Finding Your Voice

In life and in music we often struggle to find our own voice, both physically and emotionally. Learning to speak out about what we really want in life, rather than following along the production line of normality opens up so many possibilities for us, not only as people but as musicians as well. Lucy Schwartz began her musical career quite young, and often struggled to express what she wanted creatively. Being young in the professional world is a daunting experience, but it certainly has shaped Lucy into the bright young woman she is today. 

Having worked collaboratively on a few soundtracks for films such as Shrek, Twilight and then going solo and creating her own songs, Lucy Schwartz has recently released her album ‘Timekeeper’, featuring the beautiful song, “Time Will Tell” which we talk about below. With two EP’s  and another two other albums ‘Life in Letters’ and ‘Winter in June’, Lucy writes what she feels. With her mesmerising voice accompanied by piano, her songs are a perfectly eloquent combination to daydream to. They’re dreamy, mystical and hauntingly beautiful. Below we catch up with Lucy talking all things music videos and where she finds her inspiration from. 

Getting straight into your music, fans and critics describe your music as hauntingly beautiful, dreamy and even mystic at times. What state of mind are you usually in when you write your songs?

Well, I really like that people see it as dreamy, magical and mystic. That’s exactly what I hope to express. And what state of mind am I in when I write songs? I really like that question. I’ve been asked,“How do you write? What’s the process?”…but I don’t think I have ever been asked, “What’s your state of mind when you write”. It’s an interesting thing to stop and think about. Well, I think when I play piano and when I write, it’s very meditative for me, almost subconscious, in a way. When I go to write a song I let my hands fall onto the keys, almost without thinking, I just sort of let them dance across the keys, and if I come across a few chords that spark something — that ignite some kind of magic or mood or emotion — then I follow the music down that road, and see what I find. 

And finding the words is both sort of conscious and subconscious. I just try to capture the feeling of the chords.

What was it like filming the Time Will Tell Video?

It was really fun, I co-directed the video with a wonderful artist named Tom Haney, who makes figurative, kinetic pieces called automata. It was really wonderful getting to collaborate with Tom.  I had seen one of his automata pieces in a store years ago, and beside his piece was a projection of a music video that he had co-directed for Little Tybee called “BoxCar Fair”. I absolutely loved the video, and the playful magic of his work and I thought “I have to work with this artist one day!”. Years later, I reached out to Tom about “Time Will Tell”.

Tom’s in Atlanta and I’m LA, so we brainstormed ideas for the video via email and the phone. While he was building the marionette he would send me photos of all the different stages of creating the marionette. It was really interesting and beautiful to see the marionette in all it’s stages, and then see it come to life when we were filming with the puppeteers, Raymond Carr and Beau Brown.

Your music is very visually compatible, it’s like closing your eyes and drifting away to another reality for a few minutes. Where do you like to source your inspiration from?

In the last few years, I’ve really started to notice the connection between music and imagery. When I hear music, it’ll also strike up images in my mind. So lately I have been really inspired by visual art- especially photography. One of my personal heroes is the photographer Tim Walker — he creates these incredible, fantastical, dreamy images that I wish I could live inside. There is another incredible photographer who I love, Tierney Gearon. I’ve actually been lucky enough to work with Tierney – she created the album cover for Timekeeper, and directed a video for my song “Ghost In My House”.  

When I recorded my latest album, Timekeeper, photography was actually a really important part of the process. I was working with a fantastic, creative, inventive mixer named Shawn Everett. And I remember, we were working on a particular song that I wanted to make some adjustments to, but I couldn’t quite put into words what the song needed, so instead I showed Shawn a photograph I had saved as inspiration and said “The song looks like this photo to me”. And it was really kind of cool, Shawn totally got it.  He saw the photo and he really captured the feeling of the image in the next version of the mix. So we started working that way for the rest of the album…I’d handpick images for what each song “looked like”. It was an interesting, different way to work. And Shawn is just brilliant!

On location on the "Time Will Tell" music video.

On location on the “Time Will Tell” music video.

You’ve composed a few tracks for some movies like Shrek, Twilight and when you were 18 you even wrote something for Meg Ryan’s, The Women. Music has obviously been a very large part of your life, do you think it has helped shape you as the person you are today?

I definitely think that having an outlet to express myself has helped shape who I am. Whenever you’re creating something- a story, art, music – you’re constantly delving into your inner world and getting a clearer picture of who you are. I feel very lucky to be able to make music for a living. It’s kind of a crazy profession when you think about it. But I grew up in a very artistic family; my dad is a composer, my uncle is a composer, my grandparents were painters, my brother and cousin are music video directors, we’re all a bunch of artists (laughs). So I didn’t feel like the odd duckling choosing music, it probably would’ve been strange if I had chosen to be a lawyer or a doctor.

