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INsiders Guide Interview with Lydia Persaud

Photo Credit: J Mitchel Reed

A fixture of Toronto’s music community and a sought-after collaborator, Lydia Persaud stands alone with her debut album “Let Me Show You”. Exposed to music from a very young age, Lydia’s early influences sprang from the gospel styles of her religious upbringing. “Unpacking the last 24 years of my life as I grew up in church is an ongoing journey. I was sheltered in many ways, through homeschooling (grade 2-5) and extreme involvement in my church. At the same time I was introduced to the concept of singing for a greater purpose than that of fame and glory. Music was for God and for giving thanks, a foundation that I am grateful for to this day. Removing the ego and vanity in music and giving back, connecting, and sharing relatable stories is how I have grown from these early experiences.”

It wasn’t until Lydia stumbled across a cassette that she was exposed to soul music. “My first introduction to soul music was through one of my early tapes, VH1 Divas Live. It was a live performance taping with Mariah Carey, Aretha Franklin, Celine Dion, Shania Twain, Carole King and Gloria Estefan. I so wish that Whitney had performed as that would have covered all of my favourite vocal queens.” The vocal skill of these icons drew Lydia in to explore the soul genre. This influence ultimately reached into the recording studio where Lydia created Let Me Show You. “Soul music has always affected me the most, a soulful conviction on matters of the heart. Voicing struggle or sharing joy and celebration has always been my favourite method of expression.”

Lydia’s sound expands the boundaries of soul to include both folk and jazz, styles that have been foundational to her musical growth. Lydia attended the rigorous jazz program at Humber School of Music, where she won the Oscar Peterson Jazz Award and connected with fellow members of the folk trio The O’Pears, whom she has been collaborating with for the past 5 years. Working in these styles honed Lydia’s mastery of sophisticated vocal harmony and blend, leading her to become an in-demand vocalist. She has performed with a varied range of artists such as Jill Barber, Lee Fields, and Royal Wood, and is a member of renowned cover band Dwayne Gretzky.

Participating in the folk and jazz scenes in Toronto developed Lydia’s technical expertise while infusing her work with a storytelling and emotive quality. “I’ve always considered jazz to be very soulful, expressive and spontaneous where folk music and is a bit more calculated with a singer-songwriter form that boil down to the root complex feelings and concepts”. As a woman of colour from a multiracial background, Lydia has actively sought to break stereotyped expectations of her identity through her music. She finds it empowering to disrupt assumptions that pigeonhole her in genres such as R&B: “Swaying far from those expectations by picking up the ukulele and writing folk songs felt like I was carving out my own space. I always had a love for early country music and storytelling through song, which always kept me close to artists like Shania Twain and Stevie Wonder.”

With such a range of talent behind her and a vast array of influences, I sat down with the rising singer to talk all things music for the INsiders Guide;

Hi Lydia and welcome to OLC! For all our followers out there, tell us a bit about yourself?

Hey OLC, thanks for having me! I’m a Toronto based folk/soul artist with a new album coming out on May 10th!

When and where did you develop your passion for music and who inspired it?

I remember being about 10 years old and enjoying being on stage for theatrical performances at church. It was a comfortable place for me once I gained the confidence to perform. I would go as far as saying that church inspired the beginning of my love for music.

Tell me about your new single “More Of Me”, what inspired you to write it?

I wrote More of Me while I was with a partner that who more from me. They wanted more of my time, emotional investment and my attention. I originally wrote the song as a means to express how annoying my partner’s needs felt at the time. After leaving my then partner and performing the song a number of times, I realized that I had been emotionally checked out and those “needs” were a cry for communication. 

Can we expect a video for the song?

I don’t have any plans to make a video for More Of Me, but there are definitely plans to make videos for other songs on the album…

This song comes from your debut album entitled “Let Me Show You”, What can you tell me about it, and what inspired the albums title?

The album title came from the song “Let Me Show You.” The message behind the song was a call to listen to one another’s stories as a means to connect. Since I’m sharing my stories and experiences through the songs on this album, entitling it “Let Me Show You” felt appropriate.

Who helped you work on the album?

I had an incredible team for the making of this album. I had been working alongside producer and musician Robbie Grunwald since 2016, we made my Low Light EP together which shaped the aesthetic and musical vibe for this album. My incredible band consisted of Dean Droulliard (Guitar), James Robertson (Guitar), Mike Ardagh (Drums), Josh Van Tassel (Drums), Joanna Mohammed (Bg vox), Claire Doyle (Bg vox), Anh Phung (Flute), Drew Jureka (Strings). The album was recorded at The Hive in Toronto, mixed by Chris Stringer and Mastered by Justin Gray.

How much did they influence your album or would you say it’s 100% you?

Even after writing many of these songs myself, I would definitely say that this team was a huge source of inspiration in the development of this album. I am so thankful that everyone felt the music the same way while writing parts/performing/mixing with the vibe of the songs in mind, even if what was required of them was outside their comfort zone.

Are there any guest features on it?

There is a fairly consistent cast of musicians on this album. Some moments showcase the genius that is Drew Jureka’s string composing and performance (Would You Believe, Stay Down, Well Wasted). Honey Child would not be the same without Ahn Phung on flute and same goes for Joanna Mohammed and Claire Doyle on background vocals.

How do you deal with a creative block?

I lift and learn songs by artists that I love. Feeling their honesty reconnects me with the honesty within myself, which I believe to be the main tool in song writing. 

Are there any plans for you to go on tour to support the album, and if so what venues do you hope to visit?

Touring with Charlotte Cornfield in the spring time. I would love to play all over the world!

What does the rest of the year hold for you?

Releasing and touring this new album!

What do you think?

Written by Neill Frazer

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