Best new music 2017 – Lydia Ainsworth: marrying the worlds of classical and pop
Who is she?
An experimental composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist from Toronto whose songs straddle a perfect line between classical music and pop. Lydia Ainsworth is a studied filmscorer with experience conducting orchestras but she is just as comfortable behind the scenes as she is centre stage. She released her debut album Right From Real in 2014, which was nominated for a Juno Award in Canada, and followed it up in March with Darling of the Afterglow.
Ainsworth taught herself to play the cello aged 10 after her school let her take one home. Despite teaching herself "the wrong way to play" the instrument, she persevered and became a member of her arts high school's orchestra. "I was having this backseat view of how it works and that's what really inspired me to write music," she says.
Ainsworth studied composition at McGill University in Montreal and afterwards took a Masters in film composition at New York University. During her MA she began to sing and write her own music, which led to her performing in small New York clubs. "I didn't really connect with school. I was more... working on my own stuff. I'm grateful for the tools that I learnt there but I really try and forgot those things," she says. "I prefer to let my instincts guide me."
In 2011 she composed the score for Matthew Lessner 's film The Woods before writing her first record, Right From Real. Ainsworth toured her 2014 album worldwide and this year released a more pointed pop record in Darling of the Afterglow.
What does she sound like?
Much of Ainsworth's intricate avant-pop bears similarity to Kate Bush. On her debut album she crafted an alluring collection of dark synth and chamber-pop songs. Darling of the Afterglow is a more effervescent affair that sees the artist venture into accessible territory with R&B track What Is It? and a stirring piano rendition of Chris Isaak's Wicked Game.
Who are her influences?
It was Ainsworth's composer father who exposed her to a wide range of music. "I grew up listening to whatever I could get my hands on. My Dad had the Beatles and I would listen to Arvo Pärt and Nirvana. I would learn all the string parts to the Nirvana songs." She adds "really strong female singers" to the list, calling Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Anne Lennox and Aretha her "idols".
What does she say about her own music?
"The truest kind of emotion that I can convey."