The Lilypad, an intimate venue in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is a cozy room with a hodgepodge of chairs, benches, and colorful rugs. Faux ivy climbs the walls, which are painted with bright bohemian murals. On December 5 the minibar served wine and beer from vibrant cans, and the guests chatted over the soft background music as we waited for the show to begin.
The first act of the night was Liv Greene, a young woman with a gentle twang and kind eyes. Her folksy guitar strumming and soft but assertive voice filled the room with warmth. She was funny and comfortable, and she made me feel like I was looking out the window at a city skyline in an indie film, or in the midst of a montage of a life of memories with my best friend. Next up were Kaiti Jones and her electric guitar, who channeled Sara Bareilles, Ed Sheeran, and Fleetwood Mac all at once. Her songs, not-quite-rose-colored and not-quite-cynical, sounded like the type of music my cool poet friends would listen to; she devotes her lyrics to the things we ponder but never express aloud.
Last but certainly not least was Lindsay Foote, playing acoustic guitar along with Noah Herrington’s electric bass & background vocals. She seemed very kind and friendly - a thinker. Her lyrics were honest and contemplative. From song to song, she flirted between a light upper register and a warm alto. Decidedly folk but with bluegrass, pop, and country influences, the best way I can think to describe her sound is as the real-life equivalent of Jackson Maine and Ally’s partnership in 2018’s A Star is Born. Lindsay writes about the highs and lows and in-betweens of life, and that evening she ushered us into a space where it was honest and safe to talk about all of those things.
Lindsay’s latest EP Going Gone has garnered significant attention within its genre, scoring features on CBC’s programs Metro Morning and Big City Small World as well as CJRU Double Feature. She was a finalist in the Songwriter Serenade Competition and the Canadian Songwriting Competition, and she’s performed at several folk festivals in the past few years. She’s also the recipient of grants from the Ontario Arts Council and Factor Canada, which are supporting the production of her fourth release. I was lucky enough to talk with her over the phone, and she was just as kind as she appeared on stage, graciously ignoring my first-interview jitters and sharing about the things that inspire her.
What drew you to folk music?
My parents are musicians and I grew up listening to songwriters around the house, and I always really liked the lyrical aspect of folk. I was introduced to really great people as a kid, and that’s where it started.
Who inspires you?
There’s the obvious ones like Joni Mitchell and James Taylor. Some of my big inspirations currently on the scene are Anaïs Mitchell, who’s amazing and Donovan Woods, a Canadian folk singer. I also really like pop artists like Maggie Rogers and The Weepies. I get a lot of inspiration from songwriters that I see at shows in the Boston scene.
I write a lot from my personal experiences - it’s rare that a song isn’t inspired by something that I’m going through or something that I went through, you know what I mean? I usually have a concept for what I want the song to say, an idea of the point of the song, and I’ll mull that over in my head. Then I just play around on my guitar and write lyrics while I do that.
Did you study music in college?
I went to the University of Toronto and I actually studied classical voice. It wasn’t really my thing - it was a really good program, but it wasn’t doing what I do know, which is what I always wanted.
How did that prepare you for what you do now?
It definitely gave me good technique, and I got a lot of practice performing in any circumstance or environment. I learned how to learn music quickly, and now I have a decent understanding of theory, which I think is helpful.
I’ve also always loved singing. I sang from as young as I can remember, and when I was a little kid I would say I wanted to be a singer. Not necessarily a songwriter, but a singer. Then I got really into the songwriting side of it, which was super fun. It’s the only thing I ever wanted to be.
What is the most difficult challenge you’ve had to overcome as a musician and songwriter?
I have to work through a lot of self-doubt. It’s a hard thing to always be putting yourself out there and to believe in your own voice when sometimes, if you’re constantly putting things out into the world, you don’t get much back. Just being an independent musician is so much work and it’s so hard, because you have to do everything yourself for a long time to get any traction. It’s really cool and empowering, but it’s also overwhelming and exhausting sometimes. Staying inspired while trying to get a career going and putting so much work into that can be hard.
Where do you see yourself in five or ten years? Is there a goal you’re working towards?
I would love to be able to support myself with music. To be able to play shows where people are there to listen to me, and not have to work a side job. That sounds like a really low goal, but I don’t think it actually is because it’s hard to get to that point. I want to have space and time to write and record, and to be inspired by and collaborating with other artists.
Is there anyone you’d like to work with?
There’s tons of people I would love to work with, but they wouldn’t know who I am. I really love Rose Cousins - I forgot to mention her before. She’s an incredible songwriter and I would love to work with her.
I actually became familiar with folk because of Anaïs Mitchell and Hadestown, and to me stories are at the heart of the genre. Is there a story you dream of telling that you haven’t told yet?
Hadestown is amazing. And oh my gosh...I don’t know if I’ll have an answer for that! I would love to do something like Hadestown - that would be incredible, but I’m not there yet. I’m just trying to work on telling my own little day-to-day stories.
What advice would you have for someone who’s interested in writing music, but doesn’t know where to start?
I would say that you just have to be willing to try and risk not being good for a while, and keep trying anyway. And do a lot of writing that’s not necessarily music - like journaling. If you’re in the habit of writing it comes easier.
How do you #getinthegroove?
By listening to other artists and being inspired by them. If I’m not feeling in the groove, as they say, I listen to other music that inspires me to remind myself why I do what I do. Or going to see shows from local artists on the scene who are doing things that I admire - it’ll make me think “I need to go home and write.”