For years singer/songwriter Lily Kershaw kept her musical talents hidden.
“I was very secretive about the music I was writing for awhile and I didn’t tell people about it,” the California native says.
It wasn’t until Kershaw’s songs became available on iTunes that her acquaintances became aware of her musical talent.
“A lot of people didn’t even really know that I was a full time songwriter until I had a number one song on the iTunes singer/songwriter chart and people were actually very confused,” she says. “Then I had to tell them about this secret life that I was leading. They just thought I didn’t do anything all day when really I was writing music. I think they were relieved but I think they were a little sad that I didn’t tell them.”
Kershaw began singing at an early age and realized she wanted to become a professional singer in her early teens, but doubted the sound of her voice.
“I remember being 13 or 14 and thinking it would be so cool to be a singer,” she says. “I loved singing but I didn’t think I had an interesting voice and I didn’t think I sounded like anyone on the radio. I thought to myself if I could tell cool interesting stories and people would want to hear me sing.”
The California native loved listened to artists such as Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and Simon and Garfunkel. “I liked the way they told stories,” Kershaw says about her musical influences.
Her first major musical story comes in the form of a recently released 13-track album, Midnight in the Garden, on Nettwerk Records.
“It’s story driven,” Kershaw says about her debut album. “I’ve been thinking a lot about this because on the record I sort of let each song become something sort of like a character, which I thought was really fun and interesting. I think there is a nice balance between light and dark.”
Midnight in the Garden is Kershaw’s first record of any kind. She found it difficult to select songs for the record but says they all fit together. “I felt like these songs pull an interesting story together and had an interesting landscape overall. It was definitely hard choosing what was on the album,” she says. “The majority of the songs that I had written I never expected anyone to hear outside of maybe five to 10 people. I was really surprised about it. It is personal. All the songs are exactly what I meant to say at that time.”
Many of the songs on Midnight in the Garden were written through Kershaw’s teenage years and were often tweaked, as she grew older.
“It’s interesting that I can write the songs a couple of years a part and still have similar things echo in them,” she says. “I write these songs and they are exactly what I need to say. It’s important for me to let that live in whatever way it’s going to live.”
One of those songs, “Ashes Like Snow,” was originally written as a poem when Kershaw was 10-years-old.
I recorded it on a tape recorder,” she says. “I found a bunch of the tapes when I was 19 and I listened to the chorus.”
“Ashes Like Snow” was written around the time of the 9/11terrorist attacks in the U.S. After Kershaw found the song she decided to make some changes to the lyrics by injecting an older perspective.
“It was weird because it was like pairing childlike innocence with an imminent young women’s eyes now. I thought it was a cool take on that song,” she says.
In 2012, Kershaw’s song “As It Seems” was featured in an episode of Criminal Minds. The song became such a hit with viewers that Kershaw received letters from people indicating that they wanted the song played at their funeral.
“That was an important song for me. It was weird having people love something so personal. I just kept thinking don’t they know that I wrote this song in my bedroom?” she says. “It’s weird that something I wrote out of need to express myself in an afternoon wiggled its way into people’s lives. It was an honour for me. It’s nice to feel like you can do something for someone.”
Shortly after the song’s airing, the California native signed to Nettwerk Records. She says that her decision to sign with the Vancouver-based label was largely due to the artistic freedom they offered.
“It’s a very happy relationship. I am very happy,” she says. “It’s how I like to work as a songwriter, which is natural and organic and I like working with Nettwerk because it is natural and organic. The people who work at Nettwerk generally love music and they’re in this for music.”
“When I look for artists to support, I look for who they are and what they have to offer in their life and their experiences. That’s what I am attracted to in artists and that’s what I like about Nettwerk,” she adds.
Kershaw mainly grew up in Southern California, but also spent some time living on the East Coast in the U.S.
“I became a young woman in Los Angeles and honestly that is a bit of a terrifying thing,” she says.
As a female artist in one of the largest entertainment centres in the world Kershaw felt pressures to change but wanted to grow in a positive way and refused to give in.
“I feel like if you’re working in this business as a woman it is very important to know yourself,” she says. “I applaud any person who follows their dream but more so any woman who walks into the entertainment industry because you are asked to change.”
As Kershaw’s career moves forward she says she wants to continue to grow.
“I hope people ask me if I am growing artistically,” she says. “I don’t want to look back in a few years in and think I didn’t change much as a songwriter or I didn’t grow.”
For more information on Lily Kershaw visit www.lilykershaw.com or follow @LilyKershaw on Twitter.
© Copyright 2013