By Roger Sharman
I’m a lucky man, I’m alive and healthy, which is something to be really thankful for in these strangest of times. The music industry is very much in lockdown right now, so fans are having to make do with Facebook live concerts and hope that their favourite artists upcoming albums are not delayed.
Another consequence of the pandemic is that people like me are spending more time on the phone to artists to conduct interviews, promote their music and generally trying to keep you, the readers, the John Smith’s, engaged and deliver some kind of escapism from this tragedy that we are living through right now.
On Monday 6th April, I had the privilege of chatting with the extremely lovely, exceptionally talented and one of the coolest ladies in music (yet I’m sure she’d say otherwise), Lilly Hiatt, from the comfort of our own living rooms. We chatted about her absolutely spell-binding new album ‘Walking Proof’, Coronavirus and its effect on the world and particularly the effect it’s had on album releases in general, her tour, our buddy, Aaron Lee Tasjan, and one of Nashville’s homeless population, Corey, amongst other things.
I’ve decided to integrate the two as I think it will make for a great album companion, with Lilly providing commentary on the songs and the concepts behind the songs.
‘Walking Proof;’ was released on March 27th, approximately 10 days into lockdown, Nashville, where the Californian native currently resides. For a couple of days beforehand it had been on non-stop repeat in my household. It took very little time for me to fall in love with the album. I certainly felt that after a couple listens I ‘got’ the album, and felt like Lilly was already a friend to me before we had even spoken.
CL: Hi Lily, this is Roger Sharman from Countrylowdown here, how are you today?
LH: I’m good thank you. How are you?
CL: I’m good thank you, still suffering a bit from the illness that led to this being postponed from last week. But good nevertheless.
LH: Ahhhh, well I hope you’re feeling better.
CL: I’d like to firstly, congratulate you on releasing such an incredible album.
LH: Thank you so much, I’m really glad that you like it.
CL: This record has been a real shot in the arm for me, it’s exactly what I need right now. I’m quite a sensitive person really, I believe I’m in tune with a lot of different aspects of myself. I think a lot, probably too much and I’m quite a deep thinker. So, this record really for me is a wonderful breath of fresh air. It’s going to be a good friend to me over the next few weeks, months, maybe even years. That in turn leads me to believe that we’re similar spirits in many ways, because I really think that I get the record. So, with that in mind, I’d like to look at this interview as a discussion between friends.
LH: Wow, that’s awesome! I think too much also, but to hear that it’s had such an effect on you is awesome.
CL: On Sunday morning, I woke up, it was a beautiful day, I opened all the windows in my apartment, put on ‘Drawl’, sat down on the sofa and, just let the music take me wherever I wanted to be.
LH: That’s awesome, that’s exactly what I want, especially in times like these, people need escapism right now, so it makes me really happy to hear that you’re listening to my music in this manner.
CL: You’re a very intelligent lady, and a highly-educated person, you studied at the University of Denver, which by reputation is an excellent establishment. You studied Psychology. Do you still use it with your writing?
LH: It certainly helps me to organise my thoughts.
CL: Before we start talking about ‘Walking Proof’, since I first heard ‘I Wanna Go Home’ (from the ‘Trinity Lane’ album) I’ve wanted to ask you the significance if any of “March thirteenth, Memphis, Tennessee”.
LH: I was driving back to Nashville, with John Moreland, we had been touring together.
CL: Oh wow, I love John Moreland.
LH: Yeah, and I just like the date, it’s a really cool date.
CL: I’m glad you said that, the reason I asked about it is because it’s my birthday!
LH: Really? Wow! That’s so cool. It’s a great date, it has just a cool ring to it. March thirteenth.
CL: See, I knew we had a connection!
‘Walking Proof’ which is the follow up to 2017’s critically-acclaimed ‘Trinity line’, kicks off with a track called ‘Rae’ – the subject is Lilly’s sister, Rae. They are very close and like the song goes “Nobody gets it like you do, Rae”. It’s a very bright, and airy start to the album, Lilly’s vocal immediately sounding somewhat vulnerable, and very gentle, then the bassline kicks in, instantly Lilly sounds a lot more assured, and what a beauty this is. It’s perfect pop.
We discussed ‘P-Town’ next. It’s a song about a trip to the beautiful city of Portland, Oregon with a friend that didn’t go as planned. The hook in the song is “Don’t you hate when people say it is what it is”.
CL: Yes I do hate when people say it is what it is, and I’m guilty of this myself, but I’ve always been taught to question everything and think for myself so I see that as kind of a cop out to just say it is what it is.
LH: Yes, it is a cop out, but sometimes you just got to let things go. It’s crucial to accept things as they are sometimes, especially in relationships and art. Things just seem to bloom if you can get out of your own way for long enough.
‘Little Believer’ sees Lilly joined on guitars and backing vocals by the extraordinarily talented, Aaron Lee Tasjan.
CL: I got to interview Aaron when he was last in the UK, touring and promoting ‘Karma for Cheap’. We hit it off immediately as we are both pretty quirky people. He loved the purple jeans I had on and my Snakeskin Cowboy boots.
LH: Hahaha he’s a good friend it was a great privilege to have Aaron play on the record, and also Amanda Shires, hearing what they have to bring to the record.
CL: Yes Aaron is a great guitarist, when I found out that Aaron made a guest appearance on the album, I immediately thought it was on ‘Little Believer’, it feels like something that Aaron would do, it’s quite poppy but then turns into something with a Punk feel to it.
