Young artists to light up Bronson Centre,
The sophomore album by Lights mixes heavy beats with sunnier subjects
Behind the Regent Park School of Music in Toronto, a group of young girls are barely able to control their emotions. “Oh my God, I can’t believe I’m meeting you right now, I’m so excited,” says Amelia Churaman, 15, to the pop singer Lights, who arrives at the non-profit music school to collaborate with the budding musicians. “You inspire me to pick up the guitar and sing.”
Lights, winner of the 2009 best new artist Juno Award, released her second album, Siberia, last month and Everybody Breaks
a Glass, the artist-leaked single, has already been downloaded 150,000 times. The electronic artist, just 24, wrote her first song on the guitar at 11 and was signed to Sony as a songwriter at 16. Signing autographs, hand- ing out guitar picks and even taking a photograph with a curious resident who’s wandered into the small courtyard — Regent Park doesn’t generally welcome too many pop stars — Lights says she knows what it feels like to be a music-mad kid.
“Not that I sound anything like her, but I grew up singing like Mariah Carey, and Céline Dion was definitely my favourite artist when I was 12,” says the native of Timmins, Ont., who was born Valerie Anne Poxleitner but who is now known legally as Lights.
“I want to encourage these kids; they’re awesome! Look at them, there’s really not that much difference between them and me.”
Siberia marks a significant growth spurt from The Listening, Lights’ album debut, because while her beats have become heavier, the subject matter has, well, lightened up. Collaborating with Graham Walsh and Brian Borcherdt, who record under the moniker Holy F —, the album swings from dub-step to house and techno, while never straying too far from Lights’ deeply entrenched love of pop hooks.
“I want someone to do something I can’t do, and the album’s grit and darkness is something I don’t gravitate toward, but Holy F — provided that,” she says. “It’s funny because the first record was a lot happier-sounding, but it’s a sad record. This record sounds a lot darker, but it came from a happier place.”
Lights attributes her new-found strength and levity to growing up as a musician, and a person, on the road. An artist with a massive online presence, she sports a giant World of Warcraft dagger tattoo on her wrist. She also has the word “Unstoppable” tattooed on her back and a six-inch picture of Wonder Woman slaying a giant on her arm.
“I’m communicating this feeling of being strong even though you aren’t, and that even if you’re not big, you can still be extremely powerful,” she says.
“Now I’m not afraid of who I am, like I once was, and you can definitely hear that on the new disc.”
In total, five young musicians arrive for the Lights jam session, ranging in age from 10-year-old Ben Aenishanslin to 16-year-old Portia Siegel. Lights leads them through a few renditions of Drive and Toes, the record’s addictive first single, encouraging them between takes.
“Voices sound the best when you know that they are the best,” she informs her backing band at the end of one song. “Amelia, you’re killing it with that strum pattern. It sounds awesome, you guys.”
Lights is touring Siberia through the fall and into 2012, including a stop at Bronson Centre Nov. 23, and already seems excited about writing new material. Playing acoustic music in a back courtyard of the Regent Park School of Music, the singer says she feels empowered by the changes she’s made.
“I’ve grown up so much over the last couple of years, not because I’ve been jaded or weathered by the world, but because I’ve learned so much about myself,” she says. “I’ve learned how to be confident and not be nervous in a paralyzing way, and I’ve learned that it’s best not to close yourself off from people, you let people in.”
Juno Award-winning singer-songwriter Lights, who recently released her second album, Siberia, says she knows what it feels like to be a music-mad kid.