, we were both still coming into ourselves as artists. Our collaboration was the one that instilled artistic confidence in each of us and really brought each of us to life.
Anna, you have experience as a classical pianist. How has that aided or affected your skill in production?
Anna Feller: This is a great question! I started learning as a child, so reading and playing music became second nature to me. Understanding the language of music, the complicity of rhythmical patterns, different arrangements, understanding how instruments work and their limitations has helped me to be able to express myself musically. I am a strong believer in the phrase "learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist".
What were some of your inspirations in production on "Fast As You Can?”
Anna: I was very inspired by Afro-House music at the time I produced FAYC. The rhythmical patterns and how they shifted from one section to the other really made me feel something. I wanted to make something raw and intense, yet playful. I knew Jo would love the trumpet because she is a fan of horns and live instrumentation. In my mind, I was like “I have to make Jo like it” and that inspired me to add the trumpet.
Along with the production, what inspired the songwriting and topics explored on the track?
Joelle: From its inception, this primal, almost trap-like beat had one topic ingrained in its DNA: movement. I felt it from the moment I heard it. The lyrics poured out. I was going through a rough relationship in which I felt I was always chasing my man. Unknowingly, I think I channeled that and found power in normalizing unrequited love and obsession. At the end of the song, you hear enthusiastic layered vocals which very quickly return to a whisper. I think that’s me trying to keep my cool with so much brewing inside.
As a conscientious songwriter, you will be faced with a dilemma. On the one hand, you need to write a song that is likable and catchy since you need people to respond to it positively. After all, songwriting and performing is your bread and butter. On the other, you still want to be able to produce lyrics that have meaning and resonate with people.
Now, when you take a look at some of the catchiest songs on the charts, it might feel like you can’t actually reconcile these two elements. Despite this, it is possible – just as long as you know how. The article below deals with how you can create a harmonious balance between appealing and meaningful:
Repetition is Key - But Do It Properly
Let’s face it, one of the things that make a catchy song memorable is the fact that there tends to be a great deal of repetition. Now, some songs may simply repeat phrases or words over and over again. While this will help your listeners remember the lyrics, it isn’t an effective technique if you want to write an evocative song.
This brings us to the question – how can you create repetition and patterns without being a sellout? Fortunately, there are quite a few ways to do this. The first thing to keep in mind is that there are different types of reiteration and patterns. For example, let’s take a look at the lyrics to Janis Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart” and focus on the chorus here.
Here you get, “take another little piece of my heart”, “break another little bit of my heart”, and “have another little piece of my heart”. While she is technically repeating the lyrics, she is doing it in a way that creates a lot more imagery by simply switching up the first part of the phrases. At the same time, due to the echoing lyrics, it is an easy chorus to remember. You, too, can utilize such a tactic.
Follow a Popular Structure
People like things they find familiar – this is why you will notice that some of the most popular tracks use a song structure that is easily recognizable. So, when writing a song, there are two guidelines to abide by. You can either choose ABABCB or AABA. Here, A is the verse, B is the chorus, and C is the bridge. As long as you stick with this format, you will find that people gravitate towards your track more easily.
Another trick you can use is to create a contrast between the verse and the chorus. So, opt for deeper, more meaningful lyrics in the verse and round it off with a catchy, punchy chorus. This will help balance out the elements beautifully and also make your song more interesting to boot. It is something you should think about when experimenting with melodies on your instrument as well.
The real trick to writing a catchy song is to keep it short and simple. So, it is a good idea to keep your song under four minutes if you really want it to catch on with your audience. Closer to three minutes might be even better if you can manage it.
However, just because you have to keep your song short and to the point doesn’t mean that you have to forego emotion. What you need to do is to find a simpler way of expressing your feelings. So, it is a good idea to stay away from big words that will put people off. Rather, use words that tug at your heartstrings and create images in your mind.
Have Fun With It
You can talk about an important topic and still have a lot of fun with it. Take Aretha Franklin’s “Respect”, for example – it is an incredibly powerful song about a woman demanding equal treatment. At the same time, it is so much fun to sing and belt out. This is because the melodies and lyrics make it an upbeat track. So, the next time you want to tackle something that is significant but not necessarily heavy, keep in mind that there is more than one way to do it.
This article should make it easier for you to write a catchy song that also has a lot of meaning. Thus, you will be able to reach audiences’ hearts while also ensuring that they don’t stop singing your songs.
