LOS ANGELES — With a sound that she describes as "intergalactic-electro music," LIGHTS is ready to take the world by storm at the ripe age of 22. But don't let her age fool you.
"It's easy to misconstrue a young girl singer as a total puppet. I am the opposite of that," says the Canadian star, whose debut album, "The Listening," arrives in stores today.
ASM Rising Star Pick
LIGHTS, born Valerie Poxleitner, has developed plenty of street smarts for someone her age. Born in Timmins, Ontario, she traveled widely during her childhood, living in such locations as the Philippines and Jamaica. As a child always on the go, she leaned on music as a means of finding consistency, first by bonding with a guitar.
"My family is very get-up-and-go if we feel called to do something different," explains the singer-songwriter. "It was a really important thing to learn about as a kid, that nothing is so important that you can't leave it behind."
During the week, LIGHTS was homeschooled by her mother, but you must forgive her for dreaming of those times once a week when her father took the reins.
"We looked forward to that day because we got to recite poetry and learn music," she recalls. "Nothing was taken too seriously and we got to sing. That really instilled in me a passion for music."
By the age of nine, the family was back in Canada, but LIGHTS was already knee-deep in her music by then. She wrote her first song at the age of 11 and set her sights on production two years later.
"I had so many more ideas than just the vocals and the guitar," she says. "I wanted to put a glockenspiel and strings and a bass and drums in there!"
LIGHTS dubbed her attic Starry Night studios after her favorite Van Gogh painting and spent the majority of her teen years writing songs. By the age of 18, she was out on her own, living with her pet tarantula Lance and fine-tuning her signature sound. She wrote "February Air," a poignant ode to the chill of winter love, which became the first of four LIGHTS songs used by Old Navy in the company's 2008 spring ad campaign.
"February Air" and five more tracks, including fan favorite "Drive My Soul," would make up her self-titled EP released in April 2008. The effort led to LIGHTS winning the 2009 Juno Award for New Artist of the Year, joining the ranks of Feist and Nelly Furtado.
Fast forward to the present as LIGHTS brings her brand of intergalactic pop to America. "Saviour," the first track off her debut album, is everything that LIGHTS stands for as an artist.
"My songs are spawned from moments of sadness or intense emotion," explains LIGHTS, who likes to describe her sound as "soft, but not pussy-soft, you know?."
"'Saviour' is a big example of taking one of those really dark emotional situations and turning it into something positive," she continues. "I just happened to get hit with a really dark sad night. The melody started coming together and the words started pouring out. I was crying when I wrote the first line of the chorus and it actually sounds kind of like crying. It's a really, really powerful song for me."
LIGHTS has built a reputation as an artist fully capable of connecting with her fans. She has a passion for playing web-based fantasy games like World of Warcraft and being a regular Joe, so it's unlikely she'll stop wearing her heart on her sleeve should fame come calling.
"I think about how some of the greatest artists over time kind of went crazy because they didn't have that ability to show people who they were," the singer muses. "They were living a double life and that's not healthy. Now you can be yourself and people will still love you for it. Who you see is exactly who I am. And I think if I maintain that and don't fake anything with my fans, I'll never go crazy."
Watch the music video for "Saviour," the first track off LIGHTS' debut album, "The Listening."