Soft Spoken Songstress: An Interview with Lily Arminda

Can you tell me a little about yourself to start with?

I’m Lily Arminda, I’m a singer/songwriter, originally from Columbus, Ohio but currently living in NYC. I used to make indie folk music but my next project is lo-fi alternative.

Your Instagram @lilyarminda bio describes yourself as a 'soft-spoken songstress', can you tell me what that means to you? 

“Soft-spoken songstress” stems from how chill my songs are. It’s a way of embracing my quiet nature.

Tell me a little bit about your songwriting process.

My process for each song I write is always a little different. I typically start out with a general feeling or idea and decide on whether I want the song to be in a major or minor key. Then I just mess around with guitar parts while singing over it while trying out different lyrics or melodies. I edit as I go but also edit after I have a first draft complete. I’m taking a songwriting class this semester where we have to write in perfect rhyme and try out different structures which is changing my approach to songwriting a lot.

So the music and the lyrics are intertwined with each other in your process?

Yeah, I’ll typically create them together but sometimes I’ll write lyrics first without the melody or instrumentation. 

In terms of editing, you said you go back, how would you say you edit your music? 

I edit based on feeling. I also edit based on being inspired by new things. For example, when I wrote the song “Charlie” on the EP, I wasn’t entirely happy with how it turned out but then I went to the Guggenheim with friends to see the Hilma af Klint exhibit a few days later and was so inspired that when I got home I made the song into what it is now. The energy of that exhibit was unreal.

So what are some other things that inspire you? Are there general themes or is it situation by situation?

I’m inspired by most things I encounter. Relationships, music I listen to, literature I read, conversations with friends, New York City, really just my surroundings. 

Would you say poetry started inspiring your songwriting or did it go vice versa? How did that work?

I’ve always been interested in both but I started writing songs before I started writing poems.  

How much time would you say you spend writing in a typical week? And is it a linear every week you write or do you have periods where you don’t? 

I write multiple times a day but don’t have a finished song by the end of every day. It’s less agenda focused and more of a way of clearing my head.

How long does it typically take you from start to finish to get through a song?

It depends on the song. The first draft typically takes maybe 30 minutes to an hour but it can also be done in ten minutes. But like I said, I go back and edit everything. I never consider a song to be complete even when it’s released because I like leaving room for the songs to grow and change as I do.

So since its such a long process would you say you’re only working on one song at once or is there overlap of multiple songs at once?

There’s typically overlap. 

When did you start writing?

I’ve been writing songs since I was really young. I remember singing songs around the house or the playground where I would just sing whatever came to mind but really started taking songwriting seriously in early high school when I was 14 or 15 when I started playing guitar.

Who are your biggest human inspirations?

Big Thief! They just put out a new record that I’m in love with. It’s possibly my favorite album of theirs yet. I’m always listening to Phoebe Bridgers and Field Medic too.

When did you start writing this EP?

Early 2018. 

Track List for 'Neighborhood'

How has your songwriting changed over time?

I started out making folk/pop music and then transitioned more into folk/rock with my last single “Who She Is or Who She Was.” This EP is lo-fi alternative which is definitely different than my past work. This change in sound is due a lot to living in New York and my music taste evolving. Aside from sound, my lyricism has improved a lot which I’m really proud of. I owe a lot of that to listening to artists like Big Thief, Field Medic, and Phoebe Bridgers who I mentioned earlier and are all some of the influences for “Neighborhood.”

What’s your favorite song on this EP?

It’s really hard to pick a favorite but at the moment it’s probably the first track, “A Garden.” This track is really strange because when I wrote it I didn’t understand what I wrote it about, I didn’t feel connected to anything other than the first verse. It’s about the process of admitting that I miss someone that I used to date and realizing that I miss them by noticing myself dreaming about them, which was not something that was happening at the time that I wrote it. Months later, I started dreaming about that person and admitting that I still missed them and the song was able to be there for me during that time which is so incredible and wild. It’s the coolest thing to have happened surrounding a song I have written.

So you said that your album is about the Lower East Side like the neighborhood. Do you write there? Were any of the songs written in the place that they’re about? How does location inspire you? Where do you write?

I’m very inspired by my neighborhood and New York in general. I write in my apartment a lot or in parks typically. I like writing outside so I can take inspiration from what’s around me.

Do you have any musical goals moving forward? How do you want to see yourself develop?

I’m working on booking shows in New York and other cities. I also have a music video coming out soon directed by my friend Merlin Garcia, so that’s what I’m focusing on at the moment. But I’d love to go on tour and get signed, things like that. 

Anything else to know about the album?

Just to listen to it and get excited about the music video!

Thank you to Lily for sitting down with me, and go check out her EP 'Neighborhood' on Spotify and Apple Music