Harlem is a place that demands respect throughout all of American art history. For decade’s visual artists, poets, filmmakers & musicians have all drawn inspiration and prospered from their experiences living in the north Manhattan neighborhood. That’s why, when I was introduced to Lynette Williams, she was already at something of a disadvantage, facing my highest expectations. But Lynette is one of those rare artists that only took a short second on Spotify for me to fall for. Why?
The level of authenticity in Lynette’s voice is genuinely refreshing. Her lyrical content is meant to be taken seriously, and is presented with humility. Those things alone helped her stand apart to me. Having previously worked with the great Ms. Lauryn Hill, I feel like its safe to say I’m not alone in my opinion.
The first noise you hear when you listen to Lynette’s 2013 EP Songs for Sarah is a dark guitar on “My High” that sounds like it came from a Jack White session. Then she sings…and it’s beautiful. It’s soft but really powerful; thoughtful and unrestrained. That combination of darkness and light was super compelling and had me excited for the rest of the project. When we asked Lynette about her influences and her sound she remarked:
You can hear bits and pieces of each influence on all of Lynette’s work, including her latest EP Love Thee, Not Chaos. She combines Dylan’s lyrical styles & Nina’s vocal strength with instrumentals that live somewhere between jazz, dreamy pop, and new wave indie rock. Lynette Williams isn’t caging herself in and that creative freedom is certainly working to her benefit.
When you listen to her lyrics you hear the Harlem artist touch on heavy topics like the meaning of life, love, relationships, and family. For artists who broach such difficult issues, authenticity can become increasingly harder to achieve. Cliché’s are stamped all over modern music, which should come as no surprise to anyone listening with a critical ear these days. Lynette is changing that on her own terms. According to Williams, “If I strive for anything, it is to be true to my story and true to myself and to not create anything that's inauthentic to who I am and to what I want to say.” I can confidently say that across all of her work, Lynette avoids sounding fake or over produced while maintaining her integrity and soulful creative fire.
What’s next for the Harlem singer? After two strong EP’s, Lynette is working on writing and recording her first full-length album. Perpetually asking why and digging for answers in life, it is exciting to consider what Lynette can come up with for a full album’s worth of material. Her aim is “to leave this earth with some knowledge that I found my meaning and lived my purpose and loved fearlessly.” Those are goals that everyone should cling to, especially as we head into a new year.
So – while she gets started on her new project – go buy or stream Lynette Williams’ work online and get to know her a little better via an interview we did with her below.
We were just introduced to your music and are loving what we've heard so far. In your words, how would you describe your sound?
I always describe my sound as indie soul - a composite of soul, jazz, and folk. My favorite artists and the one's that have deeply influenced me include Bob Dylan, Nina Simone, The Beach Boys, and The Strokes.
What influences the music you make?
I write from life experience - be it love in the form of relationships, friendships, or family. And at other times, I'm influenced by more abstract ideas like my experiences coping with the meaning of life and death.
Art in general in all forms has also played an integral role in my music including visual artists like Warhol and Basquiat, and film directors like Wes Anderson, Alejandro González Iñárritu, and Pedro Almodóvar. Authors like Toni Morrison, Haruki Murakami, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez deeply influence my music as well. These artists have articulated so many things I've been feeling or mulling over in my head in the most beautiful and profound ways - ways in which I have been unable to express myself. This gift they hold has inspired me and guided me through my own creative process.
How do you see yourself bringing something new within the space your work in?
That's a good question... I'm not sure I can answer that. I'm most drawn towards things and people that are authentic and true. Art is recycled, reinvented, imitated, and at times even stolen. No matter what, art is done best when artists tell their story, show their authenticity and truth. To me, this is the essence of innovation, perhaps the only innovation there is. If I strive for anything, it is to be true to my story and true to myself and to not create anything that's inauthentic to who I am and to what I want to say.
Who or what is a driving force behind your work?
I think meaning is the driving force behind my music. Life is one huge inscrutable experience that always beckons the question why. Why am I here, why do I love, why do I feel alive, why do I feel alone? Why do we experience loss and death? Why are so many things left unknown like God and the afterlife and the purpose of this existence? I seek to find if even on a minuscule level some answer to all the whys. And I aim to leave this earth with some knowledge that I found my meaning and lived my purpose and loved fearlessly.
What can fans expect from you moving forward?
The next step is an album! I will be working on recording and writing my first full length album.