Singer-songwriter Lowell talks about the messy origins of her debut LP
Elizabeth Lowell Boland, better known simply as Lowell, is a nomad. At various points, she has resided in Calgary, the Yukon, Toronto, Massachusetts, Georgia, and London.
Over the course of her travels, she’s accumulated a similarly broad range of work experiences, from stripping in Toronto to writing for the Backstreet Boys to playing in a band with one of the guys from Coldplay. After all this wandering, the 22-year-old singer-songwriter is finally releasing her debut LP Tuesday on the Canadian label Arts & Crafts. We Loved Her Dearly is both intensely catchy and emotionally deep, with songs that draw from her experience in abusive relationships, as well as a passionate political streak that comes through on her queer pride anthem “LGBT” that carries on Le Tigre’s legacy of mixing activism and dancefloor-friendly beats. The music is as complex as her subject matter, fiddling with contemporary electronic pop conventions with frequent nods to such diverse influences as Pet Sounds and Aphex Twin.
Before the album’s release, Lowell spoke to EW about its origins from a cab in Toronto, where she resides—at least for the time being.
EW: Tell me about where this record came from.
LOWELL: Well, I was invited to London by some really amazing producers who work with some super-prestigious artists and we spent a year writing together collectively, for other artists and for myself, and within that a record came about. Also a lot of the songs came to me before I had gone to London. It was all autobiographical, so it was kind of like a diary put into a record.
In what ways was it autobiographical?
I really started putting it together when I was 14 during this angsty teen period, but it mostly came about towards… I dropped out of UT and I was doing some crazy things. I was dancing and doing a lot of drugs, and I was in some weird relationships. It was really a low point in my life. Then one day I hit a new stride and sort of came into this knowledge of who I was and who I could be as a person, and I wrote “Words Were the Wars.” That was a big turning point for me, just this thing to remind me that I don’t need anyone, I just need myself. From then on I just sort of progressed and started writing songs about what I’d been through.
So it’s sort of like coming to the other side of a very messy period?
Yeah. I’d say most of the songs, if I’d written them before I’d had that epiphany I changed the lyrics later on to be from the point of view of me as a stronger person. A lot of it was sort of a triumphant thing.
It feels like a very optimistic record.
Yeah, I think it is optimistic. At the same time it’s still… certain songs were written at that time and it’s honest, and I can’t pretend like I was happy all the time, or that I’m happy all the time now. It sort of moves back and forth between optimistic and then like, “but this can be really painful sometimes,” or, “when I was treated this way I felt horrible, and now this is how I feel.” It’s very schizophrenic in an emotional way. That was sort of the point, that we don’t have to be so perfect all the time. Not all of us are perfect. I know I’m not.
I know that when you create something that comes from an intense emotional experience, revisiting the song that came out of it can be a pretty intense experience as well.
Yeah, it’s definitely emotionally raw. It’s funny, though. The more I revisit it the more I feel at peace, and the more I feel really confident and comfortable with who I am. I think a lot of the stuff I went through, the most painful part was not being able to talk about it with anyone because it was so taboo and uncomfortable for people to understand. And then as I went on I started talking about it and being open and then I started realizing that it that uncomfortable for people, and also that people would start opening up to me. And then I started to realize that we’re all these closeted humans who are afraid to say what we’re feeling and what we’ve gone through. And a lot of the time, that’s especially applicable to victims of things. When you’re a victim, that’s when you feel the most ashamed, and like you can’t talk about anything. The more I talked about it, the less I felt like a victim. I felt in control.
The record has a lot of social commentary on it. Would you consider it a political record?
Yes and no. I think that it’s definitely not specifically political. I think at one point I thought it was meant to be, but I sort of have this theory that we’ve reached a point where we’ve mixed up what politics are and what social issues are. I really think that they’re different. At the time I was like, “This song is about gay rights, and that’s political.” But really that shouldn’t be political. That shouldn’t be what we’re worried about in politics. We should be more worried about social reform. My point of view, talking about the sex industry and talking about women’s rights, talking about gay rights, all of those things are incorporated in the story. But the way that I did it was personal. It could only really be about things that related back to my life. I guess it’s from the point of view of a girl who happens to be bisexual, who happens to been pulled into a lot of abusive situations as a woman.
Lowell National Tour Dates:
# = w/ Icona Pop
^ = w/ Generationals
+ = w/ Dum Dum Girls
* = w/ Monarchy
9/16: Vancouver, BC @ Fortune Sound Club
9/17: Portland, OR @ Bunk Bar
9/19: San Francisco, CA @ The Rickshaw Stop *
9/21: San Diego, CA @ Soda Bar
9/22: Los Angeles, CA @ Bootleg Theatre
10/15: Columbus, SC @ Colonial Life Arena (students only) #
10/17: Morgantown, WV @ Morgantown Event Center #
10/18: Ithaca, NY @ Barton Hall #
10/23: St. Louis, MO @ Chaifetz Arena #
10/25: Hattiesburg, MS @ University of Southern Mississippi #
10/28: Indiana, PA @ Ohio Room #
10/30: Bloomsburg, PA @ Nelson Fieldhouse #
11/1: Lewiston, ME @ Bates College #
11/16: Los Angeles, CA @ The Well +
(Red Bull Sound Select Presents: 30 Days in LA)
12/2: Chapel Hill, NC @ Local 506 ^
12/3: Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brenda’s ^
12/5: Toronto, ON @ The Garrison ^
12/6: Montreal, QC @ Il Motore ^
12/7: Allston, MA @ Great Scott ^
12/9: Columbus, OH @ The Basement ^
12/10: Asheville, NC @ The Mothlight ^