CL: ‘Some Kind of Drug’ is probably my favourite on the album, although it’s a pretty close-run thing with ‘Drawl’, ’Rae’, ‘Walking Proof’ and ‘P-Town’. What’s your favourite?
LH: It changes, some days it’s ‘Some Kind of Drug’ other days its ‘Brightest Star’.
CL: Speaking of ‘Some kind of Drug’, I really think it’s a truly incredible song, with a lot of cross genre appeal, I think it just resonates with music fans in general. Have you thought about doing a dance version, someone like Vintage and Morelli, would make a killer remix of this song, or Sasha. In fact, I’ve posted the video on Vintage and Morelli’s Facebook page, and asked him if he’s got the time to remix it. I just really want to see what he does with it.
LH: I love that! It makes me really happy that you think that way about it and y I’d really love to hear that too.
CL: Can you tell us a bit about the song?
LH: My sister was meeting with Homeless people taking them supplies and we happened to meet this one guy, called Corey, who had no idea how old he was because he didn’t have a Birth Certificate. He was around the same age as me. He didn’t say much, I asked him what kind of music he listened to. He said that he listens to the radio. So that’s the story really.
CL: I really hope Corey isn’t homeless right now.
LH: Yes, it’s really not a good time to be homeless.
CL: Do you know if he’s doing ok? Does he know there is a song about him?
LH: I have no idea where he is and no way of finding him. He has absolutely no idea that I’ve written a song about him.
CL: Did he have any idea who you are?
LH: Not at all.
CL: ‘Candy Lunch’ really reminds me of Mazzy Starr and also The Sundays, in fact those comparisons recur on the softer tracks on the record.
LH: Ohh yes, I remember Mazzy Star, well thank you!
CL: Do you remember The Sundays? They were a UK Indie band in the early nineties?
LH: Yeah, I remember them. I really like the comparison.
CL: They both have that kind of dreamy sound, like the softer side of the album. ‘Drawl’ knocks the socks off of ‘Fade into You’ for me, and I love that song.
LH: Thank you, that’s a big compliment.
CL: Did you think about delaying the release of the record due to the Pandemic? I believe Margo Price has delayed the release of her album.
LH: We were to far gone with the planning of the release, and the tour that was planned around the release. It’s really frustrating to not be able to tour with these songs right now, but it may be a blessing. I cannot wait to get back out on the road once this is all done.
CL: Yeah, people will know the songs better when they come to see the show, and people have time to sit down and really get to know it, become friends with it like I have.
LH: I really hope so.
CL: Speaking of tours, I know you were in the UK late last year, October or November, I remember because I couldn’t come, I was in Seville getting some late sun. but I’ll definitely come to the show next time you are here. Any plans for a return?
LH: Yes, I was hoping to be back in the fall, but who knows when that will be now.
The more I hear ‘Drawl’ the more I love it. Its one of those songs that stays with you for days, I’m totally in love with it. Like I said earlier, its dreamy, it’s beautiful, everything about this song is just pure bliss. I’m even sitting here smiling just writing about it, that’s the effect that it’s had on me, the hook, the harmony, the lyrics, that enchanting guitar riff. When I started writing this article, I thought that ‘Some Kind of Drug’ was my favourite, maybe I’ve written myself into an opinion change.
The song ‘Walking Proof’ as already mentioned features a guest appearance by Amanda Shires on fiddle and vocals. It’s another beauty, and has more of a traditional country sound than anything else on the record. It’s about a friend’s daughter, but also Lilly was thinking of her friends and band members when she wrote the song. The whole album is less personal than Lilly’s earlier work, those have tended to be about her life and experiences, this record is more about, and for, friends and families than the others.
‘Brightest Star’ is another bright and bubbly track, its happier than the norm for a Lilly Song. The vocal is an absolute delight, in terms of the sheer tone in Lilly’s voice this is probably the finest moment on the record, and possibly the finest of Lilly’s career to date.
‘Never Play Guitar’ is another slice of perfectly polished, yet not over produced Pop/Rock, it feels good, and sounds like it could be a Sheryl Crow song. It’ll have you singing along certainly.
‘Move’ is a song about running rather than facing your issues, “The only thing you know how to do is move”. This is another beautifully put together song, it’s on the country side of Lilly’s spectrum. The whole feel, the beat, the subtle, yet essential, pedal steel crying away in the background, its two minutes thirty-five of bliss.
Rounding the album off is ‘Scream’, which is very different to the rest of the record. it starts out with Lilly sounding like a Jazz singer and stays that way throughout, it’s Lilly Hiatt at her melancholiest, it’s haunting in fact. It really highlights the voice of Ms Hiatt. It displays an air of vulnerability that’s not seen anywhere else on this record. Musically it could be Pink Floyd, it’s stunningly beautiful. Just like the rest of the record.
Lilly Hiatt has made a masterpiece of a record, it’s her most easily accessible to date, and contains elements that will appeal to her existing fanbase, and will gain her an army of new fans I have no doubt. In my opinion, this is her career defining moment, and I for one cannot wait to see the live show.
Keep an eye on Lilly’s Facebook page as there will live performances of songs from the album and from the earlier records. She will be back in the UK when things return back to normal, so get ready for that by buying this record, you won’t be disappointed.
To live to tell is Walking Proof. I hope you love my new album 🍬 Listen here: http://newwst.com/lhwalkingproofPosted by Lilly Hiatt on Friday, 27 March 2020