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Interview: Lowell On Naming Albums, Her Musical Inspiration and Wolves

Elizabeth Lowell Boland, known by stage name Lowell, self-identifies as both a feminist and a wolf and her music matches that. “Words Were The Wars” is a self-reflective track about finding the strength to leave an abusive relationship, while “LGBT” is a triumphant and joyful pro-gay-rights anthem.

With a voice that echoes Lykke Li or Bjork, her songs are sometimes fierce and fiery and other times ethereal and gloomy. Often, they fit somewhere between those two categories. Lowell’s video for “High Enough” was released earlier this month, and a EP titled Part 1: Paris YK is coming soon. We met up with Lowell in Brooklyn, where Lyndsey Havens interviewed Lowell and Meghan McCabe took portraits.

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Tell me about yourself — when and how did you discover your passion for music, and how did you develop you own voice?
I’ve been doing music since I was 3 but I didn’t really start writing music until high school maybe, when I hit puberty and was grumpy all the time and didn’t know why so I sat down at the piano and hashed it out. And since then I’ve just been writing everyday, it’s my own form of therapy. I guess that brings me to how I found my voice, I think that while I was struggling with certain things — whether that was in high school dealing with the reality of being bisexual or whatever you’re dealing with in high school — some of the shit I did and went though afterwards, and then going into music and stuff like that just gave me a way to deal with those things and so I realized that music can be really therapeutic, and by being honest and reflective in my own music other people could find a way to also deal with their own issues, especially if they don’t write music. [They can] listen to mine and see if they relate.

Do you remember when you first played one of your own songs for somebody?
I know when I was six I remember saying to my dad “Dad I wrote a song,” but other than that I did a talent show once and played an original song in grade nine and that song was called “The Birds” which I then released later on my Apparatjik and Lowell EP (titled If You Can, Solve This Jumble). Then the next time I performed it was with Apparatjik and in front of 50,000 thousand people… so a little bit of a jump. There was a writing phase in between.

_MG_9921

Who and/or what inspires you as an artist and as a person?
That’s such an easy question for me right now because I’m working on my second album and just reflecting on my own influences and I think Bjork is a big one for me, and has become a big one recently. I always looked up to her in a sort of existential way but I never really understood what it was, so I’ve gone back in and dug into her albums and they’re really special. I [also] always say Feist… she is kind of monumental for me because she also signed to Arts and Crafts. I sort of stalked her career — sorry Feist, it’s okay I don’t know you though — but there’s something about the way she can kind of do whatever she wants but she’s had crossover appeal without sacrificing any sort of dignity. For me it’s a good one.

Your Facebook bio says you are “literally and figuratively a wolf,” can you expand on that?
Well Lowell, which is my real name, means wolf cub in French. So my parents had that in mind when they named me and wanted me to be a wolf, and you know I always make connections like my father lives in the Yukon, which is right next to Alaska, and it’s very sparse and all about nature so I used to spend summers up there kind of by myself just running around and I think I just though I was a wolf.

So you embodied the character of a wolf…
Yeah, I became the wolf… and you know, I try to carry it over into my personality as an adult. Be fierce and what not.

So far in your career, what are you most proud of?
Well it changes, and it goes up and down. But I think that — coming back to having a voice — I think the thing that I channel the most is just… I found a way to make music but make it feel like more than that. It feels kind of self-indulgent to say but I think that everybody wants to have a purpose, so for me finding a way to be self aware and encourage other people to be that way, I think that that’s something I’m proud of, especially because it’s not always easy to do. The easy thing is to go through life and not care about other people, especially when you’re an artist because people want you to be that way, so I’m kind of proud of myself for not… being an asshole, I guess.

Definitely something to be proud of.
Yeah, I don’t know if that’s kind of an asshole thing to say.

On the flip side, what do you still hope to accomplish and what are your future plans and goals?
Well right now I’m working on a second album, which is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life. Your first album you don’t have that many expectations… having never done one before, so the worst thing you can do is just not make the album. As soon as you make the album it’s automatically better than not making one. But [now that I’ve] done an album I’ve had some praise from niche areas, and so reflecting on that but then trying not to get too lost in that as well. And so at the moment I’m just trying to make the perfect album. And then if it’s not this one, eventually in my life I would like to make the perfect album.

What’s your idea of perfect?
For me it’s in the writing. If every song is relatable and still catchy and still has a purpose.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Hm… that’s a tough one. My mom always says, I don’t know if this is advice, but she always says, “Everything always evens out.” And I carry that into my life all the time. It doesn’t necessarily mean karma is a bitch, but it’s kind of more like the concept of the whole world wanting to be one thing, and it can’t really change too much or else everything goes out of order. So if you’re too much of an asshole then it will come back to you, and if you’re always nice all the time and you never think about yourself then that can also be a thing. Everything always evens out, in little things, too.

And my last question, any floating album titles for your second one? What inspires your album titles?
Usually I just joke around with my friends until one sticks. I’ve been cutting all the second verses from my pop writing so I was going to call this album No Second Verses — I’m not actually going to call it that, but that was the album name of the day. So the day that I have to submit it, it will be the one that I came up with that day. Last time I wanted my album to be called Pussy Rider, and then my album cover was going to be me riding on a cat, but then I was talked out of it, so….

Well, maybe with your second album you can take a risk like that. Or maybe a third album…
Yeah, maybe a third. Or fourth.