What have you learned in terms of life lessons through your work as a musician?

Well I think that I have learned a lot on the business side of things. I have learned to have my own voice. When I started out, I was quite young, and I didn’t know what to say in meetings. I wasn’t sure of myself.  If I was asked for my opinion I would turn to the person next to me for the answer. But the more experience I had over the years, the more comfortable I became. And I think now I have a very clear vision of the things I want to create, and of who I am. Now I’m very comfortable with speaking up. I have a lot of opinions and I express them often (laughs).

You just released Timekeeper in 2013 and have been on some amazing tours supporting artists such as Agnes Obel and others over the span of your career. What do you have planned for the rest of the year?

I’m not going to be doing too much touring this year- maybe a few shows here and there- I’m focusing more on other creative projects. I’ve been working on writing a script and original songs for movie musical. The story is still a secret (we’ll keep it hush, hush), but I’m excited about that project. I’ve also been loving directing music videos, and I want to do more of that. I also just wrote a song called “Black Roses” for the show Nashville.  I’d love to do some more writing for Nashville this year and keep writing songs for other film and TV projects. I just want to keep creating! And then I’m working with a wonderful organization called Heifer International. They do amazing work to end hunger & poverty & empower women. I’m thrilled and honoured that I will be travelling with them to Cambodia to see their work first-hand.  

Thinking back to your first album in 2010, the “Life in Letters” music video must have been quite a fun experience to work on, what was that like to film?

Yeah, the Life In Letters video was really wonderful. And since it was an underwater music video, and water was such an important element in the video, I wanted to find a way to connect the video to a water charity…so I connected the video to an amazing organization called Charity Water, that works to provide clean water to communities around the world. So that was great!

The actual filming of the video was very, very, difficult though (laughs). I always think up these of crazy ideas and think, “Yeah, I can do that! I can do an underwater music video!” and then I’m there on the film day, and I’m like “actually this is kind of a crazy idea”. When I was in the pool, I had these heavy weights on me so that I would sink…. so every time I pushed myself up and out of the water, it was a workout (laughs).  And there was all this equipment over the pool to carry the camera gear, and there were these pointy spiky things I kept hitting my head on when I’d reach the surface. I was also using scuba gear, and I’d never used scuba gear before, and it was a bit scary and claustrophobic to do that. We filmed for two days and by the end of it I was so exhausted, my body just felt like giving up.

That must have been pretty exhausting!

The other complicated thing was that we put this huge wooden organ in the pool. The plan was that I was going to play the organ underwater. It didn’t end up working for the video, because the organ wouldn’t sink. It just was floating and then it started oozing this yellow, poisonous-looking stuff into the pool. So the pool was all yellow. And then we put some chlorine in to sort of “clean” the water, and continued filming in the pool of yellow poison (laughs).

Then the other shooting day was in the desert. It was 106 degrees, with wind storms and people were getting heat stroke. So it was difficult to say the least. I actually made a shirt for everybody on the crew that said, “I survived the Lucy Schwartz music video,” (laughs).

And it turned into a lovely video! And it was awesome working with the directors Shiloh Strong and Mallory Morrison (Mallory is an amazing underwater photographer).

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Photo: Ben James

You probably get asked this a lot, but you worked on a track for Arrested Development, you were a part of George Michael’s band, and your father was the composer for the series. The big question; who’s your favourite character? I absolutely love the show I just started watching it and I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a series so much.

My favourite character is Buster. I love Buster, he’s so hilarious, he’s the greatest.

Being a part of the band must have been pretty cool!

I loved it. I actually knew some of the other people in the band and we had a lot of fun. At one point, we had a long wait before they needed us to film, and we –as the fake band- just started jamming out and swapping instruments, and making up songs on the spot. And the location we were filming in was a college, and as we were jamming out, a group of people walked through the room on a school tour. And so suddenly we had an audience too, and we’re just singing a very silly made-up song. It was pretty funny.

So just wrapping up, if you could collaborate with any musician from any time period, who would it be and why?

I think I’d have to go with the ghost of John Lennon, because he’s a musical genius and he’s very magical.

John Lennon would have been great to work with! Well thank you for the interview Lucy, have a lovely night! We hope to see you in Australia soon!

That’s okay, thank you for having me! I haven’t been to Australia yet but I will definitely have to come over soon!

You can hear some of Lucy’s music on her website at www.lucyshwartzmusic.com and on her YouTube channel.

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