After eight years of not recording, Sydney singer Lily Dior has come up with an album that boasts almost 20 musicians on it. Launched to a glowing reception at the Basement on Wednesday June 20, Let’s Talk About It is a punchy collection of classic soul and R ‘n’ B-inspired tunes.
So let’s talk about it.
The support act at the launch was a dirty, funky organ affair straight out of the ‘70s, and, in the grand tradition of jazz, it wasn’t til 10pm that Dior took the stage. Introduced as “soulful, sensuous, seductive and sexy”, the songstress cut a striking figure in red with her halo of dark curls.
Backed by a stunning 15-piece band that included the supremely talented Brendan St Ledger on Steinway, a string quartet and a sea of horn players, Dior held her own on stage.
The songs, all original bar one (co-written but never recorded by Billie Holiday), are sultry soul tunes that pack a real punch.
The two notable exceptions in the set were “Love’s Like A River” and the haunting “Shadow Man”, which saw Dior bid adieu to her band and sing with piano and strings alone. Stripped back, Dior’s voice had room to breathe.
And a deep, velvety voice it is too. It scats and sasses around on the soul numbers, but is rich with thoughtful introspection on the quieter songs.
Dior cites Ray Charles, Donny Hathaway, Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin as the most profound artistic influences on the album. She loves all the classics and is a self-confessed “retro girl”.
“I love the rawness and the vibe they bring to their music. To me, that’s everything,” she says.
“I’ve paid tribute to them by keeping the album quite retro in a way: no sequences, no drum machines.”
During the set, Dior spoke of love and loss and the art of writing. She found the experience of writing to be “absolutely cathartic”.
“It’s an album that’s been brewing in me for many years. It’s been a very healing experience, one which I haven’t been ready to do until now.”
There was clearly a lot of love in the room with Dior’s mother Dahlia in the audience, as well as an abundance of friends and family. Dior described the evening as “a celebration as well as a concert”, and the Basement was full of warmth despite the winter weather.
Lyrically, Dior sings an age-old adage of heartache and healing coupled with a contemporary message about the world we live in. In the title track, an Aretha-esque soul number with a social conscience, Dior implores, “how long can we keep taking from the earth before we give back?”
This is the very crux of what Dior wants to talk about.
“We’re living in a very, very crucial time in history. We are impacting our environment in such a way that if we don’t change our feeling of entitlement on this planet we are going to destroy the very place that we enjoy so much.”
It is a conversation that Dior believes has just begun.
“We cannot continue the way we are,” she says simply.
For Dior, the challenge lies in expressing these things in a way that is not didactic or preachy, or has been done before.
Asked what inspires her, she responds: “A lot of people feel inspired by bad things that have happened in their life. I’m the opposite.
“For me, music is about joy and expression of hope and inspiration.”
Most importantly, her music must be a true reflection of who she is and what she believes in, she says.
Dior is certainly giving us a lot to talk about. And in her own words, she’s “just getting started”.