“Every word that’s in a song I write, is a true lyric to my life.”

For those of you that that don’t know, Lily Elise is a Bay Area artist that defies genre placement, and effortlessly navigates the crossroads between Alternative, Indie, Pop, and R&B. Don’t believe us? Check out her Oliver EP here. Coming off the recent EP that has been a multi-year project, Lily also released a new single, “Let Me Down” with friends and fellows artists, MADE IN LA.

Before her performance at Pour Vous in LA, we had the chance to sit down with Lily and talk about her career. The result was a conversation on dream collabs, heartbreak and the meaning of her music. Check out the full interview below!

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How was soundcheck tonight?

It was good, it was a bit confusing to set up tonight because MADE IN LA is playing on one of my songs. The very last song is “Let Me Down”, so we’re going to do it together. I’m also singing on a couple of their songs, but overall, by the end we got it so that’s all that matters.

Do you ever get pre-show jitters?

Totally. 

How do you tend to deal with it?

I don’t, I just get on stage and it goes away…as long as everything is running smoothly.

Which hopefully it will.

Hopefully, if it doesn’t run smoothly then I get even more jitters. 

So for our audience that isn’t familiar with your music, could you give us a background on yourself?

I grew up in the Bay Area, and grew up singing. I was in an acapella group in high school which is why I love harmony and include it as much as possible. I grew up on all the diva singers: Aretha, Whitney, Mariah (in her good days), Destiny’s Child, Christina Aguilera was my number one. But, then I was also listening to John Mayer, Stevie Wonder, and different types of music that weren’t 90’s/2000’s Pop which is why I think my music is a mix of genres. I moved down to LA to attend USC’s Popular Music Program which I did for a year. Then I dipped out to do Season 1 of The Voice. After that, I started writing and getting in the studio with a bunch of different people.

Speaking of The Voice, do you think shows like it open doors for contestants, or is it mainly for entertainment?

I think it’s a mixture of the two, it’s definitely a show and for the network’s profit. Growing up,  I never wanted to do a reality show, people would ask, “Why don’t you do American Idol?” I always said no, insisting that I was going to write my own songs and be my own artist. It was kind of a fluke that I ended of doing The Voice. It was on a whim that I auditioned and we didn’t know what it was going to be for a season. I think when I got off the show and was able to get in the studio with professional producers and writers, it gave me that opportunity. It also gave me a nice fan base that I can still call back on and give music to. 

Even though you moved to LA to get your career going, do you feel that the Bay Area has inspired you musically? 

100%. I go back as much as I can. Even though I’m based in LA now for the opportunities, creatively, I’m a big believer in decompression. You have to go home, and get your head right. Whenever I’m in the Bay, I feel refreshed, more creative, more inspired. It reminds me why I wanted to do music. It reminds me of being 12 and in my room writing music just because I wanted to get a feeling out. I try to go back every couple months.

What’s a typical day for you this year? 

Busy, but busy is good. For the past three years I’ve been writing so much. For me, for others, or whoever, and that took a toll. I’m an artist first, so I’m most inspired to write when it’s for me. Basically, it’s my diary. I took a step back from writing a bit, and now I’m doing 2-3 sessions a week instead of every day. We’ve been doing our own PR, promotion, and socials. I also sing backing vocals for Don Henley of The Eagles so there’s sometimes were I’m just in rehearsal for that. I’m going to be leaving shortly for a tour with him.

When is that?

We’re going to be leaving Thursday for Europe, and then doing a 3 month tour between Europe and North America. I’m going to try and keep my artistry up and release songs from the road which is hard, but we’ll make it work. 

Pour Vous (the show’s venue) is a pretty small place, is this size something you prefer, or do you have dreams of playing main stage at a major festival like Outsidelands?

Outsidelands is my number 1. Just go back to the Bay and play the biggest festival in my hometown, that’s the dream. But there is something to be said for intimate spaces. In a small venue, the energy is all stuck in that one space and can’t go anywhere. When you’re in a large space, everyone is doing their own thing. When you’re in a small space, you have to be in the moment because you’re right there. 

How did you and MADE IN LA cross paths?

