By Troy Hasselman, March 1 2019
Calgary-raised and Los Angeles based singer-songwriter Lindsay Kay has tread a remarkable path in her young career. Now, she gears up for a homecoming performance in Calgary at the new Central Public Library, her first performance in her home city since the release of her debut album, For the Feminine, by the Feminine, this past October.
The album was entirely produced by female-identifying collaborators and deals with experiences specific to the lives of female-identifying individuals.
“All the lyrics were really centring around feminine pain and feminine emotion,” says Kay. “I felt like I needed women to fully empathize with them and be there with me on an emotional and musical level, so it was a real joy. It was a completely different experience than working with men simply because it just took away a lot of distraction, so to speak, because we went into the studio and all we had to do was work. There were no power dynamic issues. No one was questioning my opinions, songs or authority. It was just go into the studio, make good work, be nice to each other and leave. As well, the fact that I was able to hand-pick women who might have been overlooked or have less visibility than men in the industry and make sure they were able to pay their rent for that month brought me a lot of joy.”
The themes explored on the album have been at the forefront of the cultural conversation in recent years in the wake of the Women’s March and the #MeToo Movement. Kay notes that the omnipresence of these issues has served as an influence on the album, but that they are also central to the life of any female-identifying person.
“As a woman, these are things that you always come up against in your day-to-day life, but I think the reason that they came out fully formed in my work was definitely because of the cultural shift,” she explains. “When I was writing this album it was right around the time when Trump was elected and I was continuing to write when Harvey Weinstein’s horrific behaviour was coming out in the media. I think that the #MeToo movement and the cultural shift in women is a result of all of us waking up and understanding that we no longer have to be quiet. I was feeling like I didn’t have a choice anymore and there was work that needed to come out of me that I couldn’t really hold back anymore.”
Musically, the album maintains a singer-songwriter feel while having an eclectic list of influences that have informed it’s sound, style and aesthetic.
“I think the songwriting influences are pretty consistent for me. It’s always been Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan for songwriting,” she says. “I was listening to a lot of Frank Ocean at the time and also looking into Solange — her album A Seat at the Table was a big influence for me sonically because it’s so cohesive, the whole album is just a real body of work. I put flute on one of the songs on my album because I heard Kendrick Lamar’s Untitled, Unmastered and the flute is so beautiful on that album. I listen to a lot of things that don’t sound like what I make but I love to hear it all.”
On top of the diverse influences to the work, the album maintains a strong undercurrent of jazz-influenced songwriting, which Kay owes to her extensive background in the genre.
“In high school I had a teacher who took me under her wing and pushed me to explore being in the jazz ensembles at school and eventually the jazz studies class,” Kay notes. “It became an obsession of mine and felt kind of like a secret. Not a lot of people were listening to that type of music. I ended up going to Berklee College of Music and studying jazz composition as well as vocal and guitar performance. I was very much a jazz musician for all four years of studying there. In my last year of school I just started to feel called to do more singer-songwriter music and that’s what I ended up switching gears into. But the jazz influence is really strong in my music and I don’t know how I could get rid of it because it’s so deeply imprinted on me from all of those years of intense study.”
On top of the musical and cultural influences on her work, Kay says she owes a great deal to Calgary and the musical foundations she gained here as a child.
“I left Calgary when I was 18 so definitely all of my formative years and all my preliminary music education was in Calgary,” she says. “I was put into children’s choir when I was really little, like three or four years old. I also took music lessons and was active in my school music programs growing up, without that I definitely would not have become the same type of musician that I am now.”
Kay’s performance in the Patricia A. Whelan Performance Hall at the Central Public Library will take place on March 30 at 7 p.m. Proceeds will benefit the Calgary Women’s emergency Shelter. Tickets are available through Eventbrite.