Published Sep 16, 2014These days, things are going pretty well for Elizabeth Lowell Boland, a.k.a. Lowell. The pop songwriter recently signed with indie heavyweights Arts & Crafts and today (September 16) follows up her buzzed-about EP, I Killed Sara V., with her first full-length, We Loved Her Dearly.
Things weren't always easy for the eclectic singer, who revealed earlier this year that she was coerced into stripping for a time after dropping out of University of Toronto, but on We Loved Her Dearly, Lowell is reconfiguring her past as an essential part of her current success, rather than something worth forgetting.
"I was always focused on music, through that whole time of stripping," she tells Exclaim!, "but there was definitely a moment where I realized that some of the people in my life were taking advantage of me and making me think that I needed them. I just had this moment where I realized that everyone I was working with in music wanted to work with me because I was really good at music. I didn't need these people; they just had manipulative ways of making me think that I should be grateful for being around them."
She wrote her EP's title track, "I Killed Sara V.," as a way to break ties with her stripper persona — "I feel like I created that to justify what I was doing and to separate myself from it so that people would respect me more," she says — but quickly began to rethink the break after her personal epiphany, deciding that instead of "killing" her, Sara V. could be fondly remembered.
"I started gaining confidence and being more open about the stripping stuff, and I was like, 'You know what? Sara V. was kind of cool,' and that was when I decided that 'we loved her dearly.' It's sort of not something that I'm ashamed of at all. In fact, I'm proud that I got through that and got to see that world that not a lot of people see. I took it in a really sort of incredible way and was able to grow as a person. I hope I can help other people in that way, too."
On We Loved Her Dearly, Lowell aims to use pop music as a means for social change, in whatever way possible, by finding a sweet spot between the sometimes vapid world of pop music and the often insular indie underground.
"I've written in pop writing camps," she explains. "It's intelligent, but it's also a bunch of people sitting in a room, and nobody's trying to say anything. They're trying to get a song cut by somebody famous so they can make a lot of money: 'Okay, what are the three things we can write about? Drugs, sex, rock'n'roll.' And then you just sit around and think of creative ways to say that. It's kind of, it's intelligent, but it's using intelligence to be really dumb.
"On the other side, you have artists like Braids, or I dunno, I've always loved Chad VanGaalen. The problem — and it's not really a problem, I love that music — but what it does is it [separates] that group [from the larger mainstream] and puts them into one little bubble where everybody can agree [that] race is an issue and gay rights are important and feminism yada yada yada, but that [bubble] is just a bunch of liberal people, progressives, chatting amongst themselves. I want to do both. I feel like those worlds could be more gelled. That's what makes me happy when I make music, trying to achieve that."
She points to Kanye West as an example of pop music done right: "I think there are a lot of people who listen to Yeezus who have no idea what [he's] saying about race, but they still like it. That's what I mean."
For now, Lowell is looking forward to the release of her first full-length statement, We Loved Her Dearly. The album is out today and features singles "I Love You Money" and "LGBT." Listen to the latter below.
Read our recent feature on Lowell here.