My manager was working for a company at the time that was in talks with signing their publishing. She introduced us, and we met in the studio. That day, we made “Let Me Down”. It was just an instant connection. We talked for a long time about this situation I was going through at that moment of this dude stringing me along. We just started writing and everything started flowing. Sometimes it doesn’t happen and sometimes it does, that’s the whole creative process. 

You mentioned that a personal experience made you write “Let Me Down”, for our heartbroken fans out there, what is your healing process? 

Obviously my go to is music, whenever I’m in my feelings, I write or listen to something that gets me even more in my feelings and I just feel it out. With this particular situation, it wasn’t a long relationship just a couple months, but I just needed to know. If he had just said, “I’m not really feeling it anymore”, it would have been cool. When you get closure, you’re sad for a few days and then let it go. If they don’t “Let Me Down”, you over-analyze and blame yourself. 

You said sometimes you listen to music to get you more in the feels, do you have a particular song that does it for you?

It depends what the feel is. Honestly, John Mayer really gets me in the feels and is always reliable.

If you could use one emoji to describe your last breakup, what would it be?

The one where the eyes and face are just completely straight. Not sad, not happy, apathetic. Flat everything. Pretty neutral. Really, it could have been worse and it definitely has been worse in the past.

You often bill yourself as an Alt. Pop artist, and some reviewers label you as Future R&B, how do you navigate the crossroads between the two?

Defining myself into a genre is hard. I love all these styles, and I genuinely feel all those styles influence me as an artist. I like that each site labels me differently because I want people to feel something from the music. If you’re feeling it as Future R&B, feel it up. If someone sees it as Pop, it’s Pop. It is what it is and I think that makes it beautiful. 

Is there one genre that you’re most attached to?

Definitely R&B. The reason why I don’t label myself as R&B is I’m not particularly urban. I didn’t grow up in an urban place, and I’m not trying to be that, but when you listen to my music, the R&B just comes out. I always gravitate to it. I love the runs, big singing, hard drums, and everything. 

What do you think about the contemporary R&B scene with artists like Bryson Tiller, Miguel, and The Weeknd?

I love Miguel. I loooove Miguel. I actually went to his Wildheart Motel party where he releasing a song and there were all these art installations. I was dying. He walked by me and I just fanned out. Full fan. I also love The Weeknd and love where the genre is going. 

Speaking of fanning out, you’ve worked with pretty prominent artists like Dillon Francis and Twin Shadow. Do you value those collaborations or your own originals more?

They both mean a lot in different ways. When I put out my own originals, it does mean more to me because they’re so personal. Every word that’s in a song I write is a true lyric to my life. When I’m collaborating or writing for other artists, I approach it in a different way. It’s not so much of a diary as it is a musical meeting of minds. 

What is the process for writing for others or collaborating?

I think the reason I can do it is because I’m a very empathetic person. If someone is in a dark mood, I’ll move towards a darker mood. I have to be around people that are light because I’m affected by people’s energy. That helps because I’m not a vengeful person, but if someone’s song is themed around it, I can think back to when my cousin got revenge on her ex. I can put myself in someone’s shoes and really feel their emotions which helps the process.

Do you have a dream collaboration?

I love Drake. Miguel would be amazing. I am obsessed with Jasmine Sullivan, her voice is crazy. 

During your transition to LA, how did you link up with producers and writers?

A lot of it is through my manager. She’s amazing and set me up in so many sessions. She’s worked in publishing as well so she knows a lot of producers and writers. Others are just connections from the past. Both with Dillon Francis and Twin Shadow, my friend Dan Nigro who is a producer set me up. They asked him for a vocalist and he put my name in there. It’s all about who you know.

Diplo recently said negative things about DJs and electronic music culture, do you have an opinion on the scene’s saturation?

If you look back in musical history, this happens all the time. We’re going to look back on this time and identify it as the period of long buildups and dumb drops. You look back on Disco with a cringe. It’s very of the time and I can’t hate on it for that. It will play itself out until another thing replaces it. 

Do you have any upcoming projects or news you’d like to share?

I have a lot of music in my iTunes library. It’s just a matter of what to release next. I’m definitely going to be putting out singles in the near future and possibly an EP.