Rapid Fire Questions
Your zodiac sign: Sagittarius
What is playing in your headphones these days? I’ve been listening to “Pains” by Silk Rhodes on a loop recently! But aside from that, lots of Arlo Parks, Leon Bridges, Lorde, and anything Jack Antonoff has worked on.
Song you wish you wrote: “Green Light” by Lorde
A Flanger, some tremolo, mixtures of disparate voices, and arrangements that turn us into air-suspended tightrope walkers. As we listen to Lila Gray’s latest album Wild Tension, a soundscape scattered with contradictions is being discovered: minimalistic productions yet created with depth and complexity, inspirations from another era, all mixed with modern production techniques. An album that, for her, was produced in a less experimental creative mode than her first one, Not What I Was Promised, released back in 2021.
Nevertheless, on Slow The Burn, Lila had fun recording her voice and harmonies in different places in the studio, creating unique effects and textures. On the deluxe version of the album (which hasn’t come out yet), she’s screaming some of the lyrics from the corner of the room. It remains important for her to continue to use her creativity in the production and sound design of her music.
The inspiration loop
In order to create, the musician follows a precise process that involves a succession of crucial steps: “I write, produce, release, and then promote my work. There is no way I can break this cycle. For example, I can’t write while I’m producing or promoting and conversely. I need to give each section of the work its own space and time.”
Writing and composing with her guitar in hand, she draws inspiration from her own life, her friends’ lives, TV shows, movies, or other albums. She also draws on storytelling techniques, imagining characters and plots. “I’ve been having a lot of fun recently making up characters and storylines to write my songs. I sort of create these little worlds for my songs to live in.”
From cello to audio production
From an early age, the Montreal RAC student knew that music had to be an essential part of her life. Born in Vancouver, she began playing the cello at the age of five. “I have always been surrounded by music. My parents did a great job of exposing me to a ton of great music and forcing me to play an instrument at a young age. I’m beyond grateful to have had parents who supported me”, she tells. But the music business is not the most stable income field, so she wanted to find something that could supplement it. “I started making my own music when I was 13, but to find stability, I turned to production.”
The last piece of the puzzle
What began as a way to have a somewhat more stable career for the young Lila has become a true passion in every aspect. “It has become the final puzzle piece in my relationship with music. I was accepted into a university program in London for audio production just before the pandemic. COVID-19 derailed everything, and in an effort to stay closer to my family in case borders closed or any other lockdowns occurred, I started looking into schools in Canada and found RAC.”
“You have to learn the rules, so you can throw them away and find what works for you and what ‘your rules’ are.”
This is the philosophy that the singer songwriter has been practicing since her time at RAC. Whether she is creating music for herself or others, she establishes the rules and structure at the beginning of the project. Once everything is organized, she starts playing with them, choosing which ones to break and which ones to follow. “It’s a really cool mindset. I used to feel like I was a rule follower, so this is really refreshing,” she says.
Modern alt pop music: the end of the music genre
Growing up with The Beatles, James Brown, Queen, and The Kinks, the young producer now uses all these influences to define her music in her own way, without a specific musical genre. As far as she’s concerned, this is exactly what is happening in the music industry. “The lines and borders between each defined genre are getting more and more blurry, it’s more about the artist’s sound and less about the specific musical genre the artist is creating in. To me, that’s what modern music is all about,” she explains.
That’s what leads her to work with artists who gravitate towards genres that differ from the ones she tends to write and produce in. “It’s definitely something that forces us to step out of our comfort zone and apply our expertise in a variety of genres. It also broadens my confidence as a producer.”
On the road in Fall
In August, Gray will finish her studies at RAC and take some time for herself: “I really want to get back to writing a lot this summer because I’ve been so focused on production during my training year.”
She will use the break to prepare for her Canadian tour this fall. “Since COVID, I’ve only played a handful of shows, but now that I have a whole new album’s worth of songs to play, I’m stoked to be able to schedule more shows,” she states.
Traveling through Vancouver, Ottawa, and Toronto, Lila Gray is looking forward to meeting her audience and feeling their energy. Whatever happens, the young artist is more than ready: “Whether the room is full or there are only two people in the audience, we’re going to give it our best and have a dope show! “
Written and translated by Caroline Boivin
Illustration by Yihong Guo