- - Sunday, November 22, 2015

The music of Lights is stimulating, invigorating, slightly chilly. The sound is a blend of dark electro pop (a la Ellie Goulding) and acoustic-based sorrow (a la Joni Mitchell).

Lights was lovingly created by a 28-year old Canadian female wunderkind. Her latest CD is the ultrastunning “Little Machines.” Lights will bring her unique sound to the District’s iconic 9:30 Club Sunday evening.

Lights checked in after spending some quality time with U.S. Customs to discuss how and why she became “Lights,” the Canadian music scene and how being a new mom inspires her creatively.

Question: What happened to you at the border recently?

Answer: I had just crossed the border from Canada into Washington state, and customs pulled me into a back room.

Q: They didn’t do the full search, I hope.

A: No, not quite. It was kind of pointless, like it usually is.

Q: Do people call you Lights when they first meet you?

A: Yeah. Legally it is my first name. I changed it a long time ago, and that is what everyone calls me. Only people from the dregs of my past don’t.

Q: Why did you legally change you name to Lights?

A: Because it’s [expletive] awesome! [laughs]

Q: Like Sade, is Lights also a band?

A: I have a touring band that tours with me, but they aren’t necessarily the Lights Band. I’m a solo artist.

Q: How old were you when you started out?

A: Professionally I was — I’m trying to think what counts as professional. I got signed to a development deal when I was 15. That fell through after about a year when the company merged with another label. Then I got picked up by Sony publishing. So I was writing professionally from 16 to 18. Then I started making my own records.

Q: How do you feel your sound and creative process have evolved?

A: It’s really hard to look at the big picture when I’m the one in it all the time. I think my instincts have evolved over the years and become more natural. I listen back to the songs I wrote 10 years ago, and I kinda wanna vomit. It was really bad stuff.

You hope you get better over the years. I think I have. And I’m more precise. When I was younger it was a lot of quantity over quality. Just writing, writing, writing. Hundreds of songs. Now it’s fewer songs. If I write 10 songs I believe 80 percent of them are good and gonna be used. Music to me has always been about experimentation, xploring all different kinds of styles. I was in bands all through my youth. Things started out more acoustic and then piano ballads. Then R&B followed by sappy pop music and then rock, punk and heavy metal.

[The year] 2006 was the first time I really found electronic music. That opened this endless world of possibilities in terms of what sounds you can use and what emotion you can create by building interesting sound soundscapes. That was the moment I found my place in music.

Q: Do you write all your songs on acoustic guitar?

A: At this point, it is a total mutual build of music, lyrics and production. It is hard for me to build a song without having a recording interface. The way that the beat comes together and that kind of bass and drums are going to be in it really affects what kind of song you’re gonna write.

It is really hard to write something high-energy and upbeat on acoustic guitar. I kind of go in and sit down with my keyboards, drum pads and a laptop and basically decide what vibe I wanna build. That helps me create the song from there.

Q: Has life changed now that you’re on a major label?

A: I wouldn’t say my life has changed. It has just improved the power of getting music to the masses. It is amazing to have so many people behind you working for the same thing. We’re all in the journey together, and that’s exciting.

Q: Did you have an advantage being a Canadian artist?

A: It’s a such a great breeding ground for creativity in Canada. You get government grants to tour, grants to make a record. Thirty percent of the artists played on radio have to be Canadian. That support allows for creative freedom to do what you want.

Q: Is your upcoming tour solo or with a band?

A: We’re a four-piece live. It’s awesome. The whole crew is amazing. Our lighting guy is literally part of the band. Everything is really cohesive live. Lots of loud bass and loud drums. [laughs]

Q: Do you enjoy touring in America?

A: I love touring. We always end up doing a fall tour in The States. This time it’s different because we are a co-headliner touring with Mowgli’s. That allows us to play bigger rooms.

I love playing in the Northwest, laying in Texas, New York and L.A.

Q: How has motherhood affected you as an artist?

A: It inspires me to be more creative and more open-minded. I feel more powerful and more sexy. More womanly than I ever have. I don’t know how that’s possible because I never sleep. But it’s the truth. [laughs]

“Little Machines” is out now. Lights and The Mowgli’s will play at the 9:30 Club, located at 815 V St. NW, Sunday, with doors opening at 6:30. Tickets are $25 by visiting 930.com.


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