LIGHTS is a powerful influence on the music industry, and I’ll tell you why. Since she released her debut EP in 2008, this young artist still has the capability of having a successful career without any sort of gimmick, scandal, or drastic changes to her appearance to stay relevant. Rather, LIGHTS has grown immensely in her work, whether it may be through melodies or lyrics. Her latest album, Little Machines, sets herself in stone as an original artist who has the potential to blossom with each record and does so with humble poise. Cliché chatted with LIGHTS over the phone about her new record, writing and growing organically, and what superhero she would charge into battle with!
Cliché: How important is it to you to keep your personality in your work and performances, rather than succumbng to trading your creative control for an audience?
LIGHTS: That became a huge thing on this record. It was a 3-year gap between records since the last one came out and normally you feel some kind of pressure to put something out, and it just wasn’t coming. I had to sort a lot of things out personally in terms of where I was as an artist, where I was as a person, and there were some discoveries that I made. Everyone on my team—even my label mates and everybody else that I work with—were all for just waiting until I got the right depth. They were like, “Just don’t push it out,” and that’s an amazing place to be. I’m really fortunate that people recognize that I care so much about it and that I care so much about making good music, for the fans and for myself. They didn’t want to make me push anything out and that became good for the whole production. Sorting through all that, writing all the songs until we got the right stuff in and after all was said and done, we had 43 songs written for this album before we got the 11 that you hear on the album. It’s all so important to me; I’m writing every night and I just enjoy it.
In a music world where one’s career remains within one simplified genrematic structure, what makes you venture into different sounds?
I think it has to be something that you think is cool. That’s what it comes down to. I always want to sing and I want to reflect what I’m interested at the time. I look back at my body of work and it’s pretty cool. Lyric-wise, it’s all where I’m at. It’s like this cryptic diary of my experience, and with this record, it’s all about feeling great, just this feel-good experience listening to this record and enjoying the moment. Siberia is all about falling in love for the first time, The Listening is about going through depression and going through all that emotional stuff where I was feeling sentimental and was kind of experiencing that. Lyrically everything is always reflecting that, but in terms of trying to keep the sound, it really comes down to what I was interested in. During Siberia, I was really into EDM and that sound was reflecting a lot of it and somewhere now I just wanted to capture this classic electric sound that I feel set the record really well. I wanted to create something that was back to electronic and you don’t really try to think “I want to do something fresh.” I mean that’s obviously in mind, but you just try to make something that you think is cool at the time.
Did a concern of being able to continue your music career at the velocity that you had been going at arise when you discovered that you were going to be a mother?
When I found out that I was having a baby, I was kind of at a low point in this latest writer’s block that I was facing during this writing process and during that time I was unsure of myself creatively. I applied so many pressures on myself, probably unnecessary ones, that I lost sight of what I was capable and finding out I was pregnant I was at this crossroad. I said, “Ok, do I want to keep doing this or do I want to take a break? Do I want to stop? Is it worth it?” And I think it took getting to that point to realize how much I freaking love it. I love making music, I love touring, and I love expressing myself through songs and production, and I think that I rediscovered my passion for music. I would think that my passion was reignited when I found out I was going to be a mother because I was faced with making that decision.
You can also share that love with your child as they get older.
Yeah, it’s something that everyone said to me when I found out I was having a baby. It puts a lot of meaning back into your life and a lot of extra work. I don’t know if it’s because you want to impress them because I think they’re impressed by anything at this point, though I think it really comes down to doing things that you love because why do something else? What I feel is that it doesn’t matter if everything else fails because there’s still family. You could be broke and they’ll still be there, so who cares? Do what you love and have fun.
Little Machines touches back to your roots with The Listening, but in a way is new by tumbling in different areas and styles of music. Would you say that this reflects in your personality of living a former transient life in your younger years?
I think bringing up the whole concept is a huge inspiration in the record. Little Machines, has a super nostalgic feel and I think that something like “Oil and Water” is about something like that, actually: pulling from different experiences. It creates quite an adventure, actually, for the record.
You’ve worked again with Thomas Slater on this record, but this time you also incorporated producer Drew Pearson into the mix. What brought you two together for Little Machines, and what do you think he brought into the fold that you think was right for this album?
Initially, I started writing this record and I was going to pull all the stops and just say, “I’m going to try writing with lots of different people and see what happens.” I did this with every record and I always go back with Thomas Salter and the people I’ve written with because there’s a certain level of comfort that I think is necessary for writing, especially for writing as earnestly as I do. You want to work with someone who knows you, because you can’t just pour your heart out to a stranger, so no matter how many new people I write with, I always go back to the same people. With this record, I thought I’d try it again and I had about ten different writing sessions with different people and they all kind like “blah,” except for Drew. …He was able to catch every bass sound I heard in my head. Every synth sound, every drum sound that I wanted, he’d find and make it happen, and then add another layer of melody on top of it. He was so well-versed in Synth Wizardry, as I call it, that he ended up producing the record as well.
You felt out of place in high school and with the rise in bullying and alienation due to cliques, do you have any words of wisdom to other young ladies who feel out of place?
I think the reality is you have to set an example for that kind of thing and for me, it’s not too hard. I mean, I try to be a good person and that explains a lot. I try to encourage that from people as much as possible and one of the things I’ve learned is that you need to be proud of yourself. I mean, you need to find something to be proud of yourself if you haven’t found that already. Whether it’s art or whatever you can take pride in. Art is something that I think everybody should try. It takes you out of your element, whether it’s writing music, playing an instrument, painting, poetry, or drawing. Growing up, every time I completed something creatively and it was sitting in front of me, I knew I was proud of it. I felt so empowered knowing that I can create a product that didn’t exist before. And to build up that sense of power, I guess, that power of yourself, it doesn’t matter what people say or what they think you are or what you’re capable of. Their opinion doesn’t matter at all and I think having that power, your self-confidence, your self-awareness, to know that it doesn’t matter is important because then you are proud of what you can do.
I thought it was really cute that you said your name LIGHTS came about almost an alias like a superhero. If LIGHTS became the next big Marvel/DC Hero, what would your superpower be and who would you love to fight along side with?
[laughs] I always wanted the teleportation ability because I think it would be awesome and make touring so much easier. But, all that said, I remember once I created myself as a superhero and I wrote down as powers “supersonic manipulation ability” and I think in my own right that is the power of music. If you have that power to affect people’s moods in a visual medium with something that doesn’t exist, then you have to use your powers for good. That is what I would stand by: supersonic manipulation, trying to make everybody feel good with music… and I would fight alongside Wonder Woman, hands down!
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Lights Interview: Photographs courtesy of iamlights.com