Lily Kershaw Dreams of Finding True Love and Meaning in 'Arcadia' (premiere + interview)
Folk-pop singer-songwriter Lily Kershaw, navigating through divided worlds on her new album, discusses her struggles with "my place in the universe" and the deep thinking behind the music video/song "Always & Forever".
15 November 2019
Nothing lasts forever, including love, but Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Lily Kershaw examines the possibilities while exploring different worlds in Arcadia, her sophomore full-length album that was released today (15 November).
To help illustrate her feelings, Kershaw premieres the music video of "Always & Forever", one of the album's 11 luscious songs, today at PopMatters. In the process, the L.A. storyteller shows just how much she has grown since Midnight in the Garden, her precious debut album for Nettwerk Records, was released in 2013.
"I love love. I think it's the most important thing on earth," Kershaw writes in response to a series of email questions for this article. "I struggle with the fact that romantic love has its rises and falls, just how I have struggled with my place in the universe and all the things I do not understand and cannot comprehend."
Shot in in L.A. and directed and edited by Thomas and Michael Mauriello, a couple of Kershaw's friends who are twin brothers, the video takes viewers on a dizzying journey mostly through a 16 mm camera lens, filled with blurred images, extreme closeups and disjointed symbols that may lead to existential questions.
Think about it now while watching the music video, then read on to discover more about Kershaw, her friendship with talented actress Emma Roberts, a 2019 tour highlight (the Apple of her eye), and what's next for the folk-pop songstress.
"I wanted the video for 'Always & Forever' to feel like a vintage, timeless Laurel Canyon 1960s classic and yet somehow out of time altogether," offers Kershaw, who co-wrote the song with Roberts. "That is why we decided to shoot on 16 mm. I also wanted the video to feel like a dream and as if you could never fully capture it or touch it. Like somehow, the image was always fleeting, getting away, slipping right through your fingertips, just like time and existence and the wrong kind of love."
Described previously as a metaphor as she deals with "my fairly consistent existential crises", Kershaw adds, "I also explore an unhealthy romantic relationship in the verse and bridge in this song as the finite and mortal counterpart to the existential lyrical nature of the chorus."
"Always and forever / When you take, do you feel better? / Be my one and only / In the darkness, I feel holy." While driven by Kershaw's evocative vocals and a synth-laden beat reminiscent of early 1980s Motels, that's still fairly heavy material for a vibrant, affable artist nearing 30 who began "writing little songs and singing stories as young as six years old, and I still haven't stopped yet."
Kershaw was 22 when she established those songwriting intentions as a "long term-goal" before the release of her 2013 album, and stated in our phone interview then that practically 100 percent of the subject matter she writes is "pretty painfully autobiographical."
At 17, she began recording and played a prostitute and kidnap victim on the long-running CBS series Criminal Minds, which a few years later featured her breakout hit "As It Seems" in the 2012 season finale. But even while dabbling in filmmaking and acting before her music career blossomed, it was songwriting that continued to connect with Kershaw.
Photo: Lindsey Byrnes / Courtesy of the artist
"It is a part of my daily routine and ritual," she says, filling in the six-year gap between full-length albums that has included various singles and the 2018 EP Lost Angeles. "I do it compulsively. It is always there. I am always in touch with it. So I would say that core hasn't changed throughout the majority of my life. I have changed in ways since [our 2013 interview], but I would say less related to writing music. I trust myself and my gut feelings. I am kinder to myself."
Though Kershaw has previously stockpiled an unlimited amount of songs, she relied on her instincts to discover Arcadia, the Ben Cooper-produced record she has said is divided into two worlds — utopia and dystopia.
"Arcadia was the first body of work that I had written in a while that I felt strongly needed to see the light of day and live in the world," explains Kershaw, whose album tugs at the heart and works on the brain. "I would say the major source of inspiration was the duality I felt in myself and in the world and the reflections of aspects of existence in each other, the macro in the micro and micro in the macro, and how truly everything throughout existence is interconnected. …
"All the songs that ended up on Arcadia came once I realized I wanted to write a record to exist in this world. I felt like I was dreaming of Arcadia and writing from that place and summoning this world up in my brain."
Her worldly vision of a "lush idealistic place" throughout the first half of the album includes "Always & Forever", the song that sprang from some poetry Roberts had written, then immediately put a melody into the head of Kershaw, who said they needed only 15 to 20 minutes to finish it.
"She's an excellent writer," Kershaw says of Roberts, who has been a mainstay marvel and key component during the frightening run of American Horror Story. "We have written a couple of other songs together, and they all feel really special to me. I love writing with Emma.
"I met her many years prior to us becoming close friends. I am not 100% sure of what I thought at the time, but when we reconnected and started to become close years later, I remember loving how fast we clicked. She and I are on very similar wavelengths."
While fondly looking back on her own acting experiences, Kershaw focuses on a creative career that takes her to other thrilling places, literally and figuratively.
After touring with Joshua Radin and the Weepies in 2019 — her highlight was meeting Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak at an 11 October show in San Jose, Calif. ("That was an absolute delight. He is so lovely!" she exclaims) — Kershaw will start the New Year off with a bang by opening for Radin in Paris and London
And the music making never stops.
"I am currently writing a new record," reveals Kershaw, who plays a record release show at the Hotel Cafe in L.A. on Saturday. "I have technically been writing this record since I began to write Arcadia. They are two very different concepts, and I finished writing Arcadia first and felt more compelled to execute it in the studio. I will finish writing my next album and maybe even begin to record some of it this year!"
If Kershaw has finally found her true love, may they live happily ever after.