Interview: Leicester Bangs (UK) with Basia Lyjak
Basia Lyjak: A few questions for singer-songwriter Basia Lyjak.
Basia plays piano and guitar (though not onstage), and though ostensibly a solo artist, she’s aided and abetted by:
Ron Bechard, guitar (Sin Dealer, formerly Crash Karma & Edwin) Dave Carreiro, bass (Nigels 11 feat. Chris Kirkpatrick of 'Nsync, formerly of Slash Puppet) Dale Harrison, drums (The Headstones, Alannah Myles),
Joseph Langton, guitar (formerly of Fritz Helder and the Phantoms),
Pat Kelly, keys, backing vox, rhythm guitar (Pat Kelly & the Core)
With a fresh year in 2011 and 4 new singles in the post-production stages, Basia Lyjak is a woman in control; she is a veritable supernova of songwriting and vocal talent poised to explode, putting a stranglehold on her eager existing fans and caught-off-guard new converts alike, leaving them rapt and thirsty for more, more, more!
10 years into her professional career, Basia has seen and learned a thing or two about her ever-changing and increasingly uncertain industry. From the glitz of generously funded development deals and girl groups, to living out of her car in order to record and release her next single, Basia has been personally and professionally privy to the whole spectrum of the good and bad of being a musician.
"That's it!" says an uncharacteristically relaxed Basia. "Everyone has their two cents to offer to me: I should sing like this, write with that person, use this producer, focus on a different genre, wear different clothes - the list goes on and I can't please everyone. I'm here to write great songs, period, so I'm done with limiting myself to genres when every kid with an iPod has at least 50 different kinds of music on it! That's the mindset I was in when we went into the studio with these new songs - make them the best they can be, not cram them into a genre."
Leicester Bangs: How did you start out making music? Basia: It sounds cheesy, but I'm one of those kids whose parents vouch that they were singing and performing before they were talking. Singing, performing and music have always been my passions. I sat in front of my cassette player and sang along to Celine Dion and Madonna tapes, stopping and rewinding a hundred times until I was satisfied I hit all the notes and nailed all the inflections. In high school, I was extremely involved in the music theatre program and performed leads in several productions. From there, I auditioned for a girl group, and out of thousands of applicants, I was selected to be one of the members. That was my start in the music biz as I know it, and as great an experience as it was, it's the reason I've been so adamant to do things on my terms ever since.
Since leaving that situation, I've spent a lot of time developing my songwriting, my voice, everything, and I'm still constantly learning! I'm a perfectionist, so I have to sing songs I love and believe in and play them with musicians who kick ass! I have to be genuine and honestly feel everything I do.
LB: Who did you grow up listening to and how do they influence what you’re doing now? Basia: To name a few artists who inspired me back then and are inspiring me now: Annie Lennox, Led Zeppelin, Stevie Nicks/Fleetwood Mac, Sinead O'Connor, Madonna, Joni Mitchell, Veruca Salt, Holly McNarland, Motley Crue, Hole, No Doubt, Janis Joplin, The Go Gos, Tracy Bonham, G'N'R, Audioslave, A Perfect Circle, 4 Non Blondes, Prince, Carole King, The Bangles, Poe, Bjork, Depeche Mode, Jeff Buckley, David Bowie, U2, Nirvana, Dixie Chicks, Heart, Blondie, Billy Idol, Jane's Addiction, Rage, Lenny Kravitz, The Cult, New Order, Neil Young, Cowboy Junkies, Alison Krauss, Alanis Morissette, Patsy Cline, Rolling Stones, Roy Orbison , Righteous Brothers, Elvis, Black Sabbath, ABBA, The Police, UB40, Grand Funk Railroad, Slipknot ...
My childhood was built around music; both my parents had music playing constantly and it was everything from rock, folk and Motown to classical. It was all there and I cherish it. My dad used to sit me in front of the record player with my sisters and make us listen to the music he wanted to hear, and he wouldn't let us leave until he was done!
My mom would tell us about when she saw Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath before we came along, and I learned so much from listening to all the different stories, styles of music, techniques, emotions and timing. This is where I learned that I loved 'mastering my craft,' so to speak, and that I wanted to be on stage, singing for people. I learned about country music through Caitlin Hanford and Chris Whiteley, my old neighbours, and I thank them for introducing me to the heart of blues and country - it took me to a whole new level in developing my craft.
