You've been hearing Lily Frost's name for years.
The Vancouver-raised, Toronto-based musician has made eight albums and plays frequently around town, sometimes alongside husband José Contreras from By Divine Right. Or maybe you've heard the Being Erica theme song, Everything I Ever Wanted To Be, which she co-wrote.
But if you haven't been paying close attention, now's the time to start - the criminally underrated singer/songwriter is conveying some seriously positive vibes right now. Frost's new album, Do What You Love (Aporia), is a high-spirited collection of smart indie pop featuring her clear and glorious voice, honest and direct lyrics, and spellbinding songwriting that often takes surprising twists. (She's a master chorus-writer.) Written as a letter to her baby girl, it has a universal message: Do what you love.
But getting to that point hasn't been easy. Along the way, there have been record deals and bands gone sour, body image issues, bad day jobs and unsavoury relationships. Ahead of her album release show Saturday (September 15) at the Rivoli (332 Queen West), the forthright Frost talked to NOW about all of it, no holds barred.
In an age of melancholy and earnest singer/songwriters, Do What You Love is refreshing. It's confident and fun but not without passion and message. Were you aiming for upbeat pop or did it just come out that way?
Thanks! Yeah, I was focusing on creating an upbeat, positive album that will allow for a live show that brings smiles to people's faces.
It's quite a departure from the dark and eerie folk of 2009's Viridian Torch, which I also loved. What happened in between those two records?
Well, I had a baby girl. Viridian Torch was a choice to go fully into my artistic muse. It was very niche and I think a lot of people misunderstood it. Those who got it loved it. But I want to get back to clear communication with my audience. I want to transmit joy and inspiration.
I read that you wrote the new one as a letter to the daughter you were about to have. Was there one key message you were hoping to get across?
Know yourself, follow your dreams and don't lose time with negative people or taking the wrong path.
In the title track, you sing, "Do what you love and the money will follow. If you do what you hate to get the money to do what you love, you'll find in the end that you don't have any time, that you're a shell, you have nothing to give and no reason to live." What happened along to way to give you this perspective?
I've met a lot of depressed people who seem uninspired and robotic. They talk in words that are fed to them and they can't see out of their box. Life should be more than that. I think that in order to succeed you need to realize your dreams and then commit to them. How can your true passion flourish if you're spending all your time at a job you don't like? Your dreams need attention to grow. At first you have to sacrifice and invest in order to get rewards. The love you have for your passion will see you through the hard times.
What career advice had your own parents given you?
They were dream crushers. I had bad jobs since I was 14. My mom wanted me to work at a factory. I left home at 18. I learned my lessons through experience. I met amazing friends in Montreal while I was attending Concordia who encouraged me to keep writing, singing and performing. We were all artists. They were mostly French and we were all reading Huxley, Joseph Campbell, Rimbaud, playing in bands and living together. We were broke but we were free!
Was it difficult to get the balance right: finding a way to sing to your daughter but also to your fans, who are mostly - presumably - adults?
Not really. I was more singing to the girl I used to be. I write from my heart.
Tell me about the song Stand, which is one of the musically darker tracks on the album.
It's about having a spine, standing up for yourself and not compromising. I wrote it 12 years ago, inspired by Robert Johnson's idea of being at a crossroads and singing the blues, which was considered to be the devil's music. I was also inspired by where I was at the time. I had shaved my head and was celibate. I was willing to do whatever it took to be a star. I signed to Nettwerk Records in Vancouver. We did a lot of big shows with Coldplay, the Dandy Warhols, until it all imploded because of alcohol and egos.
I value friends and family, balance and inner truth much more than I did back then. I am "not gonna sell my soul," as the song states. I altered the lyrics and decided to re-release the song with this new sentiment.
You've said that the album is about "embracing femininity with strength, joy and creativity." Can you explain what you mean? What does femininity mean to you?
Well, I used to be shy as a girl. I was encouraged to listen and sit pretty for the world. But I've learned where that leads. We have to speak up. Every relationship has two sides to it and no one is more important than the other. Just because someone is louder doesn't means his or her perspective is right. If you hold things in, you'll get sick or explode with anger and sadness. Repression is a sickness that a lot of women suffer from. There are ways to express yourself without fighting, but if you do end up fighting that anger, it may lead you to the change that's needed to grow.
Once the baby came, did your perspective on any of the things you'd written about - career, relationships, femininity - change?
Not really. Paloma is my second child. With my son, Meesha, a lot changed. In a nutshell, I felt stronger. I had to budget my time and energy better. I felt exhausted but full of wonder. Each child is so different. Paloma is full of sunshine and has brought me so much joy. Meesha is a healer. He is complicated and intelligent but makes us laugh every day.
You've been making music for a while now, and have an eight-record discography. What advice would you give young musicians trying to get ahead, as well as older ones struggling to stay relevant and energized?
It depends on what stage the young ones are at, but quitting your day job comes to mind. Make music your focus. Busk for money, form a band, sell CDs and just make your money with music. For older ones... gosh. Eat raw food, make being inspired your responsibility and read Just Kids by Patti Smith!
You seem to be in a really positive place these days.
I'd say so. There were bumps and emotional bruises along the way: shitty boyfriends and tough experiences. But now I live in a little home in the country with my two kids and my awesome husband. We do what we love and are in love. I'm not rich and famous but there's still time for that! I work hard at being positive. I do yoga and meditate to stay grounded. I recently had a serious bout of post-partum depression that I was medicated for, and I used to struggle with bulimia as a young adult. So, although it may all seem like roses, it is hard work. Life is hard but music is one of my saviours.
What can we expect at your album release show on Saturday (September 15)?
Fun and energy and smiles.