Lila Gray

What is your favorite kind of soup?

This is super basic, but I'm going to say tomato. It's so good, pair that with like a cheese bagel and I'm sold.

         Lila Gray is another Vancouver local whose musical stylings are inspired by all sorts of genres. With a classical background in the cello beginning at a very young age, Lila has become an artist who experiments in many mediums and genres, most notably pop, alternative, house, and folk. In 2021 Lila placed in the Top 100 CBC Searchlight Competition, and since then has continued to expand on her skills of music production and songwriting. Lila has moved back to Vancouver after a stint in Montreal where she expanded her musical studies and brought in new influences. Her knack for storytelling really drives her music forward, and she has developed her own voice and many different unique and exciting musical styles that defy genre labels. She has released two albums, one in 2021 under the name Not What I Was Promised, and more recently this year she released her sophomore album, Wild Tension. The tour that followed the album just wrapped up in several Canadian cities, and highlights from the Vancouver show at Red Gate Art Society can be viewed above! I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to sit down with Lila to discuss the tour, her creative process with the album, writers block, and some sneak peeks into what is in store for fans of Lila’s music in the future.


I wanted to jump right in to talking about the recent tour that you just wrapped up. Can you tell me a little bit about that experience?

Lila: Yeah, totally! It was nothing but positive, really. We had so much fun on the road and it was so cool to get different vibes from each of the crowds in different cities. I feel like there's some cities that have a reputation for certain energies or vibes, and finding out if that was true or not. It was so neat to connect with so many different people and friends across the country as well. We had different local openers in each city and that was a treat for me to get to watch all these different cool, talented artists in all these different genres. There was no one where I felt like maybe that genre was a little bit too far out there, or not connected with my music. Everyone that had a hand in organizing the tour and being a part of it, everybody killed it. It was so appreciated.


Any of those reputations that you're referring to, did they live up to your expectations?

Lila: Yeah, absolutely. Montreal was probably my favorite crowd out of the whole tour, and I think Montreal has a pretty good reputation for being rowdy, or at least bringing the energy. They definitely did not disappoint. The one that was weird was Toronto because everyone says that they’re a great place to play and it's not that we didn't have a great show, we had a great show and everyone was really respectful, but I think everyone was taking in the music so hard and when you're on stage and people aren't laughing at your jokes it feels like everybody hates you.


Did you have a favorite stop on the tour or a particular show that really stood out?

Lila: On the West Coast, I would say Vancouver. There were so many friends that came out, our mutual friend Grayson came out and they were front row which was awesome. So yeah, Vancouver was probably my favorite on the West Coast and then on the East Coast it's a tie between Ottawa and Montreal. They were both so fun and just such good crowds, and I think those were two of the strongest in terms of our performance as well.


You moved to Montreal, didn't you? Do you feel as though the music in their local scene has influenced your sound at all since you've moved?

Lila: Yeah, definitely I have. I'm actually working on a couple of collaborations with some Montreal artists so that's a direct influence from some of the music scene there. I think there's kind of a dark alt pop kind of sound that's really popular in Montreal, like synth pop kind. I would say in terms of the music culture, in terms of collaborating with so many people, that's absolutely influenced my work in recent months. And in the future as well I'm just down to collaborate with so many random people now.


Do you want to talk about that collaboration at all or are you kind of keeping everything under wraps?

Lila: Yeah, I can talk about it a little bit. I'm working on my next album and there's a couple collaborations, one with a very talented producer. He was actually my teacher in college and now we're collaborating on some projects. He's doing some piano and some drums and stuff like that. He's got a solo project as well, I think it's just under his legal name, which is Alejandro Martinez. He's incredibly talented and I'm really excited. There's a couple others, but I think those ones I'll wait to talk about.


You started your music journey learning the cello. Do you think that your classical background has shaped the way that you write music at all?

