At 17 years old, San Francisco by-way-of New York folk artist Lila Blue already has two albums and nearly a decade of scoring for theater under her belt, has had her songs selected for a movie (Lifetime’s Story of a Girl, directed by Kyra Sedgwick), and has developed a following on her cities’ live circuits and beyond.
Blue’s musical journey began around age 6 or 7 when she happened to mention to her grandfather that she wanted to learn ukulele to accompany some poetry she had written. Coincidentally, he had a ukulele tucked away and gave it to her. She played the instrument for eight years, and also picked up guitar, piano, and bass.
“The transition to guitar felt pretty natural, but the way bass was introduced to me was a bit more abrupt,” she says “In eighth grade, I broke my right wrist and ended up having to wear a cast all the way up to my shoulder for around two months, and couldn’t strum for the life of me. So I had to improvise, and did that by buying a bass, and flipping it so it lay on my lap, and essentially would play the neck with my thumb and hit the strings with the arm in the cast. My good friend calls it the ‘feral bass,’ and it worked well enough that I just kept playing bass after the cast came off.” Though her unusual bass technique has captivated audiences, Blue’s guitar remains her main instrument for composition.
On September 22, Blue will release “Have a Look,” a 5-song EP that showcases her diverse musical talents and penchant for storytelling. The EP’s title track came together from a single lyric, These days I just don’t have much left to say, and a mental picture that came to her while writing; of a woman lying on a bed while having her portrait painted by a man. “It looked idyllic. And I remember my initial thought, which surprised me, was that this was going to destroy her. And so with that in mind, I wrote the rest of the song.”
The song deals with themes of visibility, specifically the times in life when others project what they want you to be on you, rather than seeing who you are. Blue says the song isn’t related to a single experience from her life, but “there have been facets of my past and the pasts of women close to me where suddenly, you look down, and pieces of yourself are missing. And I know that feeling well, that feeling is familiar.”
“Have a Look” features Blue’s moody, finger-picked acoustic guitar, as well as strings and minimalist percussion. Each element adds to the atmosphere and message she sought to conjure through the characters of her narrative. “I knew when arranging “Have a Look” that I wanted a cello to act as the subtextual arch of the internal world of the woman within the song,” she says.
From there, she worked with cellist Crystal Pascucci and co-producer/engineer Samantha Perez to bring her idea to life. “I absolutely love what came out of that,” she says. “I feel like with the strings, and with the percussion as well, it was a constant conversation of ‘how do we show the different factors that are creating this world for this woman?’ That’s also why in the percussion I knew I wanted a man breathing in time, which is something I heard in my head when I wrote the song. Each piece, for me, was trying to create a soundscape that met the most truthful experience of this woman’s world.”
Listen to “Have a Look” now, and find out more about the EP release here.