Lily Mae is a 16 year old contemporary folk singer-songwriter from Bucks County, PA. Performing since the age of 4 she has developed a confidence that shines through her music taking inspiration from the likes of Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and Carole King. Whilst those influences give her music a classic sound and feel it is her personal character that shines through making her début EP ‘Early Days‘ so very captivating.
Vocally Lily swings between octaves calling to mind the likes of Joni Mitchell and Laura Marling…it’s one thing to be able sing that way but it’s quite another to know when to use it. She does this faultlessly throughout, she gets inside those lyrics adding emotional depths at the right spine tingling moments that make the beautiful lyrics (written by sister Chloe) all the more brighter and moving. In terms of showcasing her ability this EP works wonders, ‘Lost at Sea‘ and ‘Søren‘ are stand-out tracks the latter relating to philosopher Søren Kierkegaard.
The EP left us wanting to know more so we asked Lily for an interview, which she agreed to…we unexpectedly got two for the price of one as Lily’s sister Chloe also chipped-in with some insight into the lyrics she writes…a perfect family partnership, one which involves a deeply shared passion (and wavelength)…and blanket forts!
Our first question had to be about family influence, how else could someone get involved in music so young…”My family is, indeed, very musical!” Lily confirmed. “My dad is a bass player; he wrote the bass method book, “Slap it! Funk Studies for the Electric Bass.” My mom is a professional musician and songwriter who has had songs covered by Diana Ross, Al Jarreau, and Kool and the Gang. In fact, one of my earliest memories is sitting in my mom’s guitar case and staring at her, in awe, while she played for me. …Let’s just say, my house was never quiet!”
Thankfully there is an active folk scene where Lily lives as well as great venues to see live music including New Hope Winery, Sellersville Theater, World Cafe Live some of which she’ll be playing at she announces excitedly. This led nicely onto her influences…
“Joni Mitchell was an early influence and remains at the very top of my “What would _____ do?” list. There is also a group of musicians, Jenny Owen Youngs, Bess Rogers, and Dan Romer, that have been incredibly supportive of me and influential to everything that I do. And of course, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and Laura Marling have all been significant to my writing style because how could one listen to them and NOT be influenced?”
The lyrics to Early Days are very poetic so I was curious as to whether there were ay particular literary figures who had maybe inspired her…at this point she proudly handed over to her lyricist and 19 year old sister, Chloe who is in her first year at Barnard College.“I started writing lyrics mostly as a result of a creative writing class that I took in high school. I was writing and reading a lot of poetry (I love Phillip Larkin and Louise Gluck) but I found that my poems were better suited as lyrics. I’m most inspired by Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, and Laura Marling. I love how they find inventive and honest ways to tell stories and make hard emotions like anger and loss beautiful.”
The song “Søren” was one of the stand out tracks for me and a surprising focus…”We wrote Søren last March while I wanted to be a Philosophy major” Chloe explains, “I was very interested in existentialism (as any graduating high school student should be) and I had been reading about Søren Kierkegaard. It’s about existential angst and the overwhelming moments when you become aware of your own power.
“And for some reason, it feels important enough to let it be known that Søren was written in one (long) sitting in our permanent blanket fort. …Yes, we have a blanket fort!”
Lily adds a bit more insight into their relationship which they are both clearly proud of…”Chloe and I are always on the same wavelength, and because of that, our writing process is very conversational (and sometimes involves mime).”
It was not until “Lost at Sea” that I made a Laura Marling comparison but one which is surely there…”Laura Marling is absolutely a force of influence behind my writing style” Lily confirms. “I’m a fan! Whenever I’m writing a song, I go with whatever melody comes out first, and then I try to attack it logically in a way that will highlight and make it more interesting to listen to. I think that’s where Laura Marling and Joni Mitchell’s influence seeps through–my obsession with a, hopefully, colorful melody.”
We finish off on some trivia questions:
What album are you listening to?
It’s funny because from the sound of my music, one might not expect an indie rock album, but “An Unwavering Band of Light” by Jenny Owen Youngs (produced by Dan Romer) has been my musical anthem for the past year!
What book are you reading?
Am I allowed to say The Norton Anthology of American Literature? I’ve been reading it for a class, and got particularly engrossed with the Anne Bradstreet section. The content is a little mushy for my taste, but her writing style won me over!
Please tell us a band or artist you’d like to introduce to our readers and listeners?
I believe I mention this artist quite often, but you should listen to Jenny Owen Youngs. That is, if you like highly intelligent lyrics, nice people, great music, and dinosaurs!
There you have it…the charming Lily Mae and her sister and lyricist Chloe. I thoroughly enjoyed interviewing them and I can’t recommend them enough, ‘Early Days’ indeed but a bright future!
2/23 – New Hope Winery (opening for Livingston Taylor) – New Hope, PA
2/26 – Sellersville Theater (opening for Ben Taylor) – Sellersville, PA