Lola Lennox is one of those voices that has so much thought and story behind her, you will have to listen to a lot. She has so much depth in everything she sings, says, and shows as you will soon see/hear. As a model she has had Vanity Fair, Vogue, and Prada to her resumé. She studied classical singing at the Royal Academy of London.
Her mother Annie Lennox (of the Eurythmics, but do I really need to say that?) is one of the most successful female performers in music, and has always been on the front lines for the LGBTQ community. They performed together for the World Together Benefit Concert for Covid-19, and it was at that moment I became as big a fan of hers as I am of her mother.
Lola was planning on playing Pride events this year, but once those plans crashed, she put this special video together for everyone in the lock down. Instinct is proud to present an exclusive Lola’s new video “Pale”.
Jeremy Hinks: I appreciate your taking the time to talk.
Lola Lennox: Well, I’m excited to be in your magazine.
JH: I have to say, this is a bit surreal, I am a big fan of your mother and her work. I remember very clearly reading about you being born when I was in high school and thought “Wow, Annie has a daughter, that’s so great”, as big a fan as I was back then, and now we are talking. My mom is a huge fan of your mom also.
LL: That is so sweet of you, thanks.
JH: Well, I am going to say this, having listened to your work, I love it, and you can stand on your own. You are obviously not trying or needing to ride on your mother’s coattails. You did this very well. I told your manager if you, Florence Welsh, and Kate Bush were all three on an island together singing, and I was a sailor at sea, I would definitely crash my ship on those rocky shores, hands down.
LL: That would be a fun island to be on if I was singing with those two.
JH: Well, I am a sucker for a good siren. So, you are starting a bit late in the game, and that you didn’t want to go public with your music ’til just the last few years? Why did you wait until just recently?
LL: It wasn’t that I didn’t want to go public with it, it was that I didn’t want to take it public ’til it wasn’t at its peak. I felt like when I release something I wanted to gain a place within me, as an artist and as a writer, but I knew my sound, I could write very authentically and that takes a long time, you know the “ten thousand hours of writing”, and a lot of soul searching. If it had come around earlier, that would have been potentially a favorable thing, and I didn’t want to push anything out of myself that didn’t feel genuine, or that would feel like I was at the best place. I knew my sound and had to get there. I am releasing it now because I knew my sound, and the songs I was writing now kind of fit together in a meaningful story of me and representation of me.
JH: There is a word for that in the industry its called “perfectionist.”
LL: (laughs) Yeah, I suppose.
JH: Well, I have been listening to the demos and I am in awe of what you have been able to do, and if you think you need to work on that to make it “ready.” It sounds like you put enough into them, and those songs are fantastic. What about your work with the Serengeti film score, I suppose that was a totally different animal (bad joke) for the music on that one.
LL: Yeah, I have been writing since I was a teenager, and singing since I was eight, so I have been doing a lot, but its all been behind the scenes, though I haven’t been sharing it with people, it’s not like I have just started, it has been a longer, more personal journey coming up to it. I did the Serengeti last year, it came out on Discovery and BBC, it was a beautiful thing to be a part of.
JH: It sounded amazing on YouTube. Also your work that is yet to be released, that was so different from even that, but just wonderful. I was told that you did some balcony singing, and you heard someone singing your mother’s work, I mean, that is the paradigm everyone is in, having to do just, balcony singing, but that must have been great to be in the middle of at that moment.
LL: Each Friday, my neighbors play a street concert, just music through the speakers, and everybody just comes out from their apartment buildings, and still maintaining the social distancing, come out to sing and dance in the street. Its such a joyful weekly experience to come out after being cooped up inside. So its a special moment for everyone, and one day I was sitting on the balcony and I heard them play “Sweet Dreams” and so I face-timed my mom, and she was watching with me on face-time watching everyone singing “Sweet Dreams”, it was surreal, but it was amazing at the same time.
