Talented is the first word that springs to mind when I think about 16-year Newcastle singer/songwriter Lili Crane. Freshly returned from the Tamworth Music Festival, this girl is shooting goals.
My time with Lili begins over a casual drink-Lili a hot chocolate and me a chocolate thickshake. I can tell she’s nervous, perhaps a bit giddy, for she hasn’t done many interviews. But as soon as our interview begins, all that goes away.
Lili tells me that she has been singing for basically as long as she has been talking, but the guitar playing didn’t come until a little while later. “I started playing the guitar at age 9”.
Song writing followed soon after, something which Lili has a clear talent for. “Once I got better at the guitar at 10, I started writing heaps.” I ask Lili where she gets her inspiration. Of course, like all songwriters, life itself becomes inspiration. But for Lili, being so young, one particular thing was her influence for a while. “I got inspiration from boys that I’ve had crushes on,” she says with a smile before telling me about her subjects. “I dropped in on a guy in the surf once and he yelled me at I got heaps embarrassed. So, I wrote a song about it”.
Lili’s song writing process is spontaneous and draws largely upon improvisational techniques. Lili will grab her guitar, play around with chords and record what she is playing. She then begins to sing to try and create lyrics. “A lot of the time, when I’m playing around, I’ll set an alarm for 5 mins to then write down what I had just experienced. From there I will record again and make up some lyrics”.
Like a large number of country singers, Lili has always dreamt of going to Nashville to record and jam with other musicians. In fact, it’s been a dream of hers since the age of nine. In 2016, Lili was fortunate enough to have that dream become a reality when she won Rising Star and in turn, a trip to Nashville. Lili knew that it would be a fantastic opportunity to write with some quality writers and sing with some really big singers. “When I was over there I had an aim to write a lot with people and try and network, get heaps of connections over there for the future when I go back”. That’s just what Lili did, performing at a few open mic nights which grabbed the attention of Greg Hudile, whose house she ended up recording at. “That wasn’t planned. He booked me that day, because it was my last day there, to record vocals”.
Also, during her time in Nashville, Lili recorded the tracks for her EP All the Sweet Things, something she had planned before travelling there. Lili’s EP contains three tracks, all written and performed by her. “It’s just me and my guitar because I couldn’t afford to bring other musicians in. It’s really raw.” Of course, being so young, there’s 2 tracks on the EP about a boy. ‘High Speed’ was written about the boy in the surf. ‘All the Sweet Things’ and ‘What You Did To Me’ were written about a boy that Lili had a crush on. “’What You Did To Me’ is about me trying to get the boy and going through all this pain and the other song is about ‘oh my god he actually started to like me back now’ but it’s not fully that sort of thing yet.” ‘All the Small Things’ was Lili’s first foot in the door as a musician and her step towards selling her own music.
Coming back to Australia with the influences from Nashville has been a positive impact on Lili’s music career. Nashville motivated Lili in a way that she had hoped it would. She tells me that it’s made her write a lot more upon her return. “I know that I can achieve anything that I want to so I’m trying really hard to do that”. She hopes to return there again this year. “That’s my number one priority and there’s a good chance I might be”.
Prior to our interview, I had found myself watching Lili’s YouTube video and I was fortunate enough to come across her latest masterpiece ‘What Did I Do’. “It actually gave me shivers and I really felt the emotion in your voice”, I tell her. I can see that Lili is more than pleased to hear this compliment. So I ask her where her inspiration came from, out of curiosity more than anything. I couldn’t quite believe that a 16-year-old had written such a song. “It really came from that feeling of being excluded for whatever reason. I think there’s so many people that go through that whole exclusion thing, so I wanted to write a song that people could relate to what I could”. The video has amassed over 14,000 views on Facebook, the most watched video that Lili has ever posted. “It’s going so well. I promoted that. It’s the biggest promotion I’ve ever gotten. I couldn’t believe. I’m so happy”. Due to its success, Lili hopes to record and release it as a single this year with musician Bill chambers offering to play on it.
But that’s not all the excitement Lili has had this year. She has just returned from performing at her very first Tamworth Country Music Festival (CMF), a huge experience for her. “It was awesome! It was such a big week. I’m exhausted but I feel like I achieved and learnt so much”. During her time there, Lili got to play a few of her songs with Bill Chambers and his band which was definitely the highlight of her time there. She was also interviewed by Prime7, which she couldn’t believe.
But of course, one can’t perform at the Tamworth Country Music Festival without a competition (and I’m not talking about the Golden Guitars). Lili competed in the Coca-Cola Battle of the Youngsters and finished in the top 3. “I also got runner up for the CCMA battle of the song stars”. From what she tells me, it’s clear that Lili very much enjoyed her time in Tamworth and hopes this is the first of many CMF she attends there.
Now that she is back in Newcastle, Lili will go back to surfing and school, where she starts year 11 at St Francis Xavier College in Hamilton. She will continue to focus on her music this year, hopefully with some new music out for us to hear. I have a feeling that 2018 will be Lili Crane’s year. Her career is only just beginning.