Guest Post by: Natalie Landecker
Natalie grew up in a household filled with singing and music. So, it wasn’t all that surprising when she gravitated towards the guitar at a young age and never looked back. These days, Natalie is focused on turning her passion into a career. She also loves reaching out to other music lovers and bonding over songs and instruments. Visit her at her site theguitarpal.com
Watching Kingsley blow up in the Portland music scene over the past year has been such an honor. Not only is she one hell of an entrepreneurial spirit, but she’s an intuitive songwriter, vocalist and knowledgeable musician. From experience, I know it is not easy living a double life as an artist and industry professional. From being head of marketing at Double Tee and Roseland Theater, one of the most well-respected music venues in Portland, to being on the same bill with Elise Trouw, and Sawyer and Sara Niemietz, this boss-lady is one to watch. I sat down with her to learn how she does it all.
What's it like to have to balance a full time leadership position in the industry and a rising artist career?
Some days are hell and other days it doesn't feel like work. My favorite part about my day job is that it is in the music world, every day I am doing something at my "day job" that helps build up Kingsley. I get to bounce ideas off talent buyers that have been in the biz for 15+ years and get the real scoop from them. Down side is having to work around a 9-5 schedule. Luckily my job is in the music world and they know I am trying to build my singer career and are flexible with me leaving the office as needed.
How do you stay inspired to write music? How do you avoid burnout?
I write about things that happen in my life - I am inspired everyday by the relations that I have and the things that happen in my day. I don't think I've ever gotten burnt out because my song book is my dairy and I got a lot of shit I am working out in my song book hahaha! Some might say my therapist should read my songbook hahaha! Maybeeeeeeeee, maybe not!
People say that the Portland pop music scene hasn't quite taken off yet. How do you feel about the scene and how has it affected Kingsley?
It has!! It's just not a strong scene for locals - it forces you to reach out to promoters to try to join on a bill with a pop act touring through PDX. Most people want a stripped down solo set if you aren't on a pop bill, but it's hard to showcase what you can do as a pop artist with only a guitar. I went to a shit ton of open mics with my backing track on my iPhone. Most people loved it--and some of them hated it. In the end, if you want to do pop, you gotta try hard in PDX.
Since your debut release in June, you've played so many great shows! What is next for Kingsley?
I will be releasing music viddddddsssss!!! “Vibe” should be coming out around Aug 30th and “I Am Because I Am” will come out in late September. I am also collaborating with people on new music that should be coming out later this year! I am also gearing up to go on tour in Europe Summer of 2019.
Do you have any predictions about what will happen in the next few years in terms of the industry here?
I predict the fusion of Jazz/Hip-Hop is the new genre emerging and it’s going to take TF over! Common and Robert Glasper’s collab is the first of many!
What local ladies are in your top played on Spotify? Or anyone in particular you love going to see live?
Haley Johnsen (of course), and Lenore. I’m excited to see Noah Cyrus in October at the Wonder Ballroom - probably as close to Miley as I'll get! Chelsea Culter is coming, I'd love to open for her - shes a bad B!
What is your advice for local artists trying to break out of the Portland scene?
Don't think you can do it all on your own. Find as many mentors in the scene and get advice and help! Collaborate with people that are trying to rise up too. You don't need to work with someone that is 10 steps ahead of you to have success--networking with someone that is at the same level can advance you both at the same time!
You've collaborated with a lot of different producers, most recently Volldrauf, for your cover of "Seek Bromance" by Avicii and your original song "Human." What is the importance of creating a strong varied team as a rising artist? How has working with different co-writers, producers, visual artists, etc. added to your career?
If it takes a village to raise a child, then it takes the world to create a successful artist. I think having a strong team with a variety of skills makes it a hell of a lot easier to achieve this dream. I can get all that I need to create a song or album from the people I surround myself around. I love working with other people; collaboration is the best thing I've done in my career thus far. It was hard to allow room for other ideas, but the outcome is much greater than my pride. I am beyond thankful for everyone that has helped me thus far: family, friends, musicians, producers, photographers, graphic designers, bookers, and all of my fans. Without them, I could not be Kingsley.
You can join Kingsley on her journey at @itskingsleymus (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) and by following her on Spotify. Stay tuned for the music video release for her single “Vibe” next month! For now, watch a live performance of her track "Might Not Make It" and listen to her music and other talented boss-ladies in our Blog playlist below.
Interview by: Ashley Kervabon-Stoyanov
Ashley Kervabon-Stoyanov is the founder and executive directress for #WomenCrush Music. When she’s not leading the #WCM team, she’s coaching artists on how to live their best lives via her business DIA Music Coaching and travelling the world with her hubby and chiweenie pup. She currently resides in NYC and you can follow her at @mrsbossladywcm.
The industry of pop music can perhaps be best represented as an iceberg. To the casual listener, the spectacle of it all is the whole show. Larger than life personas, bubbly music, and the single star at the center of it all. It’s a blissful, sparkling, simply fun lifestyle. But beneath the surface, there’s much more to be found.
London-born songwriter Vicky Warwick has long lived as part of the vast underground of the pop industry iceberg. As a session musician and bassist for English production team Xenomania, Warwick has garnered years of experience behind the scenes in the industry.