JH: So, have you performed on the balcony yet?
LL: No… I’m just having fun listening to their songs, its usually ’80s anthemic songs, so not my stuff, but yes, I am usually out there dancing and singing like an idiot with the rest of them. It’s Friday night, and that’s about as good as it gets these days.
JH: Yeah, that is how it’s done these days, I mean, who would have ever thought THAT would become “a thing.” I know you had planned to play some Pride Festivals this year, and sorry they all were canceled, it was going to be a banner year for a lot of people. But I do hope to get your music out to people for Pride this year, even if they can’t see you live. I know everyone is going to go nuts on these songs, have you at least played some of it live?
LL: First of all, I LOVE GAY PRIDE, I used to live in “Boystown” in West Hollywood, and I could just step out of my apartment and have fun at Pride each year. Living in “Boystown” was just wonderful, they were all so caring and friendly, I just love the gay community, I always felt safe, and respected, accepted, the whole community there was just so full of love, and wonderful people. I was really looking forward to performing for the Pride Events, just to share in my joy with the community. For live performances, a few years ago I put together a band, and we played the normal gig circuit, playing once every two weeks, cafés, the Roxy, hotels, I had played a few charity events, and a few fashion events. I performed for Vogue in Dubai, the Italian Vogue did a concert and I performed there. It’s been more private events. When I first moved to L.A., my mother did a concert and I was one of her backing singers, and we did a duet for that. But I have been playing a lot of low key gigs in L.A. and that has been part of the writing experience as well, for each gig you get more in tune with how to express and portray the story of a song through expressions, through body language. Initially, I was a little shyer, I loved the singing part, but the performing part was difficult, but now that I have had the experiences and I know it now, I know how to connect deeply with the music, and I just absolutely love it.
JH: So, it’s starting to become YOU, to perform them as you describe it they become living entities, have to grow into what they are, and you need to work your way with them. So, real quick where did you grow up?
LL: I grew up in London, my mom lived in London since she was seventeen so I was raised there.
JH: So for the LGBTQ community, I suppose you grew up very open to it, with your mother being the loud outspoken activist that she was, well, still is, for it all. I remember I was in elementary school, starting when I was nine years old watching your mom through her entire career, doing so many artistic things, pushing the envelope in everything. People even back then would say “It’s just some idealistic bleeding heart musician, no reason to listen to what they have to say”. But with her AIDS/HIV work, and the support for the community, your mom was always bringing it to the forefront, and the conversation. So moving to West Hollywood probably was not much of a culture shock.
LL: Oh no, I have always been able to respect each individual for who they are, whatever background they have, and to see them as equals and to see the world compassionately, and never lend to judgment. I’ve always been open to whoever you are, for each person to be free, and celebrate themselves. I grew up with family and friends who were gay, I had friends at school who were gay, but it never came into the equation for me to see them as anything different.
JH: Many of us grew up the stigma around it being a bad or shameful thing. I can see from your upbringing where you saw it as normal, acceptable, and fine in the lives of the circles you were in.
LL: I also grew up in London, which is a very metropolitan city, and I went to a very progressive school. I didn’t grow up in a place where “otherness” because of their sexuality is encouraged. London has people from all walks of life. I am used to people being authentically who they are. I am so grateful for that because I know that a lot of people who may or may not be gay, have grown up around people who feel that sense of separation and not quite as empathetic and understanding. It’s a shame that it can come down to geography, and even a lack of education.
JH: I can say that you were very blessed to be raised in that situation. Geographically, London is very open, and you would have that. I’m in Salt Lake City, there is still the stigma, and though even as recently as the last few months the Dominant Paradigm of the LDS church many still believe that it is a choice and a sin and are treated badly for it. I wanna just say to these kids “GO LIVE IN WEST HOLLYWOOD FOR A WHILE.”
