Following a sell-out, five-star show at the Pheasantry earlier this year, up-and-coming singer-songwriter Lily Atkinson returns to London this month for two dates only at the St James Studio, with her own unique blend of soulful R&B and jazz, cheeky cabaret and sass.
As the daughter of Rowan Atkinson and make-up artist Sunetra Sastry, Lily has showbusiness in her blood. She’s been singing, performing and writing her own music from a young age.
At the St James, she’ll perform her own original songs, including several new ones, backed by a live band under the musical direction of Lee Freeman. During preparations for the new run, Lily took a break to tell the Mates about the show, her inspirations and the importance of music in her life
How important has music been in your life?
It is everything. It is my whole life! There would be no life without music for me.
What artists have had the biggest impact on your music to date and why?
So many, obviously all the great divas – Aretha Frankin, Diana Ross, Whitney Houston. But I grew up listening to everything, from Dusty Springfield to Hair! My idol (like a lot of women) is Beyoncé, and has been for a very long time. There is so much music I love at the moment too – Miguel, Frank Ocean, Bruno Mars. And, of course, there are singers I’ve always loved like Christina Aguilera. It would take me a long time to do Desert Island Discs!
When and why did you start writing your own music?
I had always been a writer, but I was about 14/15 when I really started writing music. I just loved writing stories and poems, coming up with melodies; I was always challenging myself. Of course, already being a singer and performer, I worked out pretty quickly what I wanted to do.
How would you describe your music?
I’d say it’s R&B, soul, pop, with a bit of funk.
Any favourite lyrics you can share with us?
Ooo haha, that’s a tough one. Probably ‘stop with the drooling lonely looks’.
“My idol (like a lot of women) is Beyoncé, and has been for a very long time.”
How did The Pheasantry run go for the show? What did you learn from it?
It went really well, and of course I always learn so much. I suppose what I found I learnt most from that gig was that being happy and comfortable shines through, and don’t forget to enjoy it!
How have you been preparing for your run at St James Studio?
I’ve been preparing since June for this gig. Vocally, I am better than I have ever been; physically, mentally – it’s the hardest I have ever worked on a gig. There is new music, which is very exciting. I have just challenged myself in every possible way, and taken risks. I am so looking forward to it – everyone has worked so hard on putting on a fabulous show and I want to give everybody a great night! Rehearsals have been so much fun, and there are constant jokes!
You’ve described the show as ‘about the different sides of me and being a woman’. Can you expand on that?
I found that my music is not only snapshots of different stages of my life, but the many different aspects of me. Whether it’s my songs about heartbreak and being vulnerable, or my strong empowerment songs that gave me the strength I needed at that time of my life. As women, we have so many different sides to us and for me this comes out in my music. My show takes you on that journey, of showing all the aspects of us that make us women.
Tell us about your team.
I have a great band, some really good players who have grasped my music so well. Lee Freeman is the musical director and he has done an amazing job of bringing my music to life. Of course, I do not know what I would do without the wonderful Adam Paulden, who has been not only a great producer but understood exactly what I wanted and what I pictured for this show.
Finally, why should folks come to see the show?
Because it has everything: singing, dancing, anecdotes, entertainment! There is fun R&B and funk, gentle ballads, and one of my favourite parts, which is an acoustic set. There is something for everyone who loves music. I pride myself on putting on a good show for people, and at the St James, we certainly will do just that.