Interview with Lights; plus video and photos

Lights playing "February Air" at the Middle East Upstairs

Canadian pop singer Lights invited a few of her fans into her world Saturday night at the Middle East Upstairs. In a venue too small for all the sweaty guys (of which there were a surprising number) and gals, Lights lit up the stage, drank wine, and chatted directly with her listeners. From singing songs at double-speed to stopping in the middle to explain something and then momentarily losing her place, the real Lights came out in a way only a tiny acoustic concert can allow.

I caught up with Lights before the show in a room where old computers go to die and chatted her up about everything from her acoustic tour to World of Warcraft to reality TV. See our conversation and more below. (And if that doesn't slake your thirst for Lights coverage, check out the profile music editor Michael Marotta wrote up last week.) 

How are your hands doing?

They don’t look so bad today because they’re clean, but after a show they’re just brown and black on the ends ‘cause of the rust on the strings, and sweat kinda gets on the strings. It’s good – they’re to the point where I don’t feel it, and my hands have actually never been stronger than they are on the acoustic tour…I mean, I always play guitar, but never for these copious amounts. It’s a new experience; I kinda like it.

Why did you decide to go acoustic now? What brought it up?

It’s always something I do, I always play. So it’s there, I just didn’t know when the right time was. I knew eventually I’d want to put something out, I just didn’t know when the right time was. And I was getting lots of good response on acoustic UStream stuff and YouTube videos I was putting out. People were like, in comments – I pay attention to these things, ‘cause it really matters – and comments were, "if you make an acoustic CD, I’ll buy it," so I was like, hmm. It was mainly a direct result of what people were asking for. And also, I did have some downtime in March. I was on tour with Owl City, and then I had a week off, so I made an EP. It's something to hold people over until new stuff comes out down the road. You know, the worst thing you can do in the industry in this day and age, when there’s so much to look at, is to get lost and to be forgotten. Keep giving to the fans and the listeners, and keep coming with something, whether it’s just remixes or a new EP or something. So that’s with this is, kind of, a new angle on a song.

Why did you pick the songs you did for the EP? It’s not all just stuff from your last album; it’s a hodgepodge of LIGHTS.

Well, the ones I picked from The Listening, I tried to pick the ones that were pretty familiar, because then, if you know the song already, it's that much more exciting to hear another version of it. If it's one you’ve never heard, then it’s like "Oh, cool, a new song." I tried to pick ones it'd be exciting to hear acoustically because you’re so used to hearing it a certain way. And the Rancid song I did because a) I love Rancid, b) That song is amazing, and c) Tim Armstrong of Rancid remixed "Ice" for The Ice Pack, a remixed pack of "Ice" that I put out, I think last November. So it was kind of a tribute back to him, and the song's just brilliant. And "Romance Is ...," I wanted to put a new one on – well, one that people hadn’t heard, not technically new – and I had this pile of acoustic stuff I wrote in my teen years. The stuff that still stuck from that day, that means it stuck for a reason, so I picked one of those. Literally, I wrote that song probably six years ago. I’m getting old.

You’ve done two of these shows already [New York, Philly] – what’s different about them, compared to opening for Owl City or even headlining your own non-acoustic show?

It's much more vulnerable. You’re just completely by yourself, and in a way it's uncomfortable in that way but in a good way. You have so much control, so much more control. You have the stage; you own every ear that's in the room for the time, whether or not that's a good thing. If you can pull it off, it’s really great. But it’s something I've never felt before, that kind of control: the ability to just change the songs as you go or stop in the middle of it and say something and then keep going. It's something that I've never experienced, and I feel very vulnerable. It's like the way that you'd see me if I was just alone in the living room playing. So it's a nice thing for me to be able to show people that.

You’re doing the acoustic stuff now, but a week ago you were at Lilith. What was that like? It’s not this, definitely; a little bigger.

Lilith was awesome. As far as our setup goes it was the same, the usual band and everything. But it was just such a cool thing to be a part of 'cause there's so many powerful women, and to be listed on that roster of the celebration of women in music, it was a great day to be a woman in music. And it's the first time I’ve ever played anywhere that I wasn't, you know, a minority; there were more women than guys. It was the first time I've ever been anywhere in music like that.

