Being a musician in the modern industry no longer means one thing alone—take Lights, for example—a singer-songwriter whose career continues to ebb and flow right along with the shifting goals of her creative journey. “An artist should always have far more than once face,” she explains.
And multi-faceted she is—between four studio albums, several sold-out U.S. tour dates (including an upcoming tour with deadmau5), and her recent exploration of comic book fiction through the eyes of her own character creation, Enaia—there are many avenues to peer closer into the mind of Lights.
We caught up with the alt-pop singer/songwriter, just before her tour dates with deadmau5, for a candid conversation about pre-show rituals, how she first connected with her Taylor 712ce acoustic-electric guitar, and finding the perfect songwriting partner in an instrument.
Guitar Center: Tell us about your Taylor 712ce. How did you choose it, or how did it choose you?
Lights: I’ve played a LOT of acoustics in my day. I used to work at a music store, so I had the chance to try out pretty much every guitar that came through. At 18, I had just moved to Toronto to pursue music, and I was ready to graduate onto something a little more “serious” from my previous guitar. I knew I liked small bodied guitars—something with electronics. Nothing spoke to me like that 712ce when I first picked it up. There's a certain connection you can make with a guitar—I’ve played many guitars since, and this is the one I always go back to.
Guitar Center: You have it with you at most shows—why is it a must-have touring acoustic?
L: Any guitar owner knows that guitars are like wine - they only get better with age. I’ve played over a decade of my music through the wood on that guitar. It’s going to take a hell of a long time to break another one in like I have this one. Every time I try out something else—however amazing the guitar may be—I always go back.
"I’ve taken [my Taylor] to a canyon at the bottom of the Rio Grande, and played under the Milky Way. She’s been on stage in front of thousands with me, and more importantly - with me in a hotel room on a hard night.”
Guitar Center: Do you have any tips for a new musician trying to find their perfect acoustic guitar?
L: Only you are really going to know what feels right, but I always think about buying a guitar like choosing a dog. Dog owners always seem to sort of share characteristics with their dogs, and similarly I think guitars are an extension of you. I’m pretty small, so I like a small neck and small body, but something that will still project. It’s a tough balance finding a small body that projects - but hey, I can relate.
Guitar Center: Do you typically write your songs acoustically? If so, why?
A good handful of my songs are written acoustically. Almost all of my songs get played acoustically eventually, whether it’s acoustic renditions of my albums, or little throw-and-go gigs, radio performances, acoustic tours, or just playing in a hotel room.
Guitar Center: Do you have any noteworthy stories that have happened with it?
L: Oh man, the places I’ve gone with that guitar. Probably one of the furthest reaches we’ve gone is for an acoustic gig in an igloo church in the arctic: Inuvik, NWT to be exact. Took that baby to a canyon at the bottom of the Rio Grande, and played under the Milky Way. She’s been on stage in front of thousands with me, and more importantly, with me in a hotel room on a hard night. This is getting very emo, but that’s a good guitar right there. Woman’s best friend.
Guitar Center: How do you keep your acoustic sounding its best from show to show?
L: I’d like to sound like a pro and say I change the strings all the time, but to be honest, I hate the sound of new strings. I let them get as old as I can, stretched out by sweat and grease (yes, gross). I’ll keep them like that for as long as they’ll stay in tune. Otherwise, this little entity mostly takes care of itself, as long as you don’t bump her around too much. Tough cookie, that one.
Guitar Center: How did your upcoming tour with deadmau5 come about?
L: Back in 2012, we performed his song “Raise Your Weapon” at the JUNO Awards and it just really gelled. Over the years, we’ve communicated every now and then about video games or nerdy shit. Years later, he sent me a track called “Drama Free” which we wrote and I tracked some vocals on, and just like that we were shooting a video for it. It was featured in a wicked movie called Polar. Before I knew it, he had invited me out on the road.
Guitar Center: What are some of your pre-show rituals each night on a tour?
L: I have a power huddle with the band and crew where we chant “Who are the important ones? We are!” in French (gratuitous self-praise helps bring the gusto). Then I’ll sing a few lines of whatever song is in my head and hit the stage.
Guitar Center: What's coming up for you?
L: More music, more mixing and producing my own stuff, more comics, more collabs, you name it. I have a lot coming up and I’m stoked to watch it all come together over the next while. Most immediately, I have been working on a remix set of all of my songs to support select deadmau5 shows and it’s really wicked. Very un-acoustic, but I always say an artist should have far more than one face.