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INTERVIEW: Los Angeles / Calgary feminist singer-songwriter Lindsay Kay

Hi Lindsay, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

I’ve been well thanks! Quite happy that the summer is nearing its end and the weather is cooling off…

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Too”?

“Too” is about the ways in which women and femmes compress themselves to make space for their masculine counterparts. I have watched many women I love dim their own lights to help brighten the lights of the men in their lives, and I too have done this, and the song is about finally acknowledging that our space/time/energy is equally as important.

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

At the time I wrote the song, the Fall of 2016, there was general discomfort and pain being expressed quite publicly in the media by women, and still is, and I myself was feeling that stirring and rage building within myself. It was inspiring to see women voicing their stories and experiences, and I felt compelled to do the same.

How was the filming process and experience behind the video?

The filming process was very hard work but so incredibly rewarding. We had a very small budget, truly next to nothing, so Anastasia (the director) and I were DIY-ing everything and calling in favors from our generous friends. We weren’t seeking to tell any kind of concrete, obvious story or narrative, but rather we wanted to make a beautiful video full of nuance, feminine imagery, and raw emotion. Anastasia and I location scouted together in the weeks leading up to the filming, I found all of the beautiful one of a kind garments you see in the video (all made by up and coming female designers), we reached out to women we knew and admired to join me in front of the camera, and the two of us just worked really hard together to create what you see now. We are both really proud of the video.

The single comes off your new album For the Feminine, by the Feminine – what’s the story behind the title?

It’s actually quite a literal title. The album was made entirely from top to bottom by female-identifying folks – every role from studio musicians to engineers to mastering to album artwork design to music video crew – hence “by the Feminine.” And while of course I hope that men will enjoy the album too, I didn’t create this body of work with them in mind at all. This album is my gift to feminine people – it is “For the Feminine.” I hope they will feel heard and understood.

How was the recording and writing process?

I really took my time with writing this album, which felt equal parts challenging and luxurious. I tend to impose deadlines on myself or have expectations of how much work I should be making, but this album was the first time that I let the process do its thing in its own time and didn’t try to rush it. I spent about a year working on these songs (and writing several other less successful songs that didn’t make the cut), really massaging them and trying to make sure that there wasn’t any filler material. I edited and re-edited and re-re-edited until I felt like every note and every word was there for a reason. Recording was wonderful! We spent about 5 days recording the rhythm section live at Paramount Recording Studios in Hollywood, which was the foundation for the album, and then the next few months were spent at my engineer, Lynne Earls’s, studio overdubbing harp and synths and accordion and any additional instruments, as well as vocals. I got sick and lost my voice at one point during the sessions, right after Christmastime I think, so we took a brief pause, but all in all we were working on the album in the studio for about 3 months off and on.

What was it like to work with Anastasia Lebedeva and how did that relationship develop?

Working with Anastasia was a true joy, and I’m grateful to be able to call her a dear friend now. She also shot my album cover photo. She’s truly a visionary and is so fearless about her art. That was really freeing for me, to be around someone who is strictly in service to the work and has no hang ups about ego or outside perception. She actually reached out to me last December while I was still working on the album, I think she had just randomly stumbled upon my Instagram profile (the internet can sometimes be good!) and had asked me to model for a photography concept she had. I was excited by her work and I am always eager to work with interesting, boundary pushing female-artists, so we met and did this really cool photoshoot with guar guar dripping all over my face haha and we just really connected! We got to talking about my music and upcoming projects and I mentioned to her that soon I had to start the process of planning a music video. She immediately said “let’s make a music video!” I honestly didn’t think it would actually happen, especially because I’m independent and didn’t have much of a budget, but I quickly learned that when she says she’s going to do something, she commits to it 100% and makes the best work she can possibly make. It was really wonderful to find someone who works as hard as I do to see a vision through. We have a similar tireless work ethic and attention to detail, and we just think about art the same way. It was a beautiful collaboration and we’re definitely going to make many more things together in the future.

Do you tend to take a different approach when you are collaborating with someone else rather than in your own?

Working with Anastasia was actually one of the first times I’ve truly collaborated in that way. Because I write alone and am so used to creating by myself without other people around, I tend to gravitate towards that role in most aspects of my work, from recording sessions all the way to choosing the font for the album cover. This was the first time I’ve gone into a studio space without everything completely premeditated and left some space for collaboration with the studio musicians, and it was really wonderful. Previous to this, I would pretty much have arrangements solidified and written out in detail before sessions, and always knew exactly what I wanted. I suppose I had some fear of seeming underprepared or something. That preparedness was still present on this album to a degree, and I was always the one producing and arranging the sessions, but I realized how fortunate I was to have some of the best musicians in the industry coming in and playing my music, and I wanted to leave some space for them to bring their unique strengths to the table. They helped me find sounds and ideas that were perhaps ultimately better than the ones I would have come up with alone, and I know the album is much stronger for it.

What role does Calgary play in your writing? Los Angeles? 

I’m actually not sure that Calgary plays much of a role in my writing at all, except for the fact that of course it’s the city I grew up in and started writing in, so certainly the habits I formed there follow me wherever I go. As for Los Angeles, I actually find myself fighting the city in order to write, because I love living here so much and there are so many wonderful things a person could do every day other than write music. Go for hikes, go to the beach, go to a museum, go to a movie, read at a cafe, have a nice lunch, spend time with friends… these are all things I would much rather be doing here in LA rather than banging my head against my desk desperately trying to write a good song, but I have to do the work. So my self-discipline has strengthened massively since moving here!

Who are some other artists that have influenced you, and how so?

John Mayer really opened up my eyes to what was possible musically in the pop realm when I was in my early teens, and Continuum was the reason I started taking my guitar playing more seriously. Joni Mitchell was a life-altering musical education that continues to come in waves. Leonard Cohen was a lesson in whittling away at songs until they are right and true and becoming comfortable with editing work. Solange inspires me massively with her ability to marry incredible visuals with her music. Sufjan Stevens is just simply the greatest and made me feel so much more comfortable with being quiet and intimate and simple while still maintaining honesty and depth. Esperanza Spalding is my constant reminder to practice more!

What aspects of feminism did you get to explore on this record?

The feminist elements of my album were arrived upon by accident. I wasn’t setting out to make some sort of big political statement, but because I am a steadfast feminist, the separation between life and art becomes muddy. I was simply documenting my very real feelings of feminine pain, and by writing “don’t stroke my hair or breathe in its sweetness unless you’ve been invited,” I wrote a song about consent, though at the time, I was just writing a song about all the things I didn’t want men to do to me anymore. On a day when I was feeling powerful and beautiful and wanted to remind men that I’m the shit, I wrote “you’d love to bathe me tenderly run holy water down my spine, you better pray, go pray to god, ask for his help to taste this wine,” and ended up with a song about empowerment and the sacred, goddess-like power of women. Any feminist statement or theme found on the album came by way of real, true, personal feelings without any agenda, but the music takes place in the ears of the listener, so if the listener thinks it is a feminist album, then it is!

Any plans to hit the road?

Yes, I will be touring this album next year and playing some festivals in the Summer of 2019.

What else is happening next in Lindsay Kay’s world?

After spending 2 years of my life on this album, I’m going to have a little party to celebrate its release with my dear friends and family, relinquish control and let the album belong to the listeners, take a little break and explore some other creative impulses, and then start the cycle again.

Watch here

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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