Interview: Lindsay Lou Explains How Transformation and Faith Informed ‘Southland’
Americana singer Lindsay Lou is sitting in a coffee shop in Nashville's Germantown neighborhood, facing the windows, holding a book of philosophy by Alan Watts. A friend gave it to her, during a time when her life felt isolating and chaotic.
"We'd been talking, getting into higher matters in conversation, and she gave it to me," Lou recalls. "It kind of snapped me out of -- oh, a couple of things, but I think some of it was about connecting with women in a way that I had been closing myself off from, and then all of a sudden feeling not so alone."
As someone who's in a band with four men -- and married to one of them -- it's easy for Lou to drift away from her connections with other women. However, she says that, both in her musical and personal life, she's seeing a resurgence in female bonding and collaboration.
"It's not unique to our time, but it is characteristic, this awareness of holding space for each other," she explains, "and the more we hold space for each other, the more we are able to be heard through our own voices and perspectives. It's a shift."
Lou's latest studio album, Southland -- her first without the name of her band, the Flatbellys, listed on the cover -- isn't really about feminine energy per se, nor is it exclusively about fostering connections with other women. Lou wrote the songs on the project throughout a period of intense transformation, both professionally and personally, and while there are certainly aspects of womanhood and femininity to be found in the album's subject matter, the overall message is broader: Southland is a meditation on large-scale change, turmoil and transformation.
For one thing, pretty much all of the songs on the record were written after Lou and her band moved to Nashville -- a move that, itself, seemed like a metaphor for struggle and change. "We f--kin' broke down on the way there; the car broke down," she recalls. "We had this shuttle bus that used vegetable oil. We made it to the first stop, halfway there, and then we had to rent a van to get ourselves the rest of the way. That sort of feels like the road to the record."
Meanwhile, Lou was going through changes in her relationship with her bandmate and husband of 10 years, Josh Rilko, and professionally, in terms the kind of music she wanted to make. In addition to dropping the Flatbellys' name from the project, Lou began shifting her sound away from the traditional bluegrass style for which the band has been known for the past decade, towards something more introspective and songwriting-centric. It wasn't completely unfamiliar territory.
"The first time I ever hung out with the Flatbellys, Josh asked me if I wanted to come back to his house and jam," Lou explains. "I remember sitting in the circle with these three dudes and I was like, 'Oh, I just learned this Nat King Cole song' ... and they all sat there looking at me like, 'Okay, what do you want us to do with that? We're here to pick some bluegrass. It's lovely, but it's not what's going on here.'
"And then I just realized, 'Oh, I just have to learn bluegrass songs and then I can be a part of this with them,'" she goes on to say. "And I love bluegrass music, so it was great. You know, it's a lot like church. It's this beautiful, soulful way of connecting with people."
Lou's recent move back towards Americana and folk-laced music was not for lack of love for the musical style she pursued for a decade prior, but rather for a further excavation of herself as a person and an artist. "Music is such a symbol of the rest of what's going on. It's just been a journey of getting closer to my own voice, my own self," she relates. "Maybe we're not born exactly who we are, or knowing exactly what's going on. You learn about yourself and then spend all this time on this learning and unlearning battle. I think that musically I've been getting closer to my own voice."
She turns her attention once more to the book on the table. "Like, one of the things [Watts] talks about is the difference between belief and faith," she adds. "Belief is when you have an idea, and you'll only take things in that are in accordance with that idea and shut everything else out.
"Faith is when you don't hold onto anything, and you have faith that the truth will out and whatever will be will be," she continues. "So I just really like that idea. That one feels really good for right now."