LB: Tell us about your latest release. Basia: I have 4 new singles in the pipeline! My mindset right now is that people are barely buying albums these days, and music fans aren't as exclusively devoted to one genre as they used to be. Most people have iPods that are filled to the brim with different styles of music, so I figure this is a great time to explore my catalogue of songs and release a variety of sounds and genres. I love rocking out and belting rock songs, but I also love to write pop and country songs - why not share a bit of everything, right?
My first single of 2011, "Sunshine," was released on iTunes on May 10, 2011. I wrote it with my guitar player, Ron Bechard, when we were spending some time in Calgary, Alberta with the Calgary Motorcoach family. It's got a country rock vibe to it, which is totally different from my last few releases, which have a heavier, more alt. rock sound. But, because we were in Canada's west, hangin' with cowboys in the mountains, it all felt really organic. We weren't trying to be country, but with the Alberta sun shining down on us, it's what came out of us naturally!
The second single that I plan to release in the coming months is called "Sick & Tired," which is the result of a collaboration with Yurko Mychaluk, who used to play for Nelly Furtado and has some wicked music out under his own name, Yurko, and his band Klooch. I morph back into rock chick for this one - it's heavy but really catchy! People always tell me that I'm the female answer to 3 Days Grace, Finger Eleven, Stone Sour, etc., and I think that comes through on this track! It sounds huge - it's killer, I can't wait for people to hear it!
The third single, "Hero," is a ballad and I'm hoping to release it this summer (2011).
It was also written in Calgary, Alberta with Ron, so it has that country vibe to it like "Sunshine" does. We even have acoustic 12-string on the track, and it sounds really haunting and beautiful! We shot a video for it in the first week of May with Karma Pictures - extra special thanks to Eddie & Dillon Bowman and the KP crew - with the incredible John Holosko as director of photography. It's going to look fantastic, and I'm so thankful to the team who believes in me enough to make a video possible at all!
The fourth single, "Yeah Yeah Yeah," will likely be released at the end of the summer or early fall. I wrote it with a good friend of mine, Santino DeGasperis, whom I also wrote "Stuttering" with, which was the single off my 2007 EP, "Writings on the Wall." He's a crazy talented guy and we work really well together. It's got a wicked groove, it's fun to sing a long to, it's sexy - it totally evens out the score in that "Sick & Tired" while "Sunshine" and "Hero" complement each other!
As I said, I want to keep releasing singles at regular intervals. I'm really grateful to FACTOR for helping to fund three of these four tracks, and I'm working my butt off to save money to record more music! I love to collaborate with other musicians, so I have so many demos that I've been lucky enough to write with amazing people. I want so many songs I have in my catalogue to see the light of day and I plan to keep writing, writing, writing, whether by myself or with others!
LB: Do you get out and play your music live, and if so, what can an audience expect at one of your shows? Basia: I love to play live! Full band, acoustic, whatever, I just wanna play! I'm a really high energy, emotional person, so I need that live outlet to level me out or I'm a ticking time bomb. I've played a lot in Toronto in the last few years, and I'm dying to play in Europe, The U.S., Canada, Asia... I look at my website's stats, and I get so many hits from Germany, Italy, Poland, France the U.K. - there's a huge rock fan base in those areas and Europe in general, so it's a major goal of mine to play there. It all comes down to financing, so I hope people dig my songs enough to grab them off iTunes for $0.99 so I can not only record more, but afford to travel with my band and play shows for people around the world!
LB: What aspects of playing and recording music do you most enjoy? Basia: I love writing songs, singing and performing. I love being in the studio and in front of an audience. I love when people tell me how my music has affected them positively, how they relate to lyrics and how the tunes pump them up for a night out, or cheer them up on a tough day. And I love that I have a fantastic support system around me of people who believe in me to help in various areas; it's the only reason I've be able to stay in this business for so long.
Aside from loving the fans, craft and adrenaline of it, like all musicians do, I struggle with certain aspects, like all musicians do! It's scary how recorded music has been devalued in the last decade - we've become more willing to pay $2 for a chocolate bar that will last 5 minutes than $1 for a song which will last a lifetime, and which took hundreds to thousands of dollars to record. I know people hate to talk about it, but it's the truth, and it's the truth for most artists! Each $0.99 download means the world to us indie artists, and we don't even see the whole dollar at the end of the day!
LB: Where can people find (and buy) your music? Basia: CD Baby, iTunes and my website (links below).