LL: (Laughing) I thought that so many times when I lived in West Hollywood, I met so many young people who had come in from places like Utah, or Middle America, where their parents wouldn’t and I thought it was so unfair, that they had to feel like that if they came from those circumstances. But then I would look and see how tight-knit a community it was, and how close and friendly they all were to each other. I thought these people had found their place, and found that acceptance they were looking for, and their people, it’s encouraging.
JH: Yeah, I wish these kids could understand that it does get better, and in places like West Hollywood, or Silver Lake, people accept you, just because that is who you are. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am hoping to see you perform at PRIDE, but…
LL: NEXT YEAR!!!! (Laughing).
JH: Next year, yes I hope to see it, the gay community knows how to throw a party, I hope you are going to own it at Pride next year, I wanna see you sing.
LL: YES!!! They DO know how to throw a party, and they are the nicest dressed. I have to say though, Pride is also THE BEST people watching everyone dressed in their crazy colors, and gemstones, it’s so fun.
JH: Well, your YouTube performances were fantastic, and I know Pride was where you were hoping to shine this year. So, I’m going to jump into your music now. I heard your demos and the stuff prepping for release, wonderful. Lemme start with “Back at Wrong” your next single, you talked about putting so much into writing a song, so let’s hear about that one. *(It is truly fantastic, I love my job)
LL: Sure, “Back at Wrong” is the next single that I am going to be releasing. It’s about a toxic relationship, you lust after the person, and you are on and off with them, and there is this constant push and pull back and forth feeling to the momentum of the music. I love the blues, and so I put some blues in there, but I call it blues pop. My mom’s done bluesy pop, maybe that’s why you are hearing my mom in it. Its when you have someone’s speaking voice sounds like their parents, it kind of filters through, but it is still authentically me.
JH: I hear your mother’s lower tones in the “Andro-Zone” the most. It’s phenomenal when she does it, and you can do that well. Though it doesn’t sound like you are trying to sound like her. Let’s talk about “Pale”, you have recorded it, and it’s been released, but this is the video for it is that correct?
LL: Yes, “Pale”, I wrote it a while ago it was about a period in my life when I had lost someone very close to me, and going through that grief, and learning to live in life again after going through a sudden change like that, it’s processing, tuning into the questions of what happens when someone goes. Getting in touch with that existential and that transient part that all of us have to experience at some point in their lives, everyone loses someone close to them. Because it’s about that, and now the situation of everyone around this Corona-virus, and all the effects, people losing family members, or finding that people are getting sick, or losing their jobs or losing their apartments. Everyone is having to adapt in different ways. So I think people might be able to connect with “Pale” right now, so I pushed to release it earlier than I was planning. And I am glad I did that because I have gotten so many wonderful messages from people. People who are struggling at home in isolation, in whatever way they may be, and they say it has brought them some comfort, and that has been wonderful to hear that. So, I decided to shoot the video, but since we are all in lock-down, I couldn’t really shoot a “professional” video. So I thought, how do I get resourceful with this, so my boyfriend shot it with me here at home with his digital camera. We wanted to encompass the meaning of the song when I wrote it, the transient feeling, with the otherworldly quality with the sky and lights effect, and also to depict the life in lock-down with images of the normal, the seemingly small things that we do day to day. Like the things we do in our apartment. drinking tea in the morning, looking out the window, the small details of the day that you notice, and stand out in lockdown. Its an amalgamation of those points.
JH: So you made it to become very current? Was any of this grief going on around the COVID-19?
LL: No, it had already happened when all of this broke out, I just, was able to make it current.
JH: I think that is wonderful that you could do that, I hope that you have not lost anyone to this. Cross my fingers I have not lost anyone either, but this is the kind of song the world needs right now. Let’s talk about “In The Wild”.
