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Interview: Lily Taylor

Can you tell us about the inspiration behind your latest album, and what themes or stories you aimed to convey through your music?

Amphora is an album compiled of a collection of songs. I chose the name because an amphora is an ancient vessel used to transport precious liquid cargo like wine and oils, and these songs are each, individually precious to me, flowing through me into the physical realm. Themes of duality, time, and introspection run throughout the album.

Music often has the power to transport people to different places and times. Can you describe a moment in your life when a particular song or album had a profound impact on you?

I’ve had some truly spiritual moments listening and making music. When performing, it’s the power of feeling completely present in the moment. When listening, it’s the connection I feel to the sounds I am hearing. I remember seeing Chris Calloway perform in Santa Fe, NM; she was Cab Calloway’s daughter and an accomplished musician in her own right. I remember just weeping while listening to her. I had a similar experience listening to Sunn O))), Diamanda Galas, and Wang Fei play the Guqin, an instrument that was almost lost entirely during the Chinese Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 70s. I feel that I am wired to respond to music in an emotive and spiritual way.

Many artists have rituals or routines they follow before performing or recording. Do you have any unique or quirky pre-show or pre-recording rituals that you find help you get in the zone?

The ritual of rehearsal is so important, not just reviewing the material and getting physically prepared, but also the equipment and sound checks.
Teaching and warming up play a huge role in getting ready and staying ready for performance and composition. Yawning can be a quick way to prepare, as well as stretching and deep breathing exercises, and making sure you have fiber, vitamins and minerals in your diet, in general.

Your lyrics often tell a story or convey a message. Can you share the story behind one of your songs and the inspiration that led to its creation?

Yes, take the track ‘J&Js’, which was the first single released off of AMPHORA. I wrote that song messing around with my looping pedal to create a soundscape. The lyrics were inspired by three people named Julie whom I knew, specifically, someone who was welcoming to me during a time when I was new to town, and had already received cold shoulders from a few prickly pears who were just not convinced I fit their narrative; spoiler alert, I didn’t. In searching for a way to creatively express through these emotions of feeling judged, I chose to focus on the person who had welcomed me with open arms, and helped connect me with other creatives who wanted to focus on our art and making fun concerts happen. There was a local shop that allowed people to throw shows in the basement, so the title of the track is a tip of my hat to those times. Another verse in this song is about a significant show I did, opening for an artist who seemed so confident in her self expression. That show specifically inspired me to lean into the idea of just being myself, and staying present in the moment.

If you could curate a music festival with a lineup of your dream artists, who would be the headliners, and what would the theme of the festival be?

As well as performing my own projects, I put together small shows often, usually three acts at smaller venues and sometimes non traditional spaces like art galleries, studios, and record shops. I also host an hour-long radio show twice a month on KUZU LP 92.9FM Denton, TX called BANDWIDTHTX, and I have been on the committees to organize concerts, so I’m putting together « lineups » in different ways than a festival a lot. Because of this, I find the question a little challenging to answer! I’ll give it my best shot: each day of the fest would be a different collection of genres and artists who make sense together.. Friday’s headliner would be The Locust, Saturday would be Gossip, Sunday would be Ladysmith Black Mambazo. And as soon as I have answered this question, I can think of so many more fantasy festivals I’d like to put together… Maybe someday!

Music can be a powerful tool for advocacy and change. Are there any social or political causes that you’re passionate about, and how does your music play a role in promoting these issues?

There are many issues I have passionate opinions about, so I make an effort to focus on root-ideas in my lyrics. Because of this, there is a lot of room for interpretation, and I hope listeners are able to find moments that really speak to them, personally, however it works for them. The themes of self-reflection, that we are all connected in our humanity, that we could choose to focus on matters of the heart, to reminisce in order to find gratitude, to hold peace in our hearts, these are universal themes I hope to touch upon in my work.

The music industry has evolved significantly with technology. How do you see artificial intelligence and emerging technologies impacting the creation and distribution of music in the future?

Well, like anything, I can see pros and cons. At this point in time, I am not interested in working with AI technology in the studio, but who knows what the future may bring. Take antares vocal processing software for example, there are times I feel it is over used across the market of pop music, but other times the technology is pushed to a limit within a track that is making an artistic statement, and i enjoy that very much. When I think of vocalists who are interested in having their voice utilized by the computer with « AI » in an effort to find immortality, I cringe a little, but then I think about the artists who are able to use the technology to re-discover their voice after vocal damage, for instance, then the technology is opening doors for people. So, the context to me is important. You know what they say about opinions… everyone has one. How distribution of music will be affected in the future remains to be seen. It’s anyone’s guess at this point. The « secret sauce » in my music career has been connecting with people, over a long period of time. Right now, I am extremely interested in connecting with fellow humans, rather than computers.

Many recording artists evolve over time. How do you see your musical journey changing and growing in the next decade?

Throughout my music journey, I have been advised to « pick a genre » which I have refused to do. I am interested in many different styles of music and have always been that way. As I grow as an artist, I hope the other projects I have going will evolve as well, and I can capture more of what I do into recordings. I have an audio/visual project with my husband, Sean Miller, called LOCATIONS, and I work with a few different Jazz ensembles including The Dennis Gonzalez Legacy Band and Gerard Bendiks’ ongoing ensemble project. I also hope to write and put out more music under Lily Taylor Music. The future is wide open, creatively!

Thank you for this opportunity to talk about my music and hopefully reach more listeners.