Lila: Yeah, there was a while where I was really not pro classical music cause of the rigidity of it. I just wanted to be making more contemporary music and I think what I was being taught in lessons and stuff like that, it was not for me. It's come back around, and I have a very big appreciation for classical music now, especially learning music theory and things like that. I am a really big fan of incorporating strings into things that don't need strings because who doesn't love strings? So that's absolutely influenced my stuff, especially recently I've been falling in love with the cello again.


Are there any instruments that you have never utilized in your music that you would like to experiment with in the future?

Lila: Oh, that's a really good question, I don't think I've ever been asked that before. I have used them, but not in a live setting, but any kind of brass or horns. I would love to have actual brass or horn players come in and do what they do because I think there's just something about a horn section, it's just an unbeatable feeling.


I noticed on your Spotify that you've got playlists that go over the songs that had some influence on the things that you've written, which I think is such a cool idea to share that with your listeners. Why do you think its important to share the music that inspires you?

Lila: I think it's because I want to know what the people that I'm listening to like. When I find an album that I really love, I want to know what their influences were when they were writing or recording it. Before I make every album, I'll make a little playlist of the things that I'm listening to at that time so that six months later I can come back. Its mostly for me but also as a listener of music and fans of other artists, I am always so curious what other people are listening to and I think it's such a great way to find music too.


On Soup Can Collective I do a song of the week, and something new that I want to introduce into asking every guest is, what is your song of the week? What is something that you just cannot get out of your head, really fixated on, that you think people should check out?

Lila: I have two, and they're very different genres, but I'll give you both. One of them is from a Montreal artist. I went to his album release show a couple weeks ago and it's called “meteors” by Jose Lobo. I got to see it live which was really magical, but there's something about that song that I am so drawn to. It's magical, I can't phrase it any other way and its my hyperfixation of the week and last week. And then the second one, I'd say is “Somebody First” by Charlotte Cardin. It's like if Mac Miller were alive today that's the kind of music he'd be making. Speaking of hearing what other people's influences are, I would be incredibly surprised if she wasn't exclusively listening to Mac Miller when she wrote that song.


I think that the growing number of queer artists is so important and so refreshing to hear new voices and perspective. Do you have any favorite queer musicians at the moment?

Lila: Renee Rapp. Are you kidding me? Oh my God, I love her. I cannot get enough of this woman. I have a big fat crush on her, but she's also incredibly talented, so that's my queer artist of the week right now.


What do you think is the biggest lesson that you’ve learned through writing your most recent album?

Lila: Oh, good question. I think getting out of my own head. I went through a phase where I honestly thought the well had dried up for songwriting. It was the longest writers block that I'd ever experienced. There was actually a moment where I genuinely thought to myself, I've written a few hundred songs and if I really work hard, I can spread that out for a good eight years. That was my strategy. I think I just stopped putting so much pressure on writing good music and I just let the tap run. I wrote some really bad songs, just to stop that block, get it out of my system, and it comes back around. I think that was my biggest lesson, not putting pressure on myself to make something sound a certain way or write lyrics that make you feel a certain way. Just letting it be what it's going to be and letting the writing take the reins.

Me: I bet its especially difficult when it’s your career. You’re probably on strict deadlines to have to get an album done or a song done, or you have to tease a release of something by this date. Art is difficult to force and have it be put out the way that you want it to be. So, I imagine that writers block would be probably pretty challenging.

Lila: Yeah, 100%, it's weird having your art be your career or trying to monetize it because it's not something that starts out that way, and it's not the end goal. And it's not the reason why, or at least I hope it's not, the reason why people are making their art. Once those pressures are there, it's definitely something that creeps into your mind when you're trying to get back to that place.

Me: And with the audience as a factor too, not wanting your art to change. How do you deal with that and keep it authentic?

