By: Christy Oldham
19, Feb 2017
Musician Christie Lenée’s unique guitar work is often compared to visionaries like Michael Hedges, Joni Mitchell and Dave Matthews, delivering profound instrumental compositions with heartfelt, consciously uplifting songs. Lenée’s pieces have been showcased at the NAMM Show in Anaheim and Nashville, live on National Television and Radio, on stage with artists such as Tim Reynolds (guitarist for Dave Matthews Band), Andy McKee, Amy Ray from the Indigo Girls, and Stanley Jordan to name a few. Her album Live at the Hideaway Cafe was one of three finalists for “Best Album of 2014” at the Indie Acoustic Project Awards.
Lenée has a new album out called STAY. It is a collection of hopeful, inspiring songs featuring special guest Tim Reynolds on the title track “Stay,” “Sun Shines Through” and “Journey of My Own”. The title track “Stay” shines a bright light on suicide awareness and prevention. She is currently on tour in the United States and will be on the road most of 2017 in Australia, Asia, Canada and Europe.
Demigoddess Chronicle recently sat down with this talented woman and here is what she had to say:
DGC: How do you get your inspiration for your empowering songs?
CL: To me, music is a beautiful platform for communities to share in a space of joy and love. It is the universal language that I’ve felt destined to speak to anyone – no matter from what walk of life, to any age or life situation. I am, however an ordinary human being who has been through a variety of ups and downs in this life. One thing that has helped me get through challenging situations is to rise above the hardships to a place of overcoming… to not sit there in the shadows, and instead lift myself up to a place of love and light. In my teenage years I went through some very troublesome times. The truth is, music saved my life and helped me come out of it. At that point I shifted my focus to be a motivated person and serve a life of purpose. I wanted to help others get through challenges by creating positive music to bring people together. Through this intention, “Empowering songs” come from the place of choosing to be empowered and inviting others to feel empowered through the music.
DGC: What made you become a guitar player and when did you know this was your calling?
CL: I played piano starting at the age of 6 and would always pick up things by ear that I heard on the radio. However, my piano teacher didn’t seem to acknowledge the beauty of my interest in popular music and was very much “academic” and “by the book” with my music studies. Having such an experience with my instructor sort of damaged me at a young age. Instead of following my love for the piano, I chose the path of acting and musical theatre for many years. To me the stage was a more fulfilling arena for my creativity and self expression.The major shift happened at the age of 12, when I met my half brother from my Father’s previous marriage. We went to his house around Christmas and he was shredding the electric guitar to all of my favorite music at the time…. Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zepplin and Green Day. I asked him the golden question that changed my life forever:“Scott, what notes were you playing in that guitar solo?” His response was enlightening. “Notes? What do you mean notes? I don’t know anything about notes…. I just listen to the song and play back what I hear.” His answer was beyond inspiring. Playing by ear and expressing myself through an instrument was always what I’d wanted to do with the piano. However, music felt so academic in the way that my teacher guided me years before. Once the outlet of playing by ear was finally validated, I begged my Dad for an electric guitar, asked my brother to show me how he played by ear, then hit the ground running learning all of my favorite albums from beginning to end. I did this for a year without lessons, but knew that I could count on the known phrase: “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” I found an incredible teacher in my freshman year of high school and set focus to learning classical guitar. This later coupled with additional studies in jazz, rock, blues and improvisation with a separate private teacher while studying both classical and jazz at my performing arts high school. This kept me on a very focused path of practicing 8 hours per day, including at least 3 hours at school in the classical guitar orchestra and playing electric guitar in jazz band. Simultaneously through all of this, I always maintained a love for poetry, narrative writing, singing, dancing and acting. In my senior year I had the most pivotal moment at a Dave Matthews Concert. I saw the light hit his eyes and thought to myself… “Wow, imagine what it must feel like to write music that brings this many people together.” In that moment, Dave looked right at me and his eyes penetrated into my soul. Then it hit me like a bolt of lightning… “I have to write songs.” Songwriting instantly became the beautiful fusion of everything I’d every loved in life. My background in musical theatre and voice, extensive studies in guitar and deeply embedded love for poetry all became one. Since then, the songs have been exploding out of me in bursts of creativity. I’ve chosen to listen and let them take life.
DGC: If one of your songs could change the world ,which one would it be and why?
