WITH Miley Cyrus’s latest “twerking” episode highlighting the more formulaic extremes of the female music spectrum, British singer/songwriter Lydia Baylis is a welcome reminder of the quality on offer at the other end of the scale.
Born to a soldier father and familiar with the trials and tribulations of life as part of an Army family, Lydia’s military links have helped her craft meaningful music that is causing a stir in London and beyond.
Speaking to Army&You ahead of the August launch of her debut EP Mirrors, Lydia explained that her British Army connections stretch a long way.
“Both of my grandfathers were in the Welsh Guards and so was my father,” she explained. “On my mother’s side of the family, four of the seven brothers were in the Army, one in the Welsh Guards and three in the Irish Guards. You could say I grew up with a very solid Army background!”
As far as Service upbringings go, Lydia’s is a familiar tale of postings, new homes and watching loved ones deploy on operations. Her father served in the Falklands conflict and was on board the Sir Galahad when it was bombed, while she has also had a cousin injured during a deployment to Iraq.
Such is her affinity for those who serve, she donated the proceeds of her first track Starman, which deals with the ideas of service and sacrifice, to the Welsh Guards Afghan Appeal.
She explained: “When I was quite small, we moved around the UK as Army families do. We also moved to Russia and Germany and lived in Berlin and Hohne.
“It was definitely something we were aware of and felt proud of and I was used to seeing my dad in uniform. When I was a bit older, I realised that it was quite a tough lifestyle for the families of those serving.
“When my cousin was injured, it drove home that people are doing something dangerous and courageous.”
Growing up alongside the Army, Lydia developed a love for music and began writing her own songs.
The ambitious musician performed in plays and musicals and even joined bands while at school and continued to get up on stage during her time reading History at Oxford’s Christchurch College.
Although her initial offerings drew more from literature – including the works of Virginia Woolf and the Bronte sisters – than her limited life experience, the impact of seeing loved ones serve their country has joined her arsenal of inspiration for more recent lyrics.
She said: “Some of my songs are quite confessional and personal, but I try to draw from a wide range of things so that people who don’t have that life experience can take it to be about them or their boyfriend.”
Listening to Mirrors, it is clear that Lydia’s long-held appreciation of the craft of songwriting has helped her to create pop music that carries far more substance than the majority of her contemporaries.
While there is no denying that Mirrors is a catchy track, its ambiguous tale of obsessive love crafts a scene both dark and cinematic that lingers long after the song ends.
The proof is, of course, in the pudding and Lydia has been delighted with the reception she has received during live shows across London, notably at Hoxton Bar and Grill.
“Performing live is a great way of testing out your material,” she said. “It can be a bit nervous, but there is also a level of excitement.
“You want it so much to be the best that it can be and for it to work out on stage because it’s so personal. No-one has thrown any tomatoes at me yet and I have been amazed and excited at the response, which has been brilliant.”
With further positive feedback flowing in from radio stations and reviewers, Lydia’s current success augurs well for the 2014 release of album A Darker Trace.