There is something special and amazing when you search through social media looking for new music and you stumble across a familiar face taking a leap of faith. Lydia Ramsey, who I have known as a member of St. Paul de Vence for the past few years, stepped out of the shadows and delivered a brilliant new solo album, Bandita. The young singer-songwriter from Indianola, WA decided to give us a few minute of her time to chat about her new music, her inspirations and her future!
Aaron Mannari: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us. We have known about your musical talent for a quite a few years now as a part of St. Paul de Vence, but some of our readers are just getting to know you. Could you tell us a little more about who you are as a musician and what led you to becoming an artist?
Lydia Ramsey: Music runs pretty deep in my family. Both my parents are musicians and were also able to be home with us a lot when my brothers and I were kids. The idea of music was always about “play” too; it was just built in to our world. I grew up listening to my dad playing Bill Evans, Bach and Debussy on the piano, and singing rounds with my mom about the moonlight and flowers and other hippy shit. It was great.
When I got a guitar at 16, I turned to this old compilation book of every Beatles song ever, and since I already knew the songs (’cause it’s the Beatles) I began plucking my way through. My dad showed me some simple finger picking patterns that sounded really pretty even when played slowly, so that helped keep my interest in the early stages of learning a new instrument. Once you have music in your life, it becomes this companion you can take everywhere you go, that can be your very own thing that no one else can touch. It’s very empowering, I think especially as a young women, when you’re trying to find out who you are and how you fit into world. I kept my own songwriting private for a long time, not imagining how or why to share it because it was so intimate and personal. Then in just the last few years really I was like, hell I want to contribute my piece to this world while I’m here, and leave behind something I’m proud of. So I set out to make a proper record.
AM: And your debut album, Bandita, is finally out and it is a brilliant piece of work. What influences and inspirations helped you bring out this the wonderfully rustic southern folk sound?
LR: I recently started listening to artists like Nikki Lane, Shovels and Rope, Hurray for the Riff Raff, Lyra Lynn; these female leads who were making something with some grit to it. In my early songwriting days I felt really pigeonholed by the solo, female singer-songwriter genre, like if you were a woman and played acoustic guitar people thought they knew what you were all about. I got really tired of that and wanted to break out of that mold with this record, to make something that felt powerful. That’s where the Bandita name came from (as in “lady bandit”) just being in a place in my life where I was tapping into this, “I’m going to do exactly what I want, all the time” spirit. Like, I will take what I want from this life and don’t need anyone’s permission or anyone to hold my hand. I’m just going to make shit happen, right now, the way I want.
As to other inspirations I’ve definitely been inspired by my Seattle music community, watching friends work so hard on their own music and on getting gigs, getting press, making things happen for themselves. Belonging to a community where people are working toward the same things you are, makes it all seem doable and less intimidating. You realize that there’s no magic button to press that makes everything unfold before you, it’s just setting your intention, then being at the top of your game when it comes to production so you create something worth sharing.
AM: That is so true. So the debut single off the new album, “Ghosts”, was accompanied by, as NPR called it a “mysterious video”. Tell us a little bit about how the video came together.
LR: As soon as I finished writing the song I had pretty clear visuals of these opposite figures in this barren landscape, telling us their stories, seeming to share this bond but never directly connecting with each other. At first I dreamed of incorporating a larger cast of people and dancers and props, but kept coming back to this more sparse concept that really showcased the open landscape and gave this mysterious, eerie feel to everything. We ended up with a crew of about 7, friends came and helped out, my friend Lindsay and her daughter ended up being in it, after just a whim of a concept for their involvement. A lot of magic happened for everything to come together like it did, and it turned out really amazing.
AM: The video was shot in Vantage, WA. Have to love the diverse landscapes in the Pacific Northwest, but why specifically did you pick that location?
LR: Once I decided on eastern Washington and began to think about who would film this, two friends came to mind, Tony Kim and Matt Macy. They’re both in photography and film and are also rock climbers. I thought they’d know the most magical spots that were easily accessible which was such an advantage to wandering around the desert location scouting. With the guys on board, we ended up at Frenchman Coulee, camping for two nights. I remember when we first pulled up Friday evening of the shoot, I got out of my car, cracked a beer and felt so excited. It was just what I envisioned. And that rock corridor location that the black and white figures walk through was incredible, and they just took us right to it. We’d run into climbers throughout the day who’d ask about our equipment and side-eye my outfits then leave us with encouraging hollers of congrats for pursuing a dream. It’s wonderful to feel the connection that happens when people see other people working hard on something they believe in, it’s contagious and makes me think of that saying, “everybody does better when everybody does better.” I think that’s very true. You can feel the ripple effect.
AM: I happen to particularly enjoy “Ashford” and “Night After Night”. Do you have a favorite track on the album?
LR: I love how “Springtime” turned out. It was written as this sweet love tune then just got super honky-tonk with the full band which was fantastic. That’s always fun, when a song takes on a life of it’s own. I think I listened to “Night After Night” on repeat the most after I got all the mixes back, that Wurlitzer just sounds so lovely and that instrumental melody it carries just tugs on my heart strings.
AM: Is there any plans for a solo tour or possibly a festival like Bumbershoot?
LR: I’m heading out on the road in March going from St. Louis to New Orleans routing through Nashville which I’m super excited about. Then I am looking at a tour around Appalachia in June and festivals over the summer. I’m working on a cultural music exchanging in Iceland for 2018 that would involve some writing and touring in Scandinavia which would be such a dream. I have this beautiful friend who has this mantra to start at the end and work backwards, to define your endgame first, then work back step by step. I love that because it helps you hold focus on something that really matters to you in your life, and to get down to it.
AM: That is amazing! Thank you so much for sharing your stories and that wonderful advice.
LR: Thanks, Aaron!
Bandita by Lydia Ramsey is out now on iTunes and check out the music video for “Ghosts” below!
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