LA-based singer/songwriter Lily Kershaw is someone I like… quite a bit, in fact. Not only does she write songs that blend the brilliance of the most existential folk with the aesthetic of the ’90s most heartbrokenly-driven and impressive songwriters (She reminds me of Tegan and Sara at their earliest, most intellectual, and most stripped.), but she also has the best kind of guts. She began our recent chat by putting me on the spot from moment one, telling me, “I was just stalking your Twitter. I love your bio. I want to know more about you.” I don’t particularly like being put on the spot, but I quite admire the audacity of people willing to do it… Lily Kershaw is charming in the best kind of way.
22-year-old Lily Kershaw released her debut album, Midnight in the Garden, last month on Nettwerk. The album boasts 13 songs, all profoundly and popularly beautiful, about death and heartache/break… I mean, it’s not Morrissey, but it is likely the most enjoyably morose sonic experience you’ll have this year. Kershaw tells me that she enjoys assessing life in a very brutal and not-very candy-coated manner.
“I like to be very honest and I like to tell stories. I like to hear other people’s stories. I like music with truth in it. It strikes a chord with me… no pun intended.”
When I ask her about how she approached the writing and recording of her debut album, Kershaw admits that she didn’t have any particular guidelines in mind and avoided being influenced by anyone else in particular.
“To be really honest, I went in with an open mind. I was given 14 days to record it. We just let the songs grab us in the moment. I wanted this experience to be organic and let the songs lead me. And when I’m in a writing period I’m often not listening to a lot of music. I try not to listen to too much music because when I do, I start to think things like, ‘Well, maybe I should try to sound like this,’ which I don’t want to do.”
Although her debut album just dropped, Kershaw has been on the popular radar for a while now. In 2012 her song “As it Seems” appeared in CBS’ Criminal Minds and immediately gained her a quite dedicated fanbase. Apparently numerous people got in touch with her to tell her that that is the song they wanted played at their funeral… something that she admitted to being both disturbing and flattering in equal measures. With that factoid, I couldn’t help but ask her what song she would want played at her funeral. “’Champagne Supernova’,” she says, before casually singing a few lines. “I mean, it’s bittersweet, but life affirming,” she tells me: ”I feel like people would just go out to a bar afterwards.” Never letting me off the hook, she, of course, asked me what I would want played at my funeral… “Still Ill” by… Do you really have to “ask”?
Even with the recent release of her first album, Lily Kershaw is beyond anxious to delve into new sounds: “Sonically speaking, I feel like I’ve already grown a lot. I’m dying to do the next record. I’d love to do the next record in February and have it out by September, but we’ll see.” And in terms of what you can expect, Kershaw admits that a lot of her current focus is actually on drums: “Drumming always stands out to me and I used to be kind of hesitant with drums. There are some songs on the album that have almost no drums, where the drums are just literally me banging on the back of my guitar, but I’ve always noticed the drums in other people’s songs and I’ve gotten way more into drumming as of late.” She also tells me that her goal with her next release is just to be, “Telling more interesting stories.”
Lily Kershaw is about to embark on a short string of dates up the West Coast of the US and Canada that begin on October 19th in Vancouver. I ask her what can be expected of the live experience and she tells me that it’s a little bit different from the album.
“I think it’s gonna be a little more stripped than the album. I try to be very present when I’m playing. I also like to tell silly or inappropriate stories between songs… I mean, you don’t want people to be depressed when you’re playing all these sad songs.”
And although Lily Kershaw doesn’t have any local dates at the moment, she apparently has a lot in the works for next year and she plans to play very close to home… literally. When I ask her about her plans for 2014, she tells me that she plans to dedicate a lot of it to touring… and getting in very close touch with her admirers.
“Definitely a lot of touring. I hope my music can reach a lot of people. I’m going to come to your house. Seriously, I’m going to be in your studio apartment… I guess if people want me to play at their funeral, I’ll have to get used to playing in cozy places.”