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Interview: Lowell On Naming Albums, Her Musical Inspiration and Wolves

Elizabeth Lowell Boland, known by stage name Lowell, self-identifies as both a feminist and a wolf and her music matches that. “Words Were The Wars” is a self-reflective track about finding the strength to leave an abusive relationship, while “LGBT” is a triumphant and joyful pro-gay-rights anthem.

With a voice that echoes Lykke Li or Bjork, her songs are sometimes fierce and fiery and other times ethereal and gloomy. Often, they fit somewhere between those two categories. Lowell’s video for “High Enough” was released earlier this month, and a EP titled Part 1: Paris YK is coming soon. We met up with Lowell in Brooklyn, where Lyndsey Havens interviewed Lowell and Meghan McCabe took portraits.

_MG_9915

Tell me about yourself — when and how did you discover your passion for music, and how did you develop you own voice?
I’ve been doing music since I was 3 but I didn’t really start writing music until high school maybe, when I hit puberty and was grumpy all the time and didn’t know why so I sat down at the piano and hashed it out. And since then I’ve just been writing everyday, it’s my own form of therapy. I guess that brings me to how I found my voice, I think that while I was struggling with certain things — whether that was in high school dealing with the reality of being bisexual or whatever you’re dealing with in high school — some of the shit I did and went though afterwards, and then going into music and stuff like that just gave me a way to deal with those things and so I realized that music can be really therapeutic, and by being honest and reflective in my own music other people could find a way to also deal with their own issues, especially if they don’t write music. [They can] listen to mine and see if they relate.

Do you remember when you first played one of your own songs for somebody?
I know when I was six I remember saying to my dad “Dad I wrote a song,” but other than that I did a talent show once and played an original song in grade nine and that song was called “The Birds” which I then released later on my Apparatjik and Lowell EP (titled If You Can, Solve This Jumble). Then the next time I performed it was with Apparatjik and in front of 50,000 thousand people… so a little bit of a jump. There was a writing phase in between.

_MG_9921

Who and/or what inspires you as an artist and as a person?
That’s such an easy question for me right now because I’m working on my second album and just reflecting on my own influences and I think Bjork is a big one for me, and has become a big one recently. I always looked up to her in a sort of existential way but I never really understood what it was, so I’ve gone back in and dug into her albums and they’re really special. I [also] always say Feist… she is kind of monumental for me because she also signed to Arts and Crafts. I sort of stalked her career — sorry Feist, it’s okay I don’t know you though — but there’s something about the way she can kind of do whatever she wants but she’s had crossover appeal without sacrificing any sort of dignity. For me it’s a good one.

Your Facebook bio says you are “literally and figuratively a wolf,” can you expand on that?
Well Lowell, which is my real name, means wolf cub in French. So my parents had that in mind when they named me and wanted me to be a wolf, and you know I always make connections like my father lives in the Yukon, which is right next to Alaska, and it’s very sparse and all about nature so I used to spend summers up there kind of by myself just running around and I think I just though I was a wolf.

So you embodied the character of a wolf…
Yeah, I became the wolf… and you know, I try to carry it over into my personality as an adult. Be fierce and what not.

So far in your career, what are you most proud of?
Well it changes, and it goes up and down. But I think that — coming back to having a voice — I think the thing that I channel the most is just… I found a way to make music but make it feel like more than that. It feels kind of self-indulgent to say but I think that everybody wants to have a purpose, so for me finding a way to be self aware and encourage other people to be that way, I think that that’s something I’m proud of, especially because it’s not always easy to do. The easy thing is to go through life and not care about other people, especially when you’re an artist because people want you to be that way, so I’m kind of proud of myself for not… being an asshole, I guess.

Definitely something to be proud of.
Yeah, I don’t know if that’s kind of an asshole thing to say.

On the flip side, what do you still hope to accomplish and what are your future plans and goals?
Well right now I’m working on a second album, which is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life. Your first album you don’t have that many expectations… having never done one before, so the worst thing you can do is just not make the album. As soon as you make the album it’s automatically better than not making one. But [now that I’ve] done an album I’ve had some praise from niche areas, and so reflecting on that but then trying not to get too lost in that as well. And so at the moment I’m just trying to make the perfect album. And then if it’s not this one, eventually in my life I would like to make the perfect album.

What’s your idea of perfect?
For me it’s in the writing. If every song is relatable and still catchy and still has a purpose.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Hm… that’s a tough one. My mom always says, I don’t know if this is advice, but she always says, “Everything always evens out.” And I carry that into my life all the time. It doesn’t necessarily mean karma is a bitch, but it’s kind of more like the concept of the whole world wanting to be one thing, and it can’t really change too much or else everything goes out of order. So if you’re too much of an asshole then it will come back to you, and if you’re always nice all the time and you never think about yourself then that can also be a thing. Everything always evens out, in little things, too.

And my last question, any floating album titles for your second one? What inspires your album titles?
Usually I just joke around with my friends until one sticks. I’ve been cutting all the second verses from my pop writing so I was going to call this album No Second Verses — I’m not actually going to call it that, but that was the album name of the day. So the day that I have to submit it, it will be the one that I came up with that day. Last time I wanted my album to be called Pussy Rider, and then my album cover was going to be me riding on a cat, but then I was talked out of it, so….

Well, maybe with your second album you can take a risk like that. Or maybe a third album…
Yeah, maybe a third. Or fourth.

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