Alex Lilly made a name for herself touring with artists like Lorde, The Bird and the Bee and Beck. Her debut album "2% Milk" is due out this January. Get to know our TALENT SCOUT Artist of the Week!
NAME: Alex Lilly
HOMETOWN: San Francisco, CA. Now living in Los Angeles.
MUSICAL TRAINING: I didn’t start playing piano until I was 14 years old. I had to beg and beg for one! Then I learned guitar at age 15. I started by learning the greats like Smokey Robinson, Joni Mitchell, and do I need to say The Beatles? Then I worked my way towards jazz (or a valiant attempt at understanding and playing extended chords and harmonies), including especially Miles Davis and Sergio Mendes. I became completely absorbed in 20th Century Classical music in college, getting into composers like Messiaen, Ives, Stravinsky, Prokofiev, etc. I deviated from songwriting for a little while, just writing for woodwind quintets and things like that. My curiosity for music theory has always been high. Maybe more intense than wanting to be a "shredder," (though I’ve had my moments where I practiced scales all day but always while watching Monty Python)! I like writing out the roman numeral analysis of a progression so I can love a song more - I still do it. I just want to understand what makes a song tick and I love the analytical devices we use to get there. We intuitively know something feels good, feels tight and feels “right”. It’s so satisfying to figure it out and have that feeling confirmed by music theory. It makes music more magical, not less.
FIRST GIGS: My first gig was in my mom’s boyfriend’s band when I was 15 at the Edinburgh in San Francisco. I played a couple songs on my black and white Fender Squire guitar, and I sang too. I remember a loud husky Irish accent wafting towards me saying, “You’re f%$king scrumptious! I want to bite your knees off!” I guess I’ve always attracted creative types.
MUSICAL INFLUENCES: As a sixth grader, I listened to Bjork’s debut constantly. Nellee Hooper’s production is magic - minimalist but intricate. Those songs - the delicateness but strength of the melodies, the sensuality, emotion, the clubbiness, rough but playful truthfulness of the lyrics. I loved Roberta Flack’s “First Take” and Kate Bush, especially the stuff she produced herself. XTC is one of my all time favorite bands. Grace Jones “Nightclubbing” made an impact - sexy, contemplative - such style. Sly and Robbie production plus Grace - just one of the best sounding records I’ve ever heard. Beck “Sea Change” left a big impression as did “Midnight Vultures." I remember copying out string parts by hand while blasting that record. Such a juxtaposition of activities! That is probably only 2% of what has shaped my mind and spirit because there is just so much out there.
WHAT I’M LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW: I love the new Stephan Malkmus record “Sparkle Hard." I’ve been diving into the Sparks catalogue. Still listening a lot to “Damn” by Kendrick Lamar.
MY BIG BREAK: My first break was joining The Bird and the Bee as a backup singer. I was 23 and had never been on tour. I loved Inara George’s solo music and so it was a surprise and honor to join her brand new project at the time with Greg Kurstin. I learned so much and traveled to places I never would’ve ventured to - like Singapore and Osaka and beautiful little English towns.
LATEST PROJECTS: My solo project. Release Me Records will be putting out my debut full-length album, “2% Milk” in January of 2019.
FAVORITE KEYBOARDS AND WHY? My Korg microKORG! I've gotten so much use from it. It’s easy to program and easy to travel with and damn cheap for what it is. It’s versatile and has a rich tone but still leaves space. I also like my Critter & Guitari Pocket Piano. Every time I bring it to a gig, I’m happy I did. It’s great for noisey, janky solos. It’s got quirk and charm and a surprising subby low end. The piano sound on the ARP Quartet is so pretty and full and I used this sound to play the intro solo on my song "Boomerang".
WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU? This month in Los Angeles I’ll be performing every Sunday in a tiny room with a huge disco ball - a residency that I’ll be sharing with two other musicians I love: Inara George (of The Bird and the Bee) and Samantha Sidley.
ADVICE TO THE NEXT GENERATION: Put in effort without trying too hard. Be honest with yourself about what you actually want. Get involved in other artists’ projects, music or otherwise. Give to yourself and give to others. But you already know that!
For more information visit www.alexlillyland.com