Lights is Lights Valerie Poxleitner (her real name)—the rising 23-year-old Canadian singer and multi-instrumentalist whose smart, addictive pop music has won her fans from all quarters. Onstage, she flits between keytar and guitar as she brings her electro-pop tunes to life. Lights has played the Warped Tour and opened for Keane and Owl City; this week she returns to Philly on a headlining tour to play songs from last year’s debut LP The Listening and preview some tracks from her next album, due early 2011. We caught up with Lights from a tour stop in Chicago to play “Fill in the Blanks.”
The last time I was in Philadelphia I ... “Was playing the first acoustic show of my acoustic tour, and I had frozen yogurt and bought the new StarCraft II and had a cheesesteak from Jim’s, which was recommended to me by a local. It was the best!”
My favorite thing about Philadelphia is ... “The crowds, the people. I’ve been there so many times and it never lets me down. We played in the Unitarian Church upstairs in a small room and that was really awesome, and then there was the first time I played there where everything went wrong but it was still a fun show. My favorite thing about Philly is my shows there are always so memorable.”
People who have never seen me play live before can expect ... “An energetic sing-a-long with lots of flashing lights. Not that kind of flashing!”
The one thing that must be provided for me backstage is ... “Water, and that’s really about it. I bring face wipes with me because when I get offstage my eye makeup is like, I look like the Joker. It all runs down my face.”
The strangest thing someone has shouted at me while I was performing was ... ‘“Give me that pig!’ This was a couple nights ago. I was like, ‘What?! I don’t have a pig ...’ They were very adamant about me giving them my pig, but then after about 20 seconds I realized they wanted my pick.”
The best thing about being a touring musician is ... “You get to see a lot of different cities and play for a lot of different people and do what you love, and amid all the chaos there is routine that can be found and it is a surprisingly comfortable career.”
The worst thing about being a touring musician is ... “Keeping friends. It’s very lonely. You’re around people all the time but when you’re just sitting at the hotel, you don’t have anyone to talk to.”
I decided to release an acoustic EP [2010’s Lights.Acoustic] because ... “I wanted to strip ’em down and show the art for what it actually is, in its rawest form.”
If I was in charge of a Lights tribute album where I could pick all the artists covering my songs, I would pick ... “Deadmau5, Hatebreed, Cradle of Filth, Rage Against the Machine, ABBA, Phil Collins and Björk. And Joni Mitchell.”
The first time I saw a keytar I ... “Thought, ‘Wow, that will make it easier for me to get out from behind my keyboard, I’m gonna buy it.’ And I did.”
The strangest way I’ve ever read or heard my music described is ... “‘Organ-pop cutie arrives on the scene.’”
The best advice I ever got about making music was ... “‘If you have a Plan B you’re not trying hard enough on Plan A.’”
The biggest misconception about me as an artist is ... “That I don’t produce or write my music. If you’re a female pop artist and it’s radioable—I just made that word up!—people think you’re ‘just a singer.’ And just because I do it all myself doesn’t mean I’m gonna do something indie and weird, either. I like pop music and I wanna make pop music.”
Lights perform Fri., Nov. 12, 7pm.
With Jeremy Fisher.
27th and Poplar sts.
The Pack A.D. are built for the road
PW's Music Issue 2014