L Con (Lisa Conway) is an artist that works with intention and purpose. She’s the busiest and most creatively diverse musician we’ve featured on Cut From Steel. Besides sharing her time musically among a few projects – she’s a producer, engineer, multi-instrumentalist, studio owner and more. Lisa also writes for stage and screen and she’s been involved in several music residency programs. If music was a tool in her tool-belt it would be kept sharp and well used.
Moon Milk was released in 2016 and went on to become one of my favourite albums of the year. It was a concept futuristic sci-fi album (read a lot more about it here). Lisa’s latest release, Insecurities in Being, could not be more different. It is a wonderful album that I’ve already listened to front to back several times, but in a different way. Gone is anything tethered to a concept or a theme. What we have is genuine and nuanced song writing that shines through; coupled with Lisa’s tender and heartfelt vocals. This album features an artist working through her insecurities of being a busy musician and a person about to turn 30. The songs are beautifully written and would relate to anyone going through a transition or a slump of some kind. There are no pretenses with L Con and she lays it all out with this album. All of the anxieties and worries about being a working creative person, and just a person period, are there. The songs are brilliantly created and performed in such a way that it seems casual and easy. Anyone who has tired to craft a song that sounds casual and easy while referencing heart-revealing truths will know how hard that actually is. Insecurities in Being is a fantastic album and you should listen to it.
Q – Congratulations on the new album. Can you tell us how Insecurities in Being came together?
My previous album, Moon Milk, was a specific process. It was a concept album. I wrote all the songs in Sackville New Brunswick during a short time and then I sat with them for a long time and thought about them. This new record has definitely been a faster and more solitary process. I was feeling not too hot about making things in general at the time I got started. I was actually trying to make an instrumental EP. I was involved in this wonderful music program (EQ) where I was matched with a female electronic musician mentor. We had to make music to show and that’s eventually what turned into fully fleshed out songs.
I was going through a difficult creative time. I did a lot of writing the year before for Moon Milk and working with Del Bel and doing this intense residency at the Canadian Film Center. I didn’t feel like I should be making music at all; I was questioning it. I’m turning 30 this November and I think It’s not that I’m scared to turn 30 but when you get older you re-evaluate what you’re doing and what your life is. It was a time I reconsidered if I was doing the wrong things and if that was true.. then what do I do? Who am I if I’m not doing this music thing? It’s way more enjoyable to have help on an album, and I think the next record will involve a lot more people on different levels.
It was a time I reconsidered if I was doing the wrong things and if that was true.. then what do I do?
Q – How are you feeling about those things now?
Up and down – like a human. I’m more driven now I think. The fact that there is a lot of discussion in the media about how what a male dominated industry music is has been a big drive for me. I’ve realized how important it is to be more explicit about the recording and production I do. I haven’t been as explicit about stating that as much; I assume that people will figure it out themselves, but it’s important to say it. The reason I started recording and producing when I was 12 was when I saw someone on stage say that she did her recording and mixing herself and through her own label. I thought ‘I could do that’. Doing this is important for other women or anyone who is feeling insecure about their place. If there’s is a chance this could help them in their journey – that’s all that matters.
The fact that there is a lot of discussion in the media about how what a male dominated industry music is has been a big drive for me.
Q – Can you tell us a bit about your approach to songwriting – how did you get so good?
First of all – thank you. I’ve been writing songs for a long time – since I was 12. I think after you do it a lot you kind of get better at it, it’s like a muscle. I feel like I’m always trying to break out of habits and writing clutches and patterns. I have safe things that I do. I try to mix it up and write on different instruments and different starting points. I’ve been doing it for a long time and a lot of the songs I’ve written for film projects more casually people end up liking more than my other songs. So I’m jealous of my own work. Other things that have helped are just doing it a lot and listening to lyrics when you listen to songs. A lot of people don’t listen to lyrics when they listen to music.
Q – Who are some songwriters that you think are great?
That’s a really hard questions. There are a lot. Jennifer Castle; she just put out an incredible record. She’s so poetic and honest and forthright. The new Feist record was a bit part of my last year. Same with the new Angel Olson. I also like Juana Molina’s new record – I saw her at Pop Montreal and was blown away.
Q – Can you tell us about your first single, Try? Is this about anyone in particular?
(The community thinks you’re wasting your time, not doing anything..)
It’s not about a person. The line came about as I was revisiting a Cat Power record and she has an album called ‘What Would the Community Think’ – I was just reflecting on that line and feeling very frustrated and I was working really hard but nothing was happening and I was feeling fruitless. I was thinking like ‘the community would think nothing because you’re just in the woods having a panic attack.’ I guess the song is just a lot of reflection on effort and output. We live in a weird time where, with instagram and social media, it’s extra easy to feel alone and like you’re not as doing as beautifully curated activities.
I wrote the song with my partner Andrew. So, Andrew and I work together and he plays for L Con but we don’t write together very often because of life. But we jammed for the first time in a long time and the first little chord sequence started there. It ended up on a voice memo and I took that and developed the words.
Q – What was it like working with Casey MQ?
I really like writing songs and I like letting other people sing my songs – so it was a forced cover that I imposed (laughs). Casey is a remarkable musician and singer and songwriter and producer. He’s so talented. Sometimes when you write songs you hear someone else’s voice. I am honoured and grateful that he wanted to be a part of it. I’ve been performing it in a different way – a more electronic version which is neat.
Q – Congratulations on being accepted to the Red Bull music academy! You seem to always be doing interesting musical things.
It’s crazy – Red Bull every year has this residency with a bunch of workshops and performances and lectures. 60 people from around the world are flown and it is a long application process. I filled it out and thought ‘no way i’ll get into this’. So, I’m super excited. I constantly apply to a lot but don’t get into a lot of things. Any opportunity for learning and growth is wonderful and i welcome that. Music is a practice – you’re never done never arrived in your artistic journey.
Q – What have you been listening to recently?
A loud fridge! Honestly. So many awesome records came out this month. I’ve been listening to new the Bonjay, Bernice, Jennifer Castle, and more.
Q – Any mainstream radio favourites?
The song ‘Maroon 5 with SZA’ is really catching and in my head a lot. I might sing it at karaoke.
Thank you, Lisa!