Lydia Luce on "Azalea"
Nashville-based Lydia Luce’s debut full length record, Azalea, is out tomorrow Sept. 21st. Azalea combines Luce’s strength in storytelling and deep knowledge and understanding of string arrangements to create a cinematic record that feels complex yet refreshingly relatable. Luce described the writing and recording process and how her background in viola prepared her for this full body of work to us in preparation for the release. Read her full reflection below.
by Lydia Luce
I started writing this record the year I moved to Nashville. It took a few months of locking myself in a room, recording the songs on my own to try and figure out what the heck I was trying to create. I knew I loved playing the viola and writing songs. I was fresh out of getting my Master's degree in viola performance (viola master!!!!!!) and I knew I wanted to make it stringy. One of the first songs I wrote was Sausalito, a song reflecting my thoughts of the west and letting go. The songs kept tumbling from this nature-esque place. I was missing that bold and beautiful west coast. Helen was the next song I wrote (with Skylar Wilson) which is about beautiful Mt. St. Helens in the Pacific Northwest. I grew up at sea level in South Florida so I think my heart is mesmerized by the grandiose landscapes of the west coast.
I met Jordan Lehning through Skylar because I knew he was one of the dudes in town that understood strings and had a knack for orchestral arrangements. The first song we recorded was My Heart in Mind. I had made a demo of it with a little string arrangement and sent it to Jordan who then rearranged the parts and orchestrated it so beautifully. This was the only song on the record that I did not play viola on. We didn't know how that would look at first, we thought maybe it was better to be able to listen to the parts and not be immersed in them in the quartet. I really wanted to play...so the rest of the songs I was up in that quartet immersed in all of the sonic glory. It was freaking fun.
The record cover was an idea I had after getting into contemporary ballet and improvised dance. I've been taking these classes at the Nashville Ballet for the past few months and really digging it. I think dance has this ability to help you tap into parts of your body like yoga does and really feel connected. Its also just fun and I have a lot of energy that I'm constantly needing to expel. I sent a mess of interesting old dance photos to my friend Jacquline Justice and we spent about 2 hours in a studio capturing movement.
There are several songs on the record that are about loneliness. I think I felt it was a scary, terrible thing to be alone but I have learned to love it and now I require it for personal sanity! Particularly being alone in nature. This year I have gone on several solo camping trips, snorkels and adventures and have realized how important it is! I needed to start learning how to be alone with myself so that I could be better for my humans. The song Strawberry Moon goes the deepest into this idea. There is a line in the song that says "As the night rushes into me, I'm letting go of what I do not need, that lonely feeling, the one I cannot breathe in. I'll throw it into the sea and let it wash away." And though my mother does not love the idea of wandering out into the woods alone I think I'll continue to make it a habit.