Meet Lila Drew, the 21-year-old LA-based artist that is certainly one to watch after the release of her striking debut album ‘All The Places I Could Be’ - a dazzling time capsule exploring the unfamiliarity of growing up. Lila’s distinctive angelic vocals weave through ethereal soundscapes full of surprises and sparking experimentation leaving us enthralled from start to finish.
Photography by Vincent Haycock
Words by Oli Spencer
Growing up Lila was a musical sponge, her parents filling the soundtrack of her childhood with a range of music from Nina Simone to A Tribe Called Quest. She took up piano at four-years-old, and began writing and producing her own material around eight. Starting with the song ‘Big Blue Eyes’, her confidence made sure the track was burnt onto CDs and given to her parents. It’s clear now that she’s carried that same confidence from when she was a little girl, scoring a slick verse from Goldlink on her impressive debut single ‘Faded/2am’ after sending him the song - as well as gaining a tick of approval from Zane Lowe.
Continuing to develop her artistry, ‘All The Places I Could Be’ is a magical debut, sharing her experiences figuring out the complications of growing up. On the album Lila explains “So many elements of my life were changing in real-time while I was making this record, and writing through those changes exposed all of my insecurities and aspirations and things I wanted to explore. All The Places I Could Be isn’t about wanting to be somewhere else, but wanting to be someone else, embodying your younger self, exploring things you haven’t experienced but are too afraid to seek out, and embracing mistakes and discrepancies (both within the music and outside of it) in the process”.
Lila finds a great balance of seriousness and learning to laugh at herself more, creating a special and relatable tale of self discovery. Much like her ever-changing life, the album is full of surprises - going from the crunching drums of the opening track ‘Used To’, as well as the the up-tempo pulsing beat of ‘Selfish’, to the more delicate and hypnotising echoed vocals on ‘Lila’s Theme’. With these special moments, the album only seems to get better with each listen.
And the cherry on top? Lila Drew has teamed up with New Zealand duo Broods for a buoyant dance remix of her song ‘Bad Juice’, an intoxicating re-imagination that will set dancefloors alight. A full circle moment for Lila, seeing the duo perform when she was 15.
In celebration of the album and remix, we caught up with Lila to talk about all things 'The Places I Could Be', her perfect writing spot, and the last song that made her cry.
GET TO KNOW: Lila Drew
You’ve been writing since you were little - do you remember the first song you ever wrote?
It was called “Big Blue Eyes” and it was horrible. I think I was eight when I wrote it and recorded it on garageband. I burnt it onto CDs and gave them to my parents – I was so proud of my work.
Who was the first artist you really got into? And how did you find them?
I’m not sure – my parents really played so much music when I was growing up, so my taste was super influenced by them… So many artists from Lou Reed to Public Enemy to Carole King. I remember begging my parents for an ipod nano (if anyone remembers those), and wanting so desperately to download Channel Orange because it cost money and was explicit. I think they finally caved (or I downloaded it without telling them) and I listened to it maybe 10 times a day.
Have you found a perfect writing spot?
My favorite place I’ve ever written is in Bath, England. I worked on a lot of my album with Matt Hales (aka Aqualung) there in his beautiful home studio. It overlooked this little lake and you could hear birds all day – it was so idyllic. I don’t love writing in one of those super dark studios – I get so tired if I’m sitting in the dark all day!
What’s your favorite lyric you’ve ever written?
That’s changing all the time – my favorite lyric is always just the most recent song I’ve written. I guess that means the songs are getting better each time, but I also think there’s something exciting about writing new material and hearing it realized.
Congrats on the release of ‘All the Places I Could Be’! How was release-eve?
Thank you!! It was amazing – my boyfriend threw a “kick-ass party” (his words). But really, it was so fun – it was at one of our friend’s houses and all of my friends were there. It was the perfect way to spend the night because I was so anxious about the album coming out. I felt my heart beating out of my chest quite literally all day. But I had the best night.
When you look back at this time in your life, what do you think you’ll remember the most?
Hmmmm.. That’s such a tough question because I’m so busy at this point in time that I don’t really have time to remember things or properly log my memories. But I think I’ll remember this sense of exploration that I’m experiencing at this point in my life – everything still feels new, and I love that feeling.
Can you share a little bit about the album’s cover art?
Yes! The artwork itself was drawn by Jack Taylor Lovatt. He is so incredible and his work so perfectly encapsulates this album – it has this simplicity and childlike nature and it’s just so perfect for this album. I’m really drawn to minimalism, and was so inspired by 90s fashion campaigns in thinking about this album from a visual perspective. But I really couldn’t have expected that Jack would create such a perfect piece for the cover that is so sweet and serious and doesn’t take itself so seriously either.
What kind of headspace were you in while creating the album?
To be totally honest, I wrote this whole album in a super strange headspace – I’d just graduated high school, and was living in LA pretty much by myself – all of my friends had left for college. Anyway, I was so confused and sad and unsure what to do with those emotions. I channeled it into the album, but it’s hard sitting with those emotions every day in the studio too.
We are so excited to hear about Broods’ remix of Bad Juice! Did their remix teach you anything new about the song?
Yeah!! It’s so epic. I’ve been listening to Broods since I was young – I loved their 2014 album, so it’s super cool to hear their interpretation of the song. Something I think about a lot is how the song finishing process comes about for me – I can edit forever, but sometimes it’s not making the song any better, just making it different. So with the remixes, it’s so awesome to hear someone else’s interpretation of the song because it teaches me ways in which the song could sound that I never would’ve done myself. But I absolutely love the Broods remix. It’s so fun and danceable.
One song you wish you wrote?
Part Of The Band by The 1975. No question.
Last song that made you cry?
All of Nick Drake’s Pink Moon everytime.
We are also big fans of ‘faded/2am’ - how did that link up with Goldlink come about?
Thank you! I wrote that song so long ago – it’s so cool that it’s still resonating with people. I was and am such a massive Goldlink fan and I’ve been so lucky to work with people who I am a real fan of. That goes for the Broods remix, the Majid Jordan remixes of 2023. With Goldlink specifically, I’d really just reached out on a whim and sent him the song. He sent back the verse randomly a few weeks later. I think I cried when I heard it – It was so surreal and I still can’t totally believe that was the first song I’d ever put out.
What is inspiring you outside of music right now?