Sometimes a song is more than just a song. Sometimes a song can be a mirror to the world, or to the hidden selves we are or want to be. Lily Kershaw’s debut album, Midnight In The Garden, explores emotional landscapes and heart clutching melodies that say the unsaid things we struggle to say ourselves. The album takes root in the titans of folk music…those classic songsmiths who weave tapestries of sound with fingerpicking and tales of often unspoken truths.
In song, Kershaw is an old soul, but in person, she’s a kinetic 22 year-old, a “nearly life-long Los Angeleno,” she says. She’s ebullient and lively, quick with a joke and an infectious smile. Raised adjacent to the Hollywood machine, Kershaw offers an antidote to the long-mythologized Los Angeles glitz; she’s authentic, and honest, self-effacing and, above all, she is herself. She may not tell you this, but she’s conduit, a nexus of the experiences of the world around her. She feels the weight of the world, she says, but through song, she wears it as an emblem of who she is. Like the day-glow dreams of Los Angeles noir, she reveals the darkness that coexists with sunshine.
“It’s all about death,” she laughs, while describing her music. “I’d love to say most of my music isn’t about death or heartbreak but, well, it is.”
It comes as no surprise then, that in 2012, her single “As It Seems” provided the backdrop to the long-running CBS drama series, Criminal Minds. Her voice lilts and flows, as the guitar leans gently into minor keys, and she sings:
“Well I knew what I didn’t want to know, and I saw where I didn’t want to go,
So I took the path less travelled on, And I’ll let my stories be whispered when I’m gone.”
The song caught fire, broadcast around the world. “People wrote to me saying, ‘This is the song I want to play at my funeral,’ it was unsettling at first,” she says, “but it felt good to know that my song connects with people.”
Almost a year later, her song “Ashes Like Snow” appeared on the show with similar effect, wrapping audiences up in the meandering piano and her skyward arcing vocals. It was a song born from serendipity, nearly ten years in the making. “One day when I was at my parents house,” she says “I found this poem that I had written right at the time of the September 11 attacks, when I was just a young kid. I took some of those words and added the perspective from where we are today, in the long aftermath of war and struggle, looking back.”
Kershaw is a compulsive creator, she jots down melodies and lyrics as she’s wandering through her days. She sings melodies into her phone while sitting in traffic or secretly hums a tune into a voice recorder while out at shows, capturing any inspiration that she can channel back into her music. Her debut layers lush instrumentation over the stark skeleton of her sketches, sauntering between swaying somberness and playful uplifting anthems. Like the subtle beauty of a black rose, Kershaw’s music shores melancholy with a sense of hope and catharsis. And like she sings, her stories — her songs — are whispers or echoes, messages in bottles, cast out into the world.