Interview: Lily Meola

Lily Meola

Recently I was able to connect with Lily Meola for a Zoom interview to discuss her uplifting new single called “Without You.” I asked Lily about her music upbringing, how she stays motivated as an artist, how she measures success as well as her breakthrough single “Daydream,” and what next year has in store for her promising musical career.

Thank you so much for your time today, Lily. I heard your new single, called “Without You,” that was recently released and I immediately gravitated towards your sound on this uplifting breakup anthem. Can you walk me through the writing process for this particular song?

Well first off, thank you for having me and taking the time to chat, and being interested in the song. And yeah, the writing process on this song, it was my last day in Nashville, on a long writing trip, and I had a flight to catch. And this song for some reason just came super naturally to us. It was done in an hour and a half if I remember correctly…sometimes it just really flows. And for some reason, this day, it all came out really fast. And I was kind of inspired by the feeling of young love and how heartbreaking it can be, but also wanted to keep it light-hearted. And even though you feel those pains, it’s all just part of the journey. Those ups and downs, you got to just still appreciate the moments.

Absolutely! Who’s in your “trusted circle” that you test out new music with? Is it the live audiences that you play to, or your management? 

Honestly, a little bit of both of that. I’ll send it to a couple of close friends, and I’ll even test some of the songs live and see what the audience reaction is like. And then, yeah my management definitely weighs in as well. But if there’s a song that I’m really into, I don’t care what anybody else thinks. If it just feels natural to me, and I’m excited about it, then others opinions probably aren’t gonna change my mind haha. Is that sassy?

No, that’s a sign of a true artist, in my opinion!

But honestly, sometimes they are convincing me that other songs are better than I think they are. That’s always funny, too. So I forget their opinion.

<Laughter> I first got word of your musical career when my son and I attended one of your concerts in Washington, DC. You opened up for Imagine Dragons on that big Capital One Arena show…

Yeah, that was such a fun night!

You performed cover songs like Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams,” which went over really well with the audience. I think people were grooving to that, as well as a lot of from your previous EP Daydream. So what was that experience like with sharing your music with such a large audience?

Oh, it was so fun, honestly. One of my highlights of last year. His audience is just so into the music, and they’re there to have a good time. And it’s a wide range of audiences, from kids to adults, and everyone’s having fun. And so it was just a really, really good time. I hope one day I get to open for them again. And DC is a really cool place. 

Yeah, that’s where I’m from. 

Have you been there for a long time?

Oh, yeah. I grew up here my whole life. I live in Silver Spring, Maryland, which is about 30 minutes on the metro to Capital One Arena.

Did you guys have fun at the show? 

Oh, absolutely. Yeah, my son said, “This lady can sing!” So he’s got a little bit of that sweet talent in there too, and an ear for music. He’s 12. So he could have a sassier opinion for sure. Do you have any other upcoming touring plans at this time or for the next year?

I just got off a little mini tour with Steven Sanchez, which was so fun. He is just the sweetest person ever. And an unbelievable artist. His show, if you get a chance to see him, unbelievable performance. It was such a great time! I’ve really just been focusing on new music. So I’ll be spending some more time in the studio finishing up some songs. Not doing too many shows right now, but probably more soon.

Yeah, that’s good that you get to hone in on your writing process right now. So what continues to keep you motivated as both a singer, songwriter, and as an artist?

That’s a really great question. What keeps me motivated…I guess writing music is somewhat of a therapy for me. And whatever it is, if I’m going through heartbreak, grief, or good times, I’m gonna write about all of it. And being able to process those situations and life moments really has been so helpful for me and quite healing.. I like it, and it’s a bit addicting to be able to go into the studio and then by the end of the day, I have a new song. But I think that’s kind of my biggest inspiration; a new day to make a new song.

That finished product is probably very rewarding too, right?

Yeah, it’s really rewarding. Even if the song sucks, you still took that time to be creative and process things…and you have a result at the end of the day. That’s a really cool feeling. 

So I believe you’re from Maui, correct?

