Video Credit: Nettwerk Music Official Youtube Channel
Lily Kershaw may be only 22, but her music sounds like a lifetime of experiences. Her debut album, “Midnight In the Garden,” is a 13-track long record that explores death and heartbreak through winding melodies and breathy, yet commanding vocals, similar to the sounds of Anna Nalick or Amy Stroup.
Likenesses aside, Lily keeps an air of uniqueness about her album. Some of that individuality assuredly comes from her bi-coastal upbringing. Born in Los Angeles, Lily spent a chunk of time in her formative years living on the Upper West Side in New York City before eventually moving back to the west coast.
It wasn’t until she was about 13, living nearby to Central Park in NYC that she started writing music. “I would listen to Simon and Garfunkel’s live in central park record. And I just imagine what it would be like to have been at that concert,” Lily says.
Early on, songwriting was something that was a private matter. “It was just for me. I wasn’t doing it for anyone else,” Lily says. It wasn’t until she was 20 years old that she met her first producer, and music became her career. The process, she recalls, was a bit daunting; “I started to learn about the music business. Which seemed like the most terrifying business in the world.” She combats the scariness of the business by – what else? – more writing. She says that, “The writing of the music is more important than the business for me…I think you just have to remember why you started. Like, what made you write the music to begin with, and write from that place. You do a disservice to the people who your music is reaching if you forget that.”
To date, that method has worked to keep her sane in the industry, and has harbored her love for songwriting. That imagining that she did all those years ago in Central Park has turned into a passion for songwriting that Lily now says is something that “[Is] inextricable from my life and who I am.”
Not to mention that being in music has come with a lot of great opportunities for Lily, and some that she says, get her out of her comfort zone. Her role in music is only one aspect of her job as an artist. She also has to act as a model, spokesperson, and Lily Kershaw brand ambassador. She freely admits that she is not a model, and tends to be a little hesitant about the other aspects of her job like photo shoots, and interviews. But she has grown to love these parts of working in the music industry too. For example, photo shoots previously terrified her, whereas now she can get through them with some humor. “I like people. Through interviews or touring or even taking photographs, you get to meet really cool people and hear really cool stories. I think that’s the best aspect of the job that maybe comes from things that I am a little more weird with,” says Lily.
Right now, Lily is touring parts of the U.S. in support of her album, and meeting new people everyday. The album, was released by international record label Nettwerk Records, in late September of 2013. Lily half-jokingly says, she has been surprised by how well received the record has been because “I try not to think about it, in the terms of that it exists outside of my little bedroom where I wrote the music. But then its weird because you meet people from, like, Columbus, Ohio, and they’re like ‘I love blah,blah,blah’”
It seems like Lily is in a dreamlike state, where she doesn’t realize that actual people are really listening to her songs all over the country, and soon, in parts of Europe as well. After her current tour wraps, she has plans of going abroad for a promotional tour in parts of Europe, specifically in France. In the meantime, however, she has been working hard on music for her next album, which she notes has been an interesting experience. “I feel like this next record will probably be just 22, 23. Which is weird because that’s a very different time. Like who knows who I’m even going to be on that record?”
Whoever she becomes for this next record, her most recent obstacle as an artist and a person will most definitely be patch worked into her lyrics. After about a month on her first tour with a group called Radical Face, Lily fell down a flight of stairs and slipped two discs in her back. It wasn’t until 6 weeks later that she could walk again. According to Lily, it has been the most excruciating experience that she has ever been through, and has taught her a lot about pain, love, and expectations. “That has brought a whole new perspective on my 22 years. Like, what pain is, and what are limitations in your mind, and what are limitations in your body. And its interesting because you see who shows up for you to be a friend, or to be helpful,” says Lily. She explains that many of her friends couldn’t stand to see her in so much pain, and some couldn’t visit her until she was better.
The experience changed the way she approached writing too, because for a while, she couldn’t pick up her guitar, or leave her house for a new perspective. “It was weird because usually you write a song, you clean out your closet, you go for a jog, you can get out of your environment,” Lily explains.
Now that she is on the mend, Lily says that everything is easier. Her fall put everything into perspective for her, and now she knows that any obstacle that befalls her is manageable. For now, she is humbled by her career, and plans to continue to write and put out more music soon. She also will be touring parts of the U.S. through the end of March, at which point she will go back to LA for a rest before heading on that promotional tour in Europe.
Even though her plans are big, Lily is stays modest. She says that for now, “I’m just very grateful that I get to tour, that I get to sing, that I get to write music. I’m just grateful. It makes me so happy. And scared. But that’s the best thing, because then you feel alive.”
**A version of this story was published by Naked Magazine in April 2014