Interview | 19-Year-Old Lily DeTaeye Talks Life In and Out of the Music Biz, Theatre, and More

At only 19-years-old, Lily DeTaeye has already shared bills with The Decemberists, The Shins, Chicano Batman and more. The Des Moines-based singer/songwriter started performing in public when she was 13, her venues shifting from farmers markets and coffee shops to festivals and other venues. Now, she’s released her aptly-titled EP, The E.P., via Station 1 Records.

A four-track collection of piano-driven indie-pop that finds DeTaeye exploring heartbreak, sexual assault, victim blaming culture and more, her earnest lyrics and mature songwriting abilities are front and center, making The E.P. a strikingly honest and relatable portrayal of life at the cusp of adulthood. For Folk’s Sake caught up with DeTaeye to talk success as an artist, theatre and where she finds inspiration—on and off the stage.

How do you define success as an artist?

I know it sounds incredibly cliche, but as long as I am happy with what I am doing I would consider myself successful. Music has always been a source of happiness and comfort in my life and I am so lucky to be able to pursue it as a career. So if I can keep feeling as happy and comfortable making music as I did when I was 13 and just starting to play in front of people, I would consider that a huge success.

What do you find to be your greatest struggle when it comes to the music business?

It’s that last word. The business stuff. Before working with Station 1, all the stuff I was doing in the music scene was largely DIY. My dad and I booked all the gigs, made the business cards, took the money, all of that. Because of this, it was hard to put a price on what I do. This is my art! I make this in my bedroom! But Station 1 has really helped me with figuring out that yes, it is my art but it is also my job. And when you do a job, you deserve to be compensated for it.

If you could only play ONE of your songs for the rest of your career, which one would it be?

WHAT. Ok… The song I would pick is not actually recorded anywhere (so if you wanna hear it, ya gotta come to a show, ya know?) It’s called “Growing Pains” and I wrote it my junior year of high school about growing up and finding yourself and whatnot. But it’s a song that, despite its age, still moves me. I think we’re always growing and I don’t know that it will ever feel irrelevant to me. Also there’s a kickass harmonica solo. It was the first harmonica solo I really shredded on.

Who do you consider your greatest influences?

Missy Higgins is an Australian singer/songwriter that I’ve been listening to since I was small. Her songwriting is just incredible. We had her CD in our car and I would sit in the backseat and try to decipher her lyrics, her metaphors. I think she definitely helped me become a stronger songwriter. If you haven’t listened to her, you should. Go do yourself a favor.

Outside of music, what do you like to do that you feel contributes to the creativity that you tap into for your music?

I am a theatre kid! I do a lot of theatre stuff at the University of Iowa. On top of that, I’m a huge bookworm. I’m constantly challenging myself to write about people other than myself, so I often try to write songs inspired by books. My song “Janie” was inspired by Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston.

Jonathan Frahm (@jfrahm_)