Brimming with hope that is already starting to harden, the first words of Still Young, the new single by Lily Hayes grabs you with an easy hush of intimacy, and you are transported.
The subtle simplicity masks layers of meaning. This is a story of growing up, about still growing up. And you’re being drawn into a confidence. It’s not so much a secret, just the sharing of a story that makes it precious.
Vulnerability and trust
“I wrote the chorus to Still Young when I was about fifteen. (Hence the higher pitch in the last chorus),” Lily tells ArtsCulture. “I wrote it when I thought I was in sweet first love, and it reflects on the uncertainty in self-assurance that I felt, that first experience of vulnerability and trust.
“Although I wrote it so long ago, it always stayed as part of my live set, and people would always pick that song out. So when I came to thinking about recording it, the old verses didn’t seem to fit with the person I feel to be now, grown up a little bit. I re-wrote the verses and the whole song felt new and exciting again. Lily May is me now, reflecting a bit on my past naivety.”
There’s a quiet magic to Still Young that draws you in before it softly grows and swells.
Sincerity and simplicity
“Producing the song was a lovely experience, I recorded it with my boyfriend Will (of Speedboat) at his Mum’s house in Cornwall, where we’ve been living recently. I wanted the recording to reflect the sincerity of the song, so wanted to keep it really simple. Think Linda Perhacs, Sybille Baier, Connie Converse – I love the honesty of their recordings,” said Lily.
Lily Hayes is also recommended listen for anyone who’s a fan of Sufjan Stevens, Fiona Apple, Sofia Wolfson, Laura Marling, Emmy The Great, Self Esteem and Cate Le Bon.
The simplicity and intimacy of the tune is combined with the richness of the song.
“In re-writing the song, I wanted the verses to be a kind of response to the chorus,” said Lily.
“In the chorus I’m naive, but in the verses I wanted to be more assertive. Maybe that contributes to the balance. Production wise, Johnny Griffiths (Speedboat) did a really beautiful job of mixing, I’m really pleased with the way the vocals sit clearly sweetly on the rest of the track.
‘Relationships inspire me’
“Relationships inspire me – not necessarily my own, but intimacy and vulnerability between people. I think I’ve got a lot of learning and growing still to do with writing, and I’m excited to see where that takes me. I’m inspired a lot by landscape and storytelling too, the identity of places.
“I find lyrics really important in music. Lyrically I always return to the big guns: Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan. And Joanna Newsom!
“I listen to a lot of different music. Goldfrapp, Bowie, Kate Bush, are all super favourites. I’m really inspired by the energy with those artists, and eventually want to explore different genres within my own terms. I’m also really inspired by culture and storytelling in music, and get a lot out of listening to artists such as Mulatu Astatke (Ethiopia), all the way through to the home Cornish and Welsh of Gwenno.”
Culture and storytelling
These are difficult, strange times. Lily had been building a dedicated following across Brighton, London and the South West. And notching up a steady stream of shows with the likes of Holiday Ghosts, The Golden Dregs and ex-Black Tambourines project Buffalo Postcard. She will also be featured on the soundtrack for independent film MUSH, due for release later this year. How’s the lockdown affected her?
“Well, I lost my job and my house in Brighton,” she said. “Whilst all of that is really stressful and sad, it’s opened up a lot more doors in terms of thinking outside the box in regards to the future. I’m trying to sustain positivity, and in a way I’m extremely grateful that those doors have led to thinking about my music more seriously. I’m trying not to take for granted my privilege.
“I think the road to whatever comes next is going to be rocky, but hoping that from hard changes will come something better.”
Releasing a single during this time has also reflected something the sections of the whole of the UK has been feeling – a sense of community.
“It’s really nice to have something to focus on, and gear towards. It’s been a long time since I released anything (Soft on Me came out March 2019), and my music took a backseat whilst I finished my degree and worked full-time.
“So in that way, it’s ironically making me feel much more connected. It’s amazing to feel the support and community – Tom Stockley from We Are Uncollective has been really instrumental and supportive in this release. (Big love to We Are Uncollective – a platform committed to providing an intersectional and co-produced platform for the arts, across the South West, UK, and beyond).
That leads to the question ‘what’s the role of the artist / musician in society?’
“For me, art and music are communication, and so important in community. Music lends the listener a feeling, feels it with you, whether it’s angry, sad, happy, excited, whatever. It unites people. As does art, and both art and music act as vehicles for whatever people are experiencing, and equally as importantly documents that feeling in time. Condensed emotion, exciting and explorative!
Still Young is released today (May 18) and Lily Hayes’ last single Soft on Me is available on all streaming platforms, too.
“As for when there will be more – I’ve always approached my music as an on-going project, and don’t expect it to ever be the same or formulaic,” said Lily.
“I’m working on not bowing to the pressures of constant releases, staying relevant, the music is part of me that will always stay with me, so I always want to be sharing it. I’d like to keep up the momentum and record some more of my songs though, definitely more than a single per year!”
Still Young is a digital release.
It’s out on all major streaming platforms from May 18
We Are Uncollective on Instagram