Yes I sure am…

So what was your music upbringing like and what led you to this career path?

I grew up listening to everything that my parents listened to. And my mom was a big Ella Fitzgerald fan. She loves Cat Stevens, The Eagles, and that whole era of music. And so I listen to a lot of that. And I would sing along in the car. And that kind of really blossomed into my love for music and singing. So once I started really falling in love with singing, I started getting little gigs around the island. And my mom was the best “momager” in the world. Sometimes they can be scary, but she noticed that I had this outlet, and this thing that brought me joy. And she really nurtured it, and in a beautiful way. She’s like, if you want to, I can try and get you gigs. And she did that. I had weekly gigs at cafes and bars when I was just 11 <years old>.

It’s awesome that she had your back and didn’t force you into it, by the sound of things. It’s like you really enjoyed that early process?

I sure did. And it was really great for me, because I had a hard time in school. I was frustrated a lot. I have dyslexia, and it was just hard for me. And so, having this thing that I felt like I really connected with really, really helped me as a human, evolve and feel comfortable with myself.

That’s great. I’m glad you were able to find your niche category that you can excel in. How do you think you measure success in your musical career? Is it by the number of streams? Is it by your creativity and how you talked about the finished product of the song? Can you explain some of that?

That’s a great question. Shit, you got these really good questions! Obviously, if you get a bunch of streams, you’re going to be successful, but for me, I think the “success moment” is when I finish a song, and I can listen back, and I feel like it truly reflects a moment in time for me. That’s when I feel most connected to the process. And also performing. Performing is just one of my absolute favorite things. Singing, in general, just feels good.

Can you think of a moment where you really connected with a crowd? Or won over a previously skeptical audience?

Oh, that’s a good question too. Normally, when you go out and play shows people tend to be prepared for what they are going to see…so I wouldn’t necessarily say it feels very skeptical, but, maybe, when I went on AGT, people were like, “is this girl gonna bomb? Or is she gonna be good or not?” And then seeing the reaction to the song I sang, “Daydream,” was really special. The lyrics touched people and as a songwriter that is as special as it gets.

So with the cover songs that you’ve performed plus with an eye on your future musical development, can you think of any dream collaborations of an artist you would just die to work with?

There’s so many. I’d die to work with Chris Stapleton just because he is so incredibly talented. I just love this voice. But then I also want to be a vocal feature on a J. Cole song! Such a wide variety of things I want to do. Joni Mitchell. I think my all time fave, best songwriter there ever was. I’d just love to meet her!

I remember when I first got that vinyl record for Blue that my parents gave to me. I was like, “holy shit, this is great!” Even at a young age, I was blown away.

Yeah, it’s the way that she looks at the world, and her melodies. If you just listen to a track of hers without any singing on it, I think, “how did she come up with this melody?” I mean, her playing is incredible, too. But just the melodies are like gymnastics. It’s all over the place, but so perfect. 

Yeah, she’s definitely in the top tier of songwriters, and I feel that your career trajectory would also be right in line with that. You have that type of talent that I feel…with the right type of tour placement, or the right type of collaboration, could really explode your career in the right way. 

You’re so sweet!

Your new single, “Without You,” will hopefully leave your fans breathless and wanting more music from you soon. So what does the rest of the year look like for you, your writing process, and also for music releases coming up?

Yeah, so right now, I’m in Nashville. I leave today, but I’ve been here for a week. And I’ve been doing some music video stuff and a little bit of writing. So anytime I come here, I’m like, another day, another song. I’ve got a couple of features coming up and then doing two single releases at the <end> of the year. And hopefully leading to a little EP surprise, but we’ll see! It’s hard for me to say because I’ve made some plans, and sometimes they don’t always pan out the way you expect them to. So it’s hard to say exactly what’s gonna happen, but right now that’s the plan.

Great. Any last words for fans or a reason to check out a show?

Take a chance!

Nice! It was so great to meet you, Lily. Stay healthy on tour, and good luck with the writing process as you finish up this cycle.

Thank you so much, Adam!

Photo Credit: Anja Liotta