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Photo credit: Simon Congdon

Getting To Know: Sounds Like Lily

Acclaimed artist Sounds Like Lilly, fronted by 18-year-old sensation Lily Mackay has released her debut EP, Glad I Met Ya.

A collaboration with multi-instrumentalist Rowland O’Connor, the EP was recorded in her native Devon with producers Jimi Stewart and Tommy Williams (Arlo Parks, Bonobo, Beka, Hearing Aid Beige). The EP draws on a rich lineage of soul – with jazz, pop and hip-hop influences – to produce a lush contemporary sound akin to Yebba or D’Angelo.

Known for her incredible voice, Lily also shows off her skills as a songwriter on the release – writing all the lyrics and co-writing each track. She also co-produced.

We had a chat with Lily all about her influences, Glad I Met Ya, her creative process and ore. Read the Q&A below.

Hi Lily! How are you? Please tell us a bit about yourself and what it was that led you to make music. Who/what were you influenced by growing up?

“Hi there! I’m doing alright thank you. The last few months have been pretty busy and intense, but I’m grateful for it all.

“So, I’ve just turned 18, and I live in Devon with my parents. I was born and brought up in France, near Poitier, and lived there for 10 years. The move from France to England was quite sudden and I hadn’t fully grasped the depth of what was happening at the time (Not that I would – I was only 10!). It definitely had an impact on me. In my first few years in England I struggled a lot with loneliness and feeling isolated as making friends was quite challenging.

“I suppose that’s where my love for music came in. My family is quite music orientated – my mum and sister are both musicians and my dad is a big music lover. Growing up I remember we listened to such an eclectic mix of music: the Gypsy Kings, ABBA, West Side Story, Norah Jones, Zaz, Leonard Cohen, Stromae and Kate Bush. We even listened to classical ballet scores as I did ballet growing up. We would burn lots of CDs that we kept in the car, and we often had soundtracks of films on there, including the tracks from the Chronicles of Narnia.

“Me and my sister would constantly be singing around the house, often harmonising with each other. Singing has always been a part of my life, although I only really started to take it seriously when I joined a youth music organisation in Totnes called Jamming Station. They really encouraged me to take my singing seriously, and really helped me with confidence and technique. I joined when I was around 13 – so now I’ve been singing for about 5 years!

“As I’ve grown as an artist and have a greater understanding of what it is I want to do, my influences have definitely changed. I would consider myself a neo-soul singer, but I have so many influences, the major ones being Yebba, Ella Fitzgerald, Moonchild, Hiatus Kayote, Lianne La Havas, Masego…the list is endless, and I can’t just give you two or three!!

“I’m currently studying at Exeter college doing a music performance and production diploma, which I’m enjoying. However I am getting to the point where my motivation to do school work has moved on to somewhere else! All of my musical knowledge, industry based or songwriting, has been learnt through doing it, with the help of some wonderful people I’ve been lucky enough to have supported me. I know I still have lots of gaps in my knowledge, and learning to do, but I’m just itching to move on to the next step!”

You’ve just released your debut EP. What can you tell us about it? What are the songs about and what does it mean to you?

“Sounds Like Lily is a collaboration between myself and Rowland O’Connor – an amazing guitarist and composer. We’ve been writing and performing songs together for around 4 years now and I’m so grateful for the amazing opportunities this project has given us. I’m very proud of all our songs, but especially this EP (Glad I Met Ya) and I can’t wait for it to be out there, in the world.

“In the run up to the EP launch, we’ve released 3 singles, including ‘The Feeling’ which just came out in early October this year. The love and support we’ve received so far has been amazing. All the tracks were recorded and produced by James Stewart and Tommy Williams, at Sorting Room Studios. Love those guys. They are incredible producers.

Glad I Met Ya contains 5 songs, 7 tracks in total – it’s been a few years in the making, and the recording process was quite stop-start because of the various lockdowns. But I’m so glad it happened when and how it did. If it had happened any sooner, the tracks might have sounded completely different and some of the songs might not have even been written!

“We are really proud of it and can’t wait for it to be out in the world! One thing I love about Glad I Met Ya is that the tracks are stylistically diverse – they don’t fit under one bracket. I think there’s a song for everyone.

“The title track has a political vibe. I was listening to a song with a really interesting spoken word breakdown where the lyrics got a bit political and I just wanted to have a go. At the time I was mainly writing about love and all that stuff, so I wanted to show that that wasn’t all I could do. I’m not sure it makes a lot of sense to other people, but I didn’t want to change it because that was younger Lily’s song and I wanted to honour that if that makes sense? Anyway, it makes sense to me! It’s about reconnecting with someone you used to know and viewing them as someone else because they have changed into someone you no longer recognise, because of things like politics and exposure. I was looking at how people can sometimes change the moment attention is given to them.

“The other songs are really varied though. ‘Daydreaming’ definitely has this summery vibe; ‘Cupid’ is a heartfelt ballad and was very much a classic 3/4 ballad when we played it live, but in the studio, it transformed into a more D’Angelo groove; ‘The Feeling’ is about being in love; ‘Penny’ is a bit feminist and fierce, definitely written from a woman’s perspective. Without giving away too much, there are some really cool ear-candy moments on the EP.”

What is your creative process like?

“It’s always changing. I don’t really have a constant pattern I follow. Sometimes I will have an idea, explore and finish it myself, and then bring it to Row to expand on. Sometimes we’ll bounce ideas off each other and write collaboratively that way. Sometimes he will bring a song to me and I will add the lyrics and melody over the top. It always varies but generally I always come up with the melody and lyrics and Row will come up with the chord progressions and instrumentation.”

What do you hope listeners take away from your music?

“Well in the simplest form, I just hope people enjoy what we’re doing and want more! I’d like people to appreciate what we’re doing with head and heart, to be moved and relate, but most of all just feel something afterwards (positive hopefully). Music is the way I express myself creatively so I’d love for what I’m doing to somehow help other people by making them feel certain emotions, if that makes sense? Ultimately, I just want to make people happy.”

Finally, what’s next for you? Any more new music in the works? Any gigs lined up?

“We’ll be doing a launch gig for Glad I Met Ya – complete with a full band, including drums, bass, backing vocals and a brass section. After that, the plan is to keep creating and see where the music takes us.”

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