Raised in Cranbrook, British Columbia, Louise Burns and her friends – more interested in making music than in hockey or hunting – formed pop/rock outfit Tigerlily when she was just 11 years old. In what seemed an impossible dream come true, Tigerlily landed a deal with Madonna’s Maverick Records in 2003, renamed themselves Lillix, and were launched into the spotlight – professionally styled and singing carefully crafted hits like It’s About Time and a cover of The Romantics’ What I Like About You (which appeared on the soundtrack for the film Freaky Friday; their video starring then ‘It Girl,’ Lindsay Lohan). In 2006, disenchanted with the “meat grinder” mentality of the majors, Burns left Lillix and set off in search of her individuality. Now in 2011, the independent songstress has released her solo LP Mellow Drama and has found what she’d lost years ago: a genuine passion for making music.
You co-founded Lillix at just 11 – that’s astonishing.
In retrospect, I’ll admit it’s quite exceptional, but at the time it made perfect sense to us. We were small-town girls from Cranbrook – which was very hockey-centric and outdoorsy – and somehow, we were motivated enough to form a band and practice and enter this really crazy level of discipline. I’m not really sure how it that happened, but we never doubted it. We were really passionate.
What were your parents’ reactions?
Lacey and Tasha’s dad was in a band so he was the most encouraging. We got to use their basement to practice and they had a lot of instruments. My parents were supportive too, but perhaps a little more reluctant because I experimented with everything. When I started with the band I was already a pianist in the Royal Conservatory so it kind of made sense to them, but then they were like, ‘Bass guitar? …Uh, okay.”
If you played piano, how’d you end up on bass?
I had no idea what one was (laughs); I had no concept of it. But when Lacey and Tasha said, ‘Can you be the bass player?’ I just said, ‘Yes’ and that was it.
Eventually you got signed and things started to change – is that right?
It wasn’t a traumatic experience because nobody was hurt or abused, but the music industry – which I call a meat grinder – took everything we thought we believed in about making music and just tore it to shreds. It became about money and marketing and we became a product of theirs. We were really aware of that and it was hard to deal with. My relationship with music became all about writing commercial songs for the radio and existing to impress the people who were paying for our record. It got really messed up in my head – to the point where I didn’t know what I was doing anymore.
Tell me about the time immediately after Lillix.
Well, it was a healing period for me. I knew I loved songwriting and music more than anything else in the entire universe, but I didn’t know if I could ever do that to myself again – what if it was another heartbreaking experience and everyone just thought that all my hard work was garbage? I knew I probably couldn’t take it. So I just stopped thinking about that kind of music and started playing in bands and finding the real meaning behind my love of music, instead of forcing myself into it.
How did you finally start again?
Well, I never really stopped – I’ve been writing ever since I quit [Lillix], but I finally got my s— together in 2008 when I found the sound that I was trying to get to and I found out what it was I loved about music again: true passion in my songwriting.
What’s the biggest positive to being solo?
Definitely control. In the studio, I get to be creative and have control over the music I make. I really, really like that I can just call the shots and have everything go my way (laughs). There are no egos to balance. For me, it works – at least for now.
Your bio says that ‘Mellow Drama opens the book on a personality that was submerged during [your] long apprenticeship years.’ Is that true?
Nobody ever knows what they’re about in their early teens but I definitely felt like I couldn’t be myself during that time. It wasn’t honest for me to say, ‘I am so into [Lillix’s] music’ because I wasn’t. Mellow Drama reintroduced me – in an honest way.
Next week, Louise Burns dishes on Mellow Drama, her musical inspirations, and how things have changed – or not so much – for women in music over the past decade. View the video for the album’s first single, What Do You Wanna Do at www.louiseburnsmusic.com.
*Originally published under ‘Interviews’ on MyTelus.com.