Singer-Songwriter and visual artist Lyia Meta, and vocalist Audrey DuBois Harris get together to discuss their influences, creative processes and overcoming obstacles.
LM: What a beautiful voice you have. I’m absolutely blown away by your range!!! Your passion appears to be grounded in songs of faith and inclusion, especially your recent release LIFT EVERY VOICE.
ADH: Thank you so very much Lyia! I am intentional about creating positive, uplifting, loving and spirit-filled music that speaks to all people. LIFT EVERY VOICE is a project that was created with that intention in mind. I wanted to offer a collection of songs of unity and hope for the future.
ADH: What a rich and soulful voice you have! It has been a while since I’ve heard such a deep, beautiful, and smooth voice.
LM: I am humbled by your comments as I’ve always strived at improving my craft.
LM: What would you say is the most difficult part of being a vocalist? How do you keep your vocals well-tuned?
ADH: As a vocalist, my main priority is to maintain the health and vitality of my voice. That means staying on top of my physical health, getting proper rest, staying well hydrated, limited use of my speaking voice when I’m not singing, and dedicating time for vocal warmups.
ADH: Growing up in Malaysia, who were your biggest musical influences?
LM: My biggest musical influence was my father! He was a civil servant and the lead singer in a band. It sounds crazy now but back in those days, most government departments used to have an in-house band and my dad would perform. I was used to having musicians coming and going since I was knee-high! As I grew older, we listened to what was popular on the radio, but my favourite was rock and blues.
LM: We both have performed internationally and are always trying to increase that footprint. How does it feel to have to re-introduce yourself to a new audience? What has been your most rewarding, and most challenging, performance so far?
ADH: As a LIVE performer, I introduce myself all the time to new audiences. I also enjoy meeting new people and appreciate hearing how my music has moved and/or inspired them. One vivid memory is singing for President Obama in NYC. There was a hush in the room while I was singing, then the standing room only crowd erupted in cheers and applause. I don’t give much focus to challenges beyond trying to find a way to overcome them.
ADH: Your music stretches across several different genres. How do you define your personal sound and style?
LM: Like every singer, I’m in the moment and my favorite genre or style is whatever song I’m feeling. I find that doing only one single genre can be very limiting, I’m grateful that a variety of songwriters and producers have approached me to collaborate. I find that different genres help convey different emotions and nuances, but I always have to make each song my own.
LM: How did you manage during COVID? With schedule changes, cancellations and constant uncertainty, how did you keep your body, mind and voice in shape?
ADH: To me, the pandemic reaffirmed that we are all connected. What happens to one person on the other side of the world affects each one of us just the same. I, like so many others, had great career plans mapped out for 2020. Although it was a time of great uncertainty and grief for us all, I made a conscious effort to remain positive, creative, and productive. My full project LIFT EVERY VOICE and the first single from that project We Shall Overcome was both recorded and released during that time.
ADH: What is your writing process like? Where do you find your greatest inspiration for new song material?
LM: My greatest inspiration comes from the world around me and how it affects me physically and emotionally—body and spirit. Spontaneity and inspiration work hand-in-hand for all of my pieces. The creativity road leads me to wonderfully strange outcomes and there’s a feeling of self-accomplishment once I’ve exorcised my demons! When a personal calm sets in, the song (or piece of art) just feels complete.
LM: I saw that you grew up dreaming of becoming the new Mariah Carey but your mother and voice teacher rightfully exposed and steered you to classical music and opera. Do you have any desire to try other genres, either live or recording?
ADH: Actually, that is a misunderstanding. The short version of the story is that when I was a little girl, my mother overheard me singing. She was very surprised by my voice and said that she would find me a voice teacher. To my 8 or 9 year old understanding, I was going to instantly become an overnight Pop star!! My mother encouraged and inspired me the most to move in the direction of opera. It became the foundation of my technique and preparation. My music now is definitely a fusion of differing genres. I’ve always believed that what I bring to the table is uniquely special.
ADH: During the pandemic and global shutdown, what were some of your favorite things to do to remain positive, productive and creative? Do you look forward to returning back to the stage for LIVE performances?
LM: I turned to my visual art to keep me sane. During the pandemic I drew almost a hundred commissioned portraits, two children’s album covers; designed the cover of my Metal single, painted art-glass surfaces; and wrote a few more songs that are now being demoed. I also participated in several online digital fundraisers,created my own home “studio” that I never needed before! I opened my own kitchen and cooked and delivered lunch boxes, pastries and cakes. In the course of this stopgap measure I was named a Eurasian Food Culture Heritage Food Ambassador by Eurasians International. Staying occupied in every way possible helped keep my creative side well-oiled. I am a live performer first. The stage and engaging with an audience will always be my first love.
LM: We’ve both strayed from our music comfort zones to try something new. What will you draw on for inspiration next and how will that affect your song choices? Where would you like to experiment in terms of musical “stretch” goals?
ADH: I draw my inspiration from different sources: culture, art, film, fashion, conversation and life experiences. As an artist, I need to constantly stretch and evolve. In terms of “stretch goals”, I think the next step for me is creating a lot more visual content/music videos for my music.
ADH: In addition to being a singer/songwriter, you’re also a visual artist. Do you consider your paintings and music as one continued form of expression? Or do you view them as separate aspects and forms of your artistry? Is your artwork available to the public for purchase?
LM: I don’t think I will ever be able to not express myself through art. It has become such an integral part of me. What I cannot express through lyrics, I express with my brushes. I dream in colour and I am always humming to new melodies and disjointed lyrics. In addition to my own art, I am a full-time commissioned portraitist.
Audrey DuBois Harris
Photo credit: Audrey DuBois Harris (top) Will L. Lewis lV Photography. Lyia Meta (bottom) Khahin Meta