Lila: Yeah, we’ve been talking about absorbing all this art and you can be so inspired by it, but I've found that its a fine line to walk between being inspired versus, I just want to make that song but mine. Its challenging to absorb things that you need to absorb, but not making a carbon copy. For a while I felt like I couldn't find my genre. But genre is stupid, I don't think it's something that we really need to be concerned about. But you apply to music festivals and stuff, and they ask what genre you are and it's aggravating because I listen to a very large range of music, and I'm inspired by a very large range of music. That was an issue for a while, trying to categorize my music, and then I felt like, why can't I just kind of blend it all together? My first EP, half of it's like really aggressive pop, and the second half is folk. At this point I know that the people who are listening to my music consistently, they know that that's what's going to happen. So, maybe I will lose some people along the way, but I trust that I’ll find the group of people that are down for that kind of ever-changing genre.


Do you feel like there's pressure for artists to be unhappy to make good art?

Lila: Honestly, this is something that took a while to reconcile because I do honestly think that some of my best work was when I was mentally unwell, or I wrote about topics that were of a mental state that wasn’t particularly healthy. I've been in a committed relationship for almost two years now, and when I was going through that phase where I was like I don't think I can write songs again, I was like, is it because I'm happy? And then I watched this Joni Mitchell interview, and she talks about how as long as you're a human being experiencing life, there's always things to write about. And that's so true, there's so many, even if it's not your life and you're just observing things going on from other people. Obviously, it's really easy to write when you're really sad or you're feeling an emotion so intensely, but I think it's so cool to kind of get outside of yourself and put yourself in somebody else's shoes or write a story. I honestly had that belief for the longest time that I thought you needed to be mentally unwell. And my answer is I think it helps, but I think that it doesn't mean that your art dries up or like turns bad.


My good friend Grayson Lang was the behind the scenes and stills photographer on the set of this music video for an unreleased song of yours. They mentioned that there was a cool CGI monster in the video and suggested that I ask you a bit about what that represents, or the process of coming up with that idea with director Maddy Ginn.

Lila: Totally, shoutout to Maddy and Grayson. I actually saw the first cut of the video last night, which is so exciting. I think we shot in the first week of October, and Tyler and Maddie have been hard at work shaping it into the perfect concept. The song is called “Haunt”. I'll be promoting that in the winter, so everyone will get sick of me talking about that. I went back in time in my own life because I wrote the song last year, but I wrote it about a feeling that I had when I was coming to terms with my queerness, and feeling this disconnect of people's perception of me and who I felt I was. Kind of disassociating and disconnecting from everything, and there was a good six months to a year where I knew that I was a little bit gay, but I wasn't telling anyone. I was in a relationship with a straight guy, didn't tell him. I felt like I was a shell of people's perception of me. I didn't feel like they were getting the whole picture. I felt kind of like a little ghost drifting through that period of my life. I really wanted that kind of eerie, unsettling, internal battle to be portrayed through the video. So yeah, there's some CGI stuff that's going into it and without giving too much away, it's just playing with the concept of reality. And I hope that it comes across that it's a pretty internal thing, I hope it's a song that lots of people can relate to. The set was mostly queer people, and so I was like I feel as though most of us know what this is. I think that really came through in the final product as well as just everyone's feelings amalgamated into this piece of art, and I'm so incredibly excited about it. I think it's my favorite video we've ever done.


Another thing that I think is really cool, you include these behind-the-scenes videos for nearly all of the music videos that you make. What made you decide that was something you wanted to do?

Lila: I saw a video a couple weeks ago and someone said that gays just love to sit around and watch music videos. I think that's so true; I am obsessed with music videos and everything that goes along with them. My entire childhood was spent on my mom's computer watching a music video, then watching all the behind-the-scenes footage. I just wanted to know everything about it, it was more exciting than a movie. There's something so cool about loving a song and then getting this little movie that goes along with it. So, I always love watching behind the scenes, especially cause for the most part it seems like everyone's having a really good time on these sets. I've always had such a blast on set of my music videos, and I wanted that feeling to get immortalized somewhere. I think I’m going to keep at the behind the scenes edits because they're so fun and give more content for that video too.

Lila Gray social links:


Photos by Grayson Lang: