Occupation: Singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist
Nationality: New Zealand
Current release: Ladyhawke's Time Flies is out via BMG.
If this interview with Ladyhawke piqued your interest, visit her official website for more information. She is also on Instagram, Facebook, and twitter.
Where does the impulse to create something come from for you? What role do often-quoted sources of inspiration like dreams, other forms of art, personal relationships, politics etc play?
I find inspiration to write music from a mixture of personal experience, relationships, fantasy and dreams. I’m a huge dreamer and sometimes wake up with a feeling I can’t shake for the rest of the day. That feeling has driven me to make music before. I also like imagining scenarios and seeing them through in the form of a song.
For you to get started, do there need to be concrete ideas – or what some have called a 'visualisation' of the finished work? What does the balance between planning and chance look like for you?
I really enjoy writing from absolute nothing. No concrete idea.
Sometimes all I have is a feeling, usually that’s some kind of nostalgic feeling. Nostalgia is really big for me and informs a lot of what I do. So taking the feeling and getting into the studio I usually try and think of what sounds mean nostalgia for me. Whether it’s a vintage drum machine, or old scratchy synth. Or even a cool old microphone. Sometimes these things are all it takes for an exciting idea to form for me.
Do you have certain rituals to get you into the right mindset for creating? What role do certain foods or stimulants like coffee, lighting, scents, exercise or reading poetry play?
I love watching films, movies that have inspired me over the years. I often get more inspired to make music by films than by listening to music itself. This has always been the way for me.
I also love a coffee when in the studio, then loads of water. Sometimes a lit candle can be nice too. Oh and something I think is incredibly important in a studio is lighting. Stark lighting is incredibly sterile and uninspiring, so I love a studio with string lights and interesting low lighting. This is how I try to make my home studio look. I have the main bulb as one of those colour changing ones you can control from your phone. So I can choose the colour of the room depending on the mood I'm in.
What do you start with? How difficult is that first line of text, the first note?
Yeah this is tricky for most writers I think!
Certainly for me sometimes finding the starting point is the toughest thing. My go to is either a cool drum beat or some chords on the synth. But it can take ages some days and be instant others.
When do the lyrics enter the picture? Where do they come from? Do lyrics need to grow together with the music or can they emerge from a place of their own?
For me the lyrics usually start to come once the vibe of the song is formed, even if only partially. If there are a few good lines I can riff over vocally, I’ll put those nonsense vocals down and then listen back to try and form the lyrics.
What makes lyrics good in your opinion? What are your own ambitions and challenges in this regard?
I love rhythm and repetition when it comes to lyrics. Sounds that can get stuck in your head like an ear worm. I try to think of all the things I love about favourite songs of bands and artists I love, and the way their lyrical patterns speak to me.
Many writers have claimed that as soon as they enter into the process, certain aspects of the narrative are out of their hands. Do you like to keep strict control over the process or is there a sense of following things where they lead you?
Yeah I’m very much in the school of thought that once I’ve started, just to go with it and see what happens. Usually within an hour I know in my gut whether it’s something that excites me and is worth continuing.
I think if there’s too much of a controlled environment around me I tend to be much less creative.
There are many descriptions of the creative state. How would you describe it for you personally? Is there an element of spirituality to what you do?
Yeah I think there really is. There is a feeling I can’t really put into words. Like a deep down in your soul kind of feeling. That’s where I pull everything from.
I’m really driven by heart and feeling, so if something starts to feel off or empty I can’t see the idea through.
What's your take on the role and importance of production, including mixing and mastering for you personally? How involved do you get in this?
These processes are incredibly important to me personally, especially the production and mixing side. I’m so interested in production and trust my own ear so really like to be a part of that in some aspect. As well as the mixing.
Time Flies was mixed by my friend Jeremy Toy at Roundhead Studios in Auckland and I sat in with him through the entire process. I had ideas of things I thought needed help and was so glad to be able to share that experience with him.
After finishing a piece or album and releasing something into the world, there can be a sense of emptiness. Can you relate to this – and how do you return to the state of creativity after experiencing it?
Yeah this is a huge thing for me.
So much goes into making an album, and then the build up and all the work that goes into the release of it. Then just like that, it’s out of your hands and released into the world. It can be a very empty feeling. And then there’s the scary unknown of the way people are going to perceive your record. It can be a tough time!
But I try to focus on the shows and touring after a record is released. I know in these covid times that adds a whole other aspect to this process! But it’s still something I’m going to try and focus on and plan for.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you personally feel as though writing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?
I think this goes back to the whole spirituality thing from the earlier question. When I’m writing music I put my heart and soul into it, there’s a feeling I have that’s different to say making my morning coffee or cooking dinner.
But also in saying that, I think this same feeling musicians put into creating a song, is the same feeling an artist has when painting, or when an incredible chef is creating a new dish for the first time. I think there are many creative people outside of music that can relate to this exact feeling.