As a 12 year old kid in the UK, Warwick, desperate to play the drums, eventually found her niche with the bass guitar. She’s been playing ever since and, after practicing and dedicating herself to the art, was told by a music teacher that a career in the field should be highly considered. Warwick took this advice to heart, and went to music college at the age of 18. Two years into her studies, Xenomania reached out and offered her a paying job as a session musician. She was only 20 years old.
“It was such an insane grounding in the music industry,” Warwick says. “It was crazy to have a salary job and also music industry job experience. They were trying to be like the modern Motown era, big country house in England, with lots of different rooms with a writer and beat maker in every room basically. It was wild.
“At that point, I was just there as a bass player, but it was a great insight into how life might be as a writer.”
Though life as a session musician struck well with Warwick and gave her a front row seat into the inner workings of the industry, the craving for her own artistic ventures was insatiable. In addition to putting down bass for artists in the studio, Warwick also found her place as a touring musician. In 2015, she hopped on a US tour with pop sensation Charli XCX. While traveling from city to city with Charli and her bandmates, any free time found was dedicated to writing her own music. At the time though, plans for her originals were unclear.
“It takes so much time to do your own music,” Warwick says. “And that’s what I found especially touring with Charli. At that time, I was spending all of my free time writing music whenever I could. I was just kind of writing music, but didn’t know what it was for necessarily. But eventually it seemed to make sense that I should do something.”
With plenty of originals and a thirst for more, Warwick uprooted herself from London and made the move to Brooklyn, NYC. After so many years working in the UK, the difference between the industry workings there and in the US were plentiful.
“In Europe, London is the center of everything,” Warwick says. “To where in America, it’s kind of split between New York, Nashville, and LA. And there’s kind of different music going on in each city.”
Luckily for her, the scene in New York proved to be the perfect fit for her musical endeavors: “New York is so creative. I feel constantly inspired here. Everybody is going for their wildest ideas. People aren’t afraid to express themselves at all. They’re very confident and forward. There’s such a great creative community living here in Brooklyn.”
With a creative community behind her and a fresh spark of inspiration, Warwick took the next step into solidifying her legacy with a solo career in the pop field. Hence, AINSLIE was born.
Lizzy Plapinger, the woman behind the LPX moniker, has made her return with a brand new single, “Might Not Make It Home.” However, a return may not be the right word. Plapinger really never left, and she’s been busy as ever.
As co-founder of the record label Neon Gold, Plapinger has found projects to fill her spare time in the gaps of her own music as LPX and as front-woman for alt-pop duo MS MR. Neon Gold, celebrating its 10 year anniversary, has planned an extravagant celebration in New York, dubbed Neon Gold X. The celebratory event will feature performances from LPX herself, as well as from Neon Gold label-mates The Knocks, Broods, and Marina and the Diamonds, who will be making her long awaited return after the release of Froot in 2015.
Not only this, but Plapinger has taken it upon herself to put her foot forward for women in music by curating the all female Saturday lineup for All Things Go Fall Classic. The festival in Washington, DC will feature performances from Maggie Rogers, Billie Eilish, Jessie Reyez, and more (including Plapinger herself once again).
With so many projects to helm, it’s no question Plapinger has been busy. Yet in between it all, she still found time to make her own, solo return.
“Might Not Make It Home” is the lead single from her follow up EP to this year’s Bolt in the Blue. The single, co-written with Caroline Smith and Phoebe Ryan, is a monstrous return, a euphoric rock track topped with a glossy pop texture. It’s a combination that Plapinger has seemed to master. Not only has this pop rock perfection been explored on MS MR’s previous albums, by Plapinger has utilized her solo work as LPX to polish it to it’s shiniest.
Bolt in the Blue featured tracks like “Tightrope” and “Slide” that mastered this flavor, and “Might Not Make It Home” is a worthy successor. Along with the track itself, Plapinger released an accompanying music video, an 80s home video montage of LPX performing and exploring in the night streets of the city, basked in neon glow. It’s a perfect fit for the tone of the track, and totes an air of nostalgia along with it.
Though Plapinger has never really stopped giving to the world of music with her many projects at hand, LPX’s official single return is an exciting prospect. With a brand new EP on it’s way, new music is just around the corner, and it’s sure to be just as shiny, and just as punchy, as all of her work has promised.
Find LPX at both Neon Gold X in NYC on September 29th (tickets available here) as well as on the Saturday lineup of All Things Go Fall Classic in Washington, DC on October 6th (tickets for that here). Watch the brand new video for “Might Not Make It Home” below.
Article by: Brendan Swogger
Brendan Swogger is a music writer and college student in Portland, OR. He is the Creative Director for The Crush blog. You can follow him on IG and Twitter @indiealtpdx
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