To go forward, you sometimes need to go back.
It seems like something the Red Queen would say to Alice in the book Through the Looking Glass, but Canadian electro-pop singer Lights came to this realization while trying to write new songs for her latest release Little Machines.
Having set expectations high with her previous two albums, the singer who performs on Saturday, Nov. 22, at Red Deer’s Memorial Centre, became weighed down by the idea of being artistically experimental on her third CD.
When new tunes wouldn’t come, she began thinking it might be over for her music career. “I spent so many nights just bawling,” Lights revealed on her website, “What am I gonna do? I don’t have it anymore. I’ve just lost it . . . ”
Judging by her latest hit from the Little Machines album, Up We Go, Lights didn’t lose her knack for writing a catchy tune. But she did have to look deep inside herself to find her way back to a positive mindset as a songwriter.
First Lights began thinking of what inspired her to write music when she was a teenager, such as the songs of Patti Smith, Cyndi Lauper, Kate Bush and Joni Mitchell. Then she decided she had to simplify life for a while by living “off the grid” in New Mexico while songwriting.
And suddenly the tunes started to flow.
Unlike her forward-thinking last album Siberia, the new release reflects the singer’s past in songs such as Running With the Boys. There’s a sense of nostalgia and longing for a less complicated time, admitted Lights.
“I was sort of rediscovering my creativity and sense of imagination. You can get crippled by too much logic. Things like numbers and money are what crush creativity. They are the nemesis of creativity.”
The 27-year-old singer was born in Timmins, Ont, and named Valerie Anne Poxleitner before she officially changed her moniker to her nickname, Lights. She grew up in the Philippines, Jamaica and Ontario, (her parents did a stint as missionaries), and actually did run with the boys in those places — but never thought of herself as a tomboy.
“I just thought I was doing the things I liked, like picking up snakes and skateboarding . . . I just thought this was fun.”
Since TV and video games were off-limits to her and her home-schooled siblings when they were children, they would instead create art and poetry and use their imaginations to invent imaginary worlds. “We made this little town called Scrawny Town” in a grove of trees that now looks so small, recalled Lights.
She also became inspired by the Christian-themed storytelling of C.S. Lewis in his Narnia books. “They were imagination at its finest,” said the singer, who consider herself spiritual rather than religious, as reflected in the lyrics of her new song Portal.
She received music lessons from her father, an architect who according to Lights, “should have been a rock star.” Since he didn’t know any theory, she learned to play piano and guitar by ear.
But her gift shone through at an early age, and her parents supported her goal of a music career.
Lights, who signed her first recording contract at age 15, remembers they would pay to fly her to Toronto and Los Angeles to meet with industry officials. “They were so proud and excited.”
After being discovered in 2007 by Jian Ghomeshi, Lights won a 2009 Juno Award for best new artist and had the hits Drive My Soul, Ice, Second Go, and Toes. The singer recently fired Ghomeshi as her manager after allegations of his abuse surfaced from nine women. (The former CBC radio star has denied this, saying that any violence or rough sexual play he engaged in were consensual).
“I hope everyone can heal from this,” Lights stated.
She had no further comment on the subject when interviewed, but said she’s thrilled to be coming to perform in Red Deer for the first time.
She’ll be bringing her baby daughter Rocket Wild and her musician husband, Beau Bokan. Although he fronts the L.A. metal band blessthefall, Bokan is hitting the road with his wife for this tour, and “it’s nice. It’s really nice,” said Lights.
Having her family around distracts her from obsessing over small problems and helps her focus on what really matters, she said.
Tickets to the 8 p.m. show with Toronto rockers Wildlife are $38.50 from the Black Knight Ticket Centre.