CL: The connecting universal message in almost everything I’ve written is consistent. If one song were to make a difference, I would choose “We Are One” or “Love Who You Are.” “We Are One” is a song about unity. We are all under one sun and breathing the same air, so I hope to dissipate the line between our differences. No matter what country we are from, our race, gender, sexuality, occupation or universal beliefs don’t matter. We are still all brothers and sisters, and if everyone could be with that message, the world could be a more peaceful place. “Love Who You Are” is also a message I hope to bring to many people. I think that a lot of violence in the world is rooted from people who are helplessly calling out for love. If we could all look into our hearts and love ourselves, it could also allow us to love others and act from a space of kindness. We must accept ourselves and allow room for growth, forgive ourselves for our mistakes, and open our hearts to live life fully.
DGC: If you could give advice to today’s youth about their inspirations what would you tell them?
CL: Follow your heart. Trust in your own talents and creative capabilities, and if someone ever tells you that you can’t achieve something, keep working hard. Every successful person in this world has been turned down, discouraged, or told that they’re not good enough at least once. If we see that we are limitless and believe in ourselves, the world of opportunity will continue opening before our eyes. Don’t sit around and wait for it though… “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.”
DGC: What person influenced the way you write and play music?
CL: My list of influences stretches across a vide variety of genres, from Beethoven, Bach and Mozart to Dave Matthews, Joni Mitchell and Alanis Morissette. My first musical influence was Bonnie Raitt, while most recently I’ve been loving Ed Sheeran, Jason Mraz and Sara Bareilles. I still listen to a lot of classical piano and symphonic music to take me out of the “guitar” world and bring me back to the “music” world. This opens up new channels for my instrument(s), such as playing the guitar up and down the neck, using it like a drum, and orchestrating each string as its own entity to imply the sound of a symphony. The world of music is infinite and I am constantly reaching to discover more.
DGC: How do you see women becoming more powerful in the world?
CL: I see that us women are becoming more powerful each day by choosing to use our voices. Freedom of speech has been an enormous evolution for all humans over time, and particularly with women, we are constantly stepping up higher for our equivalence in social status. Particularly in the world of music, equality in women is an enormous topic. Over the years I’ve often heard the phrase: “Whoa, I’ve never seen a girl play the guitar like that.” My response has always been this: “Fantastic. What men do you know who play like this? I’m always interested in checking out new musicians.” This comment usually receives a baffled response. I like to see how it makes people think, the embarrassment that often comes with such comments, and the potential in shift of perspective that can take place. “Playing guitar like a girl”, “hitting like a girl” or any comments of that nature have potential to rise with continued achievement in women. I’ve seen it in sports, music, business and a variety of different fields. How a “girl” or a “woman” does something no longer has to be different than how a “man” does it. To accomplish this equivalence, we must continue to rise in our talents and creativity, let go of being inhibited, allow ourselves to be strong and vulnerable and know that we are good enough. In fact, we are MORE than enough.
DGC: Tell us more about your current project, “Stay”.
CL: It was an honor to have my favorite instrumental producer Will Ackerman, founder of Windham Hill Records produce the instrumental pieces on my album “Stay.” One of the songs Soaring Over Glacier Bay has a layer of 27 cellos with a beautiful symphonic essence that was created in the studio. This was certainly a moment of blowing my mind, where I chose to let the creative magic take place at Imaginary Road Studios. Alternatively I produced several of the other songs on the album such as the title track Stay, Garden of Love, Journey of My Own, and a co-production with Spencer Bradham on the first single Sun Shines Through. Music production and arranging has been a deep love for quite some time and I am constantly learning how to do it better. There is nothing like hands on action to improve in the art of creativity! I also had a guest producer on the song Send it to the Sky. Producer “Jonathan Yudkin” really impressed me with his approach to recording and it was a huge learning experience. While several of the songs and albums I’ve produced took multiple studio sessions in addition to overdubs, Send it to the Sky was recorded in simply one 4 hour session with a studio band. The cohesive energy of that experience was invigorating and it certainly comes through in the recording. I plan to take this approach on many future projects! Making the album Stay was an enormous act of love among hundreds of hours of work and dedication. Though, I would not take even a second of it back. Every change in lyrics, shifts in arrangements or musical additions in post production were worth every moment of effort. Music is such a beautiful journey.
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