Any star-struck moments around all those women?

Yes, there were actually. I didn’t expect to have them; I’m not usually the type to get star-struck, except around comic-book artists – literally, my fan girl moments are around comic-book artists – but I did a press conference in Toronto with Sarah McLachlan and a couple other artists who were on the roster. But Sarah McLachlan started all of Lilith. She's incredible. She's sold so many records and just writes amazing songs, has such an amazing heart and does so much for women in the industry. And I didn't think I was going to feel this, but at the press conference I was so nervous I couldn’t even say anything.

I assume, then, you didn’t get to go to Comic-Con?

No, and I can’t go to Fan-Expo, which is the Canadian version of it.

So you were on Lilith, you’re doing acoustic – you were also on "The City." What was that like?

It was interesting. I've never experienced anything like that. I mean, in terms of getting my show, and the live show and some of the music that kind of exposure was great. So you never complain about that. It's just you never – I guess it takes being involved to know the power that, if anyone has footage of you, what they can do. You can edit anything the way you want and make it look a certain way.

Take off a jacket ...

Exactly! I had the jacket on for five songs, and they just edited it to make it look like I didn't.

It was the funniest drama I think I’ve seen on reality TV.

I know, it was so funny. I was just like, really?! And every bit of information was wrong. They called me "The Lights" ... I’m more cautious now. Not that it was a bad experience in any way, it was just interesting to see the way that they can change things to create drama and stuff like that.

We’re not going to see Lights on "Jersey Shore" anytime soon?

Um, who’s saying I’m not going to be on "Jersey Shore"? Just kidding.

The Situation, The Lights ... you’re going to need some better abs, though.

Well, I can get an ab going, I’ll pop one ab out!

Do you get to play World of Warcraft a lot on tour?

When I have a free mind I like to play, and if I'm stressed about something I like to play. It does get hard to find time, especially as time goes on. Especially when you're trying to write, and you could either spend your night playing WoW or writing songs. Like, what's more beneficial to my career, you know? But WoW is just so fun, and when I don't play it for like a week I miss it so much. It just one of those things that I'll always like…I also just bought Starcraft II ... I also started playing Final Fantasy XIII. All I know is I’m getting my hair cut like Lightning … so pumped!

What’s happening with Captain Lights? Anything new?

Captain Lights is on hiatus at the moment. There's just so much going on that I don’t have the time to I would want to invest in something; anything that comes out of her, I wanted to be very well thought out. And I think part of the next step with her is the graphic novel, but that’s definitely on the shelf for now.

No acoustic guitar weapons?

No, I think in the future, they abandon acoustic guitars. They can't, though!

So that’s what’s next for Captain Lights. What about you? I mean, you’ve got the acoustic stuff now, but anything afterwards? Or are you just taking a break for longer than a week?

Well, unfortunately, no break is in the near future. It's a lot of touring. It's just really getting the last surge of touring out. We've been on tour for about a year and a half now, and by the time we're done with the  touring stint for a bit, it'll be a good two years. So we've got this acoustic tour finishing. I'm actually going to the Philippines with World Vision next week. It's going to be amazing, high-intensive. I used to live there. It's going to be nice to go back and do what I can do help to raise awareness in any way. And then, coming back, we're going to the UK for Reading and Leeds, which is awesome; the record just came out there in May. And then, basically this whole Fall I'll be touring for a good three months, probably back around North America as well. And getting back down to some writing in the winter time!

That’s crazy. I can’t imagine not staying in one place for so long.

You get used to it. You definitely get used to it. But it makes you appreciate those moments of stability at home.

Well that’s about it, unless there’s anything else you’d like to share with the world at the moment.

Well, I will say that in keeping with that always trying to put things out to keep people entertained and make sure that there’s something new, around Reading and Leeds time there's gonna be some new remixes coming out, one of which is of Jamie Jasta from Hatebreed, one's Lags from Gallows. So, very different spins on the songs, but it's going to be setting up for Reading and Leeds time 'cause they’ll be both playing there. The info for all of that will be on and my

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