“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless yet be determined to make them otherwise.”—F. Scott Fitzgerald
I found talking to Lila March relaxing. Maybe my mind zigzags enough to make it work, because thinking back on it I feel like I ought to have had psychic whiplash from it. We’d be merrily chattering about the whimsy of being a creative type and the need to accept that the world sees us as just odd, then taking a flying leap into talking about the importance of technical precision in production values—sometimes inside the same paragraph.
I guess those things don’t feel that unrelated to me. Van Gogh might have been a dude whose whole manner of expression was based on allowing his imagination to flood out, like thought-vomit, but he still needed science. He needed the way paint sticks to canvas—he needed colors to interact in precise ways—he needed a rectangle to hold his thought-vomit and he needed to the tools to move it out of his head. Without some technical skeleton, pure expressions of emotion are just limp colors signifying nothing.
(See that? I grafted my idea onto the skeleton Shakespeare provided, thus demonstrating my point.)
The Girl with the Guitar
You guys don’t know it, but you’re all living in a novel. Sort of fun, right? Some years ago, Lila started writing a novel. None of us will ever read that novel, because at that point reality branched. It took two paths. In an alternate reality, Lila finished the novel. If you can figure out how to get over there, you could totally read it.
THIS branch of reality, though, is the events of that novel. The novel has the title The Girl with the Guitar (which is way better a title than War and Peace and that book’s got a freaking cult, man), and it’s the story of Lila March picking up a guitar and teaching herself to write songs and touching people.
In that other reality, The Girl with a Guitar is a piece of fiction. I’m quite in love with books, but I’m willing to sacrifice the existence of that novel to live in this version of reality where I can hear Lila’s songs instead of read descriptions of them.
Lila told me that she decided to become the hero of that novel rather than write it. I think that’s an admirable way to live. If you’ve got to live, you may as well live making things.
I mean, that’s if you believe in the divergent realities theory of time. I’m not sure I do.
The World Runs on Conflict
Lila has an album coming out at some indeterminate time in the future. But who needs time, anyway? Maybe you’re reading this after the album’s come out. So it’s not the future anyway. Maybe the album’s already come out for you. Whichever. Point is, she’s working on an album. The album she’s working on is full of ways she’s lived and watched the world over the past five years. She says she wrote most of the songs in it over the past year, and that is an interesting example of what happens when you take a creative type person and force them to sit still and remove a lot of their distractions. We make things.
(Side note: if there’s anyone out there who wants to invest in culture, I’ve got this great idea for a grant-driven simulated lockdown type situation to give creative types tools and reduced stimulation for, like, a year at a time so they can actually get stuff done. They’d have to apply to get in and stuff. It’d be super legit. I just need, like, six millions dollars to get it started. Anyway. Back to Lila.)
Lila played me one of the songs from the album. It exemplified our whole conversation and captured some of the themes she says she’s writing about in her album. The song’s called “Jellyfish,” and as far as I can judge (and I’m [ironically] terrible at poetic interpretation) it’s a song about the conflicted feelings that come with close relationships. She used oppositional language like “come closer—I don’t want you” to express that deliciously dumb feeling of wanting to be in a relationship.
She doesn’t write about love, though. I asked her specifically. Keef Richards claims that he believes all songs are about love. I asked Lila what she thought about that. With a serious face, she said to me, “I can respect that perspective.” Then she explained that’s not really her thing.
I super appreciate that, though! It’s too reductive. The world’s not just love and disgust (suck on that Anaxagoras). There’s way more to the human experience than love songs and breakup songs. Lila says those conflict-filled grey areas are where she works.
The conflict is the fire bringing her creativity to a simmer. She uses that conflict between the intuitive and the academic approaches to art to make things. And when she makes things, she explores places where feelings fight. She believes that beauty and pain are more tightly related than they appear, and she sees that as a valuable bit of emotional friction to explore with music.
Makes sense to me.
Keep an eye out for her single, “Jellyfish”
Although she gave me no idea for a release date, I’m super into encouraging Lila to “drop”, as they say in the parlance, a “single,” as the idiom puts it. That’d be pretty cool.
Because it is no bad thing to have another psychopomp out there interpreting the grey and conflicted corners of the human experience and writing songs about it.
(Anaxagoras: pre-Socratic philosopher who posited that reality is made of microscopic motes of stuff who moved based on the love and revulsion they felt for each other.)