A few years back, I had the pleasure of being introduced to the Lynette Williams the artist at benefit concert in Brooklyn, NYC. Her distinct voice, energy and performance captured my attention immediately. The singer/songwriter performed a beautiful acoustic version of her song “What Am I Loving You For” and I have been a fan ever since. We recently had the pleasure to speak with Lynette Williams about life and topics such as inspiration, image and aloneness. Take a few moments to gain some perspective and insight from the very intelligent, beautiful, talented, and inspirational Lynette Williams in our Q&A below.
Where do you draw inspiration from when you are writing ? Do you have any rituals or mood setters before you begin?
First and foremost, from everyday living, from experiences, and relationships. But I’m also really inspired by people.For example, I’m reading Carl Jung’s The Red Book.
His ideas on collective and individual consciousness are something I’ve been trying to mull over in my head.
I’m of course really inspired by artists like Frida Kahlo, Basquiat, Warhol, Pollock. Last week I went to an amazing exhibit at The ICP Museum by Lauren Greenfield. Her photography illuminated the dangers of how affluence has influenced our society thereby changing our concept of worth and reality. She discussed the notion that from a young age women are taught their body is their currency and how that has shaped the relationship we have with ourselves and the world. It was truly incredible.
Seeing other people’s art, exhibits, ideas, and perspectives is inspiring. And of course I have my staple authors Zadie Smith, Junot Diaz, Fitzgerald, Shakespeare, Murakamki, Marquez, and Morrison. There’s been a few streaming shows lately like The OA, Transparent, Atlanta, and The Ozarks which really resonate as well. – all these mediums lead me to find ways to express my thoughts.
How has your songwriting changed since you moved to Harlem? Has the landscape and energy of the city had an effect on the way you approach a song?
Good question. I think Harlem consists of a culture that has so much history and meaning. I wish I could have been around during the Harlem Renaissance. I can still feel the creativity and vibrancy that artists of that time had. In Harlem, the movement still exists.
What is your favorite song that you have written? Can you elaborate on the value it has to you ?
I don’t think I have one …
What is your musical background? Does music and songwriting run in your family or did you just discover your passion and talents on your own?
Art and music were definitely part of my family. My sister dances, my mom has multiple artistic abilities, and my dad plays the drums. I played violin from age four through high school.But violin was nothing compared to the moment I found guitar. – I finally had a means to put my thoughts into musical form – it was life changing.
What is your favorite song to perform live and why?
That’s a hard one. I don’t know that I have an all time favorite but depending on where I’m at certain songs resonate more than others to perform. I usually feel connected when I sing Frida, Tengo, and Savage currently I would say.
Your song Savage has over 80,000 plays, can you describe the feeling when you see people embracing your music on that scale?
I’m shocked and honored. I honestly didn’t anticipate Savage being listened to so much. I’m really happy though because the meaning of the song is something I have strong beliefs about. It’s always gratifying to know other people connect to it and feel similarly.
Your song Au Revoir is very beautiful, is it based off a personal experience? Also do you speak French fluently?
Ha, I wish I was fluent!
Yes, this song is based on a personal experience. I needed to say goodbye to someone. I loved this person so deeply and so vexingly that I sat in the loss of them for a really long time. I couldn’t move. I blamed myself for it not working out and then held a responsibility for the end of our relationship that wasn’t mine to hold in the first place. I secretly hoped there’d be some huge epiphany on their part and they’d miraculously and simultaneously change. I hoped with time our connection would have been so great that it would eventually pull us back together. But time passed, years, and I finally realized change is slow and we weren’t meant for each other.
What value do you place on image? How important is your image to you?
I suppose it depends on the context of image. I care about my ability to be comfortable in my own skin and the image that exudes. There’s this inherent magnetism and beauty in both men and women when they feel good in their own bodies and souls.
I’m not alone in this struggle, but I really battle with my self perception and body image. Sometimes, more than not I’m looking at a plethora of flaws that feel too insurmountable to fix. This paralyzes me at times.