LL: “In the Wild”, released it in February, it was about a complicated time in my life where I really felt stuck, I was with somebody and it wasn’t working. And I had this desire to go into nature and sort of cleanse away the negativity. I am very connected to nature, and I love just being immersed in it, so it was a commentary on how powerful nature is, and how it can heal you, and heal the difficult times we go through. The director of it was Natalie Johns, which was an amazing experience, we wanted to depict that in the video. So there were the very cold, more sterile scenes, and it slowly transcends into the ethereal.
JH: Well, I liked the juxtaposition, you in the sparkly outfit, then climbing that tree. And the look on your face was almost surprised, like, “What are you doing here?”, and then “What are you going to do here?” It was very intense, it wasn’t like, “I’m in pain”, and that line, “Meet me by the river, leave your keys in the car”, sort of a “I’m going, are you coming with, and what can I expect” was what I got from both, it was really powerful with your voice on top of it all.
LL: I guess all songs are depictions of feelings and experiences in your life that are very intimate and personal, so maybe as a viewer looking into something so intimate, and such a close impression, maybe it could feel like that.
JH: Well, it was wonderful, I have listened to that one quite a lot. So, the “Tears For Fears” cover, (everybody wants to rule the world) again, I grew up listening to them, fabulous band, but that is one of their songs that I have heard so much, that when it comes on the radio, I’ll usually turn it off. You put some new life into it, and made it interesting again.
LL: Well, I wanted to make it my own. Before I dug into it thinking to do it, I thought it was a really fun, happy song, you know you bop your head about with it in the car. But the lyrics are so profound, and it’s about the constructs of society, and what we are all doing, it was philosophical. So I thought I would slow it down and let people hear the lyrics.
JH: Well, I think that because Tears For Fears for that album pumped out so many singles, “Shout”, “Head Over Heels”, “Mothers Talk”, “I Believe”, then that one. They all were just coming at you so fast, and all getting radio play almost back to back, that you kind of glossed over some of them for so long. So, your take was impressive, and you brought something new to it after hearing it so much for over 30 years. Then, let’s see, the “I Don’t Care”, what made you pick that song?
LL: It had just come out that day, it was a fun song, and I thought I would just have some fun with it. I have not done many YouTube covers, and that was the first one and thought I would play around. I had forgotten that was out there, and the “Tears for Fears” too.
JH: Well, it’s good that you can do something for fun, too. I mean it’s not ALL about being a tortured soul needing to express it.
LL: It’s a bit of both, actually.
JH: So when you got to perform with your mom for the “One World: Together At Home”, I heard it streaming while I was driving. The first time I heard you sing that song was also exactly what the world needed that day, I became a fan of yours on that performance.
LL: It was a huge honor to be part of that experience, mainly for what it was supporting. When all humanity is going through a crisis, and first of all shining a light on the stories of the health workers, there was so much footage around the world, it moved me so deeply. And second, to be on something with such a roster, Lady Gaga, Stevie Wonder, it went on and on, and then also to sing with my mom was a special moment for the both of us. We wanted to move people, and bring joy to their day, and music has such a power to move people. So we thought it would make people happy to hear it. It is one of my favorite Eurythmics songs, so I was happy to sing it, and with my mother, in an unconventional way… on the phone.
JH: Well, it was like, Live AID in the present right? Back then, Satellites, Bob Geldof here, Phil Collins in two continents, and then now, everyone sings into their phones you in L.A. and your mom in London, and we all get to see it, but you never got to even see your audience.
LL: It was so charming though, it brought everybody back to an equal footing, and so humbling as well, to know we were all going through this together, seeing all these stars in their living rooms together in their sweat pants. It was a great move for my work in music, I’ll be releasing more music over the year, and I hope to be doing concerts soon for Pride, and everyone.
JH: So, this is what I ask everyone, now it’s your turn, what would you say to the young gay person, in the closet, terrified, an that vulnerable state?
LL: There is nothing to be ashamed of you should love yourself, accept yourself, it’s going to get easier, you will find your tribe, you are wonderful.
JH: Well, thank you for everything Lola.
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