Lili K Talks Letting Go, Having Fun, and Making Music Just for the Love of It…
Written by Vocalo Radio on May 16, 2019
Lili K’s new EP “Songs With Friends,” is what happens when an artist sheds the weight of the world and just makes music because it’s fun. But she has not sacrificed quality in the process – collaborations with Chicago favorites The O’My’s and Air Credits, as well as her Milwaukee friends and musicians Klassik, B-Free and Evan Lane, make this collection sound just a good as it must have felt to make it.
In the process, Lili was able to re-discover self-love, self-care and an overwhelming sense joy of creating that she was lacking in the last several years. The EP comes ahead of her forthcoming full-length “Planet of Flowers” due later this year.
Jill Hopkins spoke with the Chicago Jazz singer about the therapeutic and invigorating process of making music just for the love of it.
I’ve been twiddling my thumbs waiting for [your full length] Planet of Flowers. And then suddenly my email pings and it’s you telling me… hold up…”Songs with Friends” is here.
What made you shift gears and release this “Songs with Friends” EP before Planet of Flowers?
In short, anxiety. I haven’t put out a full body of work since Ruby which was in 2015. So it’s been four years now and in that time I had to go through a lot of things. Self-discovery, self-love, self-care, figuring out why I was depressed. I had to get back to making music just for the love of making music. So I ended up going back in to Planet of Flowers and re-recording all my vocals and adding songs and changing features because I grew after I finished the album. So I had to have the album continue to grow with me. Then I realized I hadn’t put anything out in like four years and I need to reintroduce myself and give myself a release buffer. Because I’m just really scared to put Planet of Flowers out. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves, especially being independent artists
It’s a double edged sword being an independent artist
It’s scary cause you don’t have that support system or the funding. So instead of letting my anxiety win I decided I needed to create just for fun, so I said let me create songs with people I love. I wanted to get back to just releasing for the fun of it.
How does it feel when the thing that is supposed to be your lifeline (making music) feels like an anchor?
Oh my gosh, it’s exhausting! [Laughter] I don’t know. I don’t know how much of it is external pressures and how much of it is internal pressures. Just cause I’ve always been this perfectionist… And it’s easy to lose sight when really the thing you’re doing is what you love to do and it’s a creative passion… It’s hard to balance that with it being a career and I have to pay my bills off of this. You know what I mean?
Really the sole purpose of this project was for personal reasons. I just want to create without worrying about anything. I didn’t even pay for studio time for this, we just went over to each other’s houses and the songs were all recorded in home studios.
Self care can be a lot of things, it feels like this EP was that for you…
It was totally that for me. It was really therapeutic. I talk about things on this project that I’ve wanted to get off my chest for a while. There’s a ballad on here that I just cry when I listen to it, and I’m really happy I was able to get that out. Because, as weird as it is, it’s so awesome to have a form of expression that is therapy. I feel very lucky in that regard, a lot of people don’t have an outlet to voice their feelings, frustrations, pain or anger. I’m so lucky to have that in music. That’s another thing that this EP served for me, it was a big ol’ therapy session.
You mention the desire to reintroduce yourself, but folks know who you are. So that means that you have your pick of whom you’d like to collaborate with, because people know how talented you are.
Why this group of collaborators and why right now?
There are so many friends that I’ve wanted to collaborate with over the years. And there are still so many more that I want to collaborate with in the future. This project in particular was who was available. Logistics is very real. But of course I love all of them.
There are three Milwaukee artists, which is my hometown, and then two Chicago groups, which is my other home town. So it’s a very home/family oriented project. The Chicago artists of course the O My’s. Who I’ve worked with before. Maceo and I have done background vocals for Chance together so I’ve known them for years. And then of course Air Credits we know big old family, I’ve done one song with them but Clinton’s been talking about trying to do “Air Credits R&B” and I said this is a good opportunity to do that. So we got together and created that song.
Then there are the three Milwaukee artists! Be Three is a woman that I’ve looked up to since I was thirteen. She’s a couple of years older than me and in high school I always admired her… She was my favorite singer, I thought she was amazing. Fast forward years later she ends up singing background for me in Chicago which was very humbling and crazy. I really wanted to do a song with her. So I went over to her crib and me, her and her husband were just hanging out and we vibed this song out. Klassic and Evan Lane are both artists that I went to middle school with and I’ve known them since I was eleven years old. So it’s really just a project full of peole that I love and had fun working with, and have always wanted to work with and the timing just worked out.
Really the point of this EP was just for it to be easy. I wanted to go in stress free, fun. I just wanted it to be an easy, feel good process.
What are you telling us on “Songs with Friends” that you weren’t telling folks on Ruby or that you won’t be telling folks on Planet of Flowers?
I feel like this is the most vulnerable I’ve been with my songwriting. So I’m showing that weakness and that self doubt and those feelings that we go through but don’t really know how to voice or talk about. So even in breakup songs or love songs, I used to write in a way that was a bit guarded. Because I didn’t wanna let people in too too much. Now I’ve finally reached a point, just in life, where I’m comfortable with my self and my journey. Knowing that my flaws don’t make me weaker they make me stronger. You know, all of that self-love, self-care stuff that really does matter.
It’s about writing things from different perspectives. So that O’My’s song for example. We wanted to do a duet that’s about the phase of dating “I like you but I can’t tell if you like me yet.” I feel like it’s so easy to do a duet where it seems like the girl is trippin’ and the guy says “you’re trippin’, calm down” [laughter]. But we wanted to do it in a way that the guy said “I understand where you’re coming from.” I feel like we took a more mature approach in the conversations that we’re having on the project. It’s two people trying to figure it out and not really know where we’re ending up… Which is so real.
I feel like a lot of times in songs you write them from a place of finality. You know what the endgame is. But sometimes there’s comfort in writing something that says “I don’t know.” It’s just the most honest I think….
Photography by Seamus Doheny & ShowYouSuck