It’s not natural. I don’t believe it’s natural to hate yourself, to hate your flaws, to feel embarrassed because you’re imperfect.
Somewhere along the line I started believing that my imperfections have made me completely unlovable and unworthy, and I have worn that burden and belief for a really long time. I’ve worn it like a truth, a fact of life. It has shaped the way I interact with the world, people, and myself.
There is a torture in feeling like you are not in the right body, you are not who you are supposed to be.
So for me, feeling like you are who you are supposed to be, that’s the only image I care about.
What are the pros/cons that come along with being an independent artist?
I’d say being independent allows artists to stay true to their art form with less influence from exterior perspectives. The grassroots appeal of indie life is very cool too. I find that there are some incredible artists in the more underground scene.
It’s nice to have a budget, team, and comprehensive marketing plan provided by a record label but it’s also not necessary anymore. And unless they really get the vision and are willing to invest in that vision, to me going the indie route makes more sense.
The industry is antiquated, still working out of a system that prioritizes superficiality over everything else – their bottom line is short term rewards. Cultivating artistry, allowing artists to evolve and be authentic is only important to them if it’s making notable returns.
Sometimes the return on investment is slow – especially when the art is good. How are you going to innovate if you use the same formula of the past? ”Been there, done that”, could be the slogan for a lot of labels these days.
I believe everything has to start with the art. Image, numbers, these things can be manipulated but you can’t fake the gift. I suppose the gift rarely matters in the big industry realm. Indie allows for art over everything.
Do you feel pop music is Hyper-sexualised today compared to the past?
Yes. I wish there was more room for a variety of aesthetics within pop culture. It often feels like the same narrative is being spoken by the same people over and over again.
Our sexuality is very much an integral part of our identity but it’s one facet of many. Sometimes the explicitness of the portrayal of sex in pop culture disregards the other aspects of a person’s essence and it makes pop art lay on the surface. – making artists seem one dimensional.
If there were other perspectives, aesthetics, messages, voices, than it wouldn’t feel so distorted and objectifying. It wouldn’t feel so overwhelming to constantly see so much nakedness and sex because there would be some artists that spoke another message, sang another tune.
How do you navigate through the music industry while remaining true to yourself as an artist and more importantly your being?
The journey thus far has really been humbling. There’s moments where everything looks grand and moments where everything looks void and bleak. I’d say in the past year and a half I went through some much needed but
difficult growing pains.
I had to confront really imperative questions. Why am I doing this? Is it for the money? Is it for the fame? Do I need accolades or some type of ungotten validation?
After the panic subsided and defeat disintegrated, after the discouragement dissipated and the hope refilled, I understood something I hadn’t before — I create and perform because I have to. It’s that simple. I feel it in my bones and it’s the way in which I connect with this world.
Creating is what’s most important. This has helped me push my fears to the side and continue writing even when it’s hard.
Bob Dylan, Norah Jones and MF DOOM are all incredible wordsmiths and have distinct sounds. Which of the three would you say influenced you the most and which would you choose to feature on your next project and why?
Definitely Bob Dylan for both. He is one of my all time inspirations.
Can you tell us an artist people might be surprised you would want to work with and the reason being?
Hmmmm. Julius Casablancas. I love his delivery when he sings and I find him to be honest and sincere.
Currently, what song is your guilty pleasure and what do you like about it?
Glue by Fickle Friends. It’s just so good …
What is your biggest phobia? Do you have a phobia of being alone?
You summed it up! Aloneness. I am deeply and completely afraid of being alone.
One of my great fears is when we die we float around in space alone.
The concept of nothingness also ties into my fear of aloneness. The thought of not existing one day is frightening and incomprehensible.
Perhaps I’m afraid that true love is a myth and it’s not somehow waiting for me. So while I’m alive I won’t experience this thing I believe to be so important to existence.