The name of the Lawnya Vawnya festival comes from an old Newfoundland expression that means “a good time at a dance” or “plenty to eat.” It’s fitting then that pop songstress Lowell is headlining this year’s festival, as her music is a dance party with no shortage of food for thought.
While it is certainly catchy and danceable, Lowell’s music is a bit different from the rest of the pop music pack. Her socially conscious lyrics are delivered through effected and echoing vocals, given in playful chants or tender melodies, all accompanied by synth noises and driving percussion to make for a brilliant electropop sound. This progressive brand of pop music has proved to be an effective vehicle for addressing serious social injustices like LGBTQ and woman’s rights, and sexual abuse. It is a music first mentality for the singer though, as she aims to represent her own experiences through song, speaking out on important issues when necessary. “I’m not a politician, I am a musician,” she says, “so primarily it is always about the music and the art first and foremost. There are things I am passionate about politically, but those things all come from an emotional standpoint that comes through purely in artist form … I guess what keeps it believable is that I don’t have a political agenda, I just speak out politically as a product of political injustices.”
Lowell’s intelligent songwriting does not end with her lyrics, however. As a former student at the University of Toronto, she studied classical music, in turn influencing her pop songwriting. “Appreciating classical music has affected my love for music in its simplest form,” says Lowell. “Being able to appreciate its simplicity and its musicality allows me to achieve the simplicity that is involved in writing pop music. Four chord progressions are my jam, just like Britney, just like Beethoven.”
Armed with this appreciation for simplicity, Lowell combines her classical influences with her love of pop to make music that demands attention. So much so that she was recruited to write with a crack team of songwriters in London, England, where she also wrote some of the tracks that feature on her full-length debut We Loved Her Dearly. The singer says there was once a greater contrast in how she wrote for others, but she’s “pretty stubborn now when I’m writing for others. I care more about the topics I incorporate in my pop music, and it’s much more important to me that it’s something I can proudly associate myself with. “
As for St. John’s and Lawnya Vawyna, “I have never been,” says Lowell. “As a West Coast baby, I find little opportunity to hear much about the East, which is a shame. Glad I get to be a part of [the festival] and see what it’s about!”