Analogue Music | Lily Hiatt

Lily Hiatt

By Matt Conner

Fortunately, the good songs are still washing over Lily Hiatt.

On the other side of a pandemic and a period of time in which the songwriter says her priorities have shifted, the love of the craft and the joy of having the muse offer up a new song that "washes over" is still very present for Lily Hiatt. Not that anyone should have doubted her in the first place.

For as long as she's been writing and releasing songs, she's been building a strong connection with those who listen with her compelling rock songs rooted in country sensibilities that so often speak to the common bonds shared in experiences and emotions.

We recently reached out to Lily to hear more about the music she's writing these days, what she did during the pandemic, and the enduring thrill of writing a great new song.

Analogue: As I’ve talked with artists over the last few years, especially given industry changes and the pandemic, it’s been a sifting of sorts for a lot of them, a challenge of whether or not to keep going. You’ve said before you’ve been writing songs since you were a kid, and given the family bloodlines in the industry, it made me wonder how much that was true or not for you?

Lily Hiatt: Y’know, I can’t believe that happened to us. I’m not a completely different person but I am a different person than before it. But I think I’m better for it, honestly. My sense of priorities have changed, and I would never stop writing songs or pursuing a musical journey. I just have to have that in my life, but there are also a lot of ways to have that life. I think having a bit of stillness paired with massive anxiety—world anxiety, you know?—was very eye-opening to me in terms of needing to learn the power of the present moment.

That’s not to say that I’m doing good at that. I spin out a lot about the future, but it put it all in perspective because we really don’t know how things are going to go. We just don’t. We didn’t see that coming. We didn’t see the heartache it would involve and the whole shift it would instigate—whatever the shift is. Things have changed. Anyhow, I love making music and I’m more grateful for it all.

"I think having a bit of stillness paired with massive anxiety—world anxiety, you know?—was very eye-opening to me in terms of needing to learn the power of the present moment."

Analogue: Did it change your approach to songwriting itself?

Lily: Well, I think my songwriting has changed, but I think that’s a lot to do with the fact that I got married. My husband [Coley Hinson] is a musician, so he’s influenced me a lot. I’m always influenced by creative people around me, so I think my songwriting is always changing around that. But all of that to say, my songwriting is also still kind of the same. I still write about what I see and how I feel and that’s my aesthetic, I guess.

But music is a survival tactic. To me, it’s a must. Now more than ever, I’m like, ‘How do we uphold the whole business end that’s been ravaged?’ But you just have to pivot.

Analogue: How good are you at the pivot?

Lily: I’m pretty good at it. My friend Kyshona Armstrong said that to me once when I was talking with her. She’s an amazing songwriter and she said that to me about having to adapt. She said, ‘We know how to pivot,’ meaning creative people. And we do. We have to. We wouldn’t be able to tour if we didn’t know how to do that.

Analogue: Listening to the newest single, if I’m coming to see you play soon, I’m hoping and praying that you’re going to play it because it just seems like a lot of fun live. True?

Lily: Yes! I’m so glad you feel that way because it is fun. It’s one that makes us all smile when we play it. It’s just a fun song, so I’m glad you think so.

Analogue: Do you normally play a lot of new material?

Lily: For sure. We love to play some new stuff. I get really bored if that’s not a part of the tour, so there’s gotta be three or so new ones circulating in the set pretty consistently for me. I don’t like it when we get complacent as a band. I’m more excited when we’re on our toes.

Analogue: Do you have a consistent band?

Lily: I’ve played with a lot of people and I’ll have eras of bands. There are people who stick with me for a long time and others who don’t and that’s fine. I’ve kinda accepted that. But right now I’ve got a cool band and they’re with me and they’re loyal for this touring time. I’m really grateful for that.

My bass player, who is also a songwriter, named Nick Harley has been in my band for a couple of years. He’s the longest-running member in this group. I’m happy to have the guys that I do and I hope they stick around for a bit.

Analogue: Earlier you mentioned the idea of making music as survival. Has that always proven true for you?

Lily: Oh, for sure. Even before I wrote music, I collected music and stuff. I clung to albums and lyrics and songs, reading all the liner notes of everything. That’s always been my escape and a much-needed haven.

So yeah, that’s always been true. No one can describe the feeling when a good song washes over you, when it grabs you. It feels the same way making it when I’m into what I’m doing. I realize then that everything’s going to be okay.

Analogue: You mean that as a listener and creator, right?

Lily: Yeah for sure. As a listener, when I hear a song that’s important to me, or just gives me that feeling, it’s really powerful. I just like the feeling of things and then when I’m writing and tap into something I’m into, it is a very heightened experience. I don’t know what it does but nothing compares to the feeling of that to me.

Analogue: Do you find that feeling often in the craft or is it far more elusive?

Lily: I feel like there are moments when it’s coming more than others. It’s funny. I’ll go months and write a bunch of stuff and at least I’m trying. But then I’ll pick my guitar without thinking about it and something will happen. I’ll get that feeling and then it’s like, ‘Oh, yeah!’ It seems to happen more when I’m not chasing it. [Laughs] That said, the discipline of songwriting keeps the door open for it. It keeps the gears oiled so to speak.

Analogue: So you always feel that way?

Lily: Good question. I’d say mostly I do, but that feeling can come in different ways. Sometimes that feeling was a part of the initial songwriting process or sometimes it comes later when we tap into a vibe from the production. But usually, it’s important… I never put a song out that I’m not stoked about.

VISIT: Lily Hiatt

Photo: Gregg Roth