by Laura Stanley
Lisa Conway (L CON) almost quit making music.
The producer and singer-songwriter, who splits her time between Toronto and Grey County (where the studio she shares with her partner is located), had two solo LPs under her belt and felt that she didn’t have anymore songs in her. “Yeah, I didn’t know if I wanted to make music anymore in the most serious way I have ever thought about stopping,” says Conway outside of a west end coffee shop in Toronto on a mild Saturday morning.
In tandem with taking a step back from the cinematic (as they have been characterized countless times) band Del Bel, Conway decided to try something new and set out to make an instrumental album. She also participated in a mentorship-based program for women in electronic music (Disclaimer: I work at the organization that hosts this program).
Conway is a producer. Her dad is an elementary school music teacher and so, using his recording equipment, recorded and produced her high school band’s album when she was 13. “I’ve been doing the same thing basically for a very long time,” she remarks with a laugh.
Her role as producer is one that often gets glossed over, perhaps, she muses, because she doesn’t make exclusively electronic music but it’s a position that she is more determined than ever to be acknowledged for.
“[Producing is] something that I’ve been doing and not getting recognized for, for over half my life,” says Conway. “Especially now that there’s more talk in the media about the gender imbalance in production which is really driving me to be more explicit.”
Through her production work and the workshop, Conway became re-inspired and her new record, Insecurities in Being was born. Insecurities in Being is a record about just that: the struggle to feel confident. There’s also a battle with loneliness on the record that harks back to the galactic isolation of Conway’s 2016 record Moon Milk. But this time around, a theme isn’t there to provide distance between Conway and her words, it’s just her. On “Light Come,” she begs for a break from her internal darkness – “hope 29’s a funner year.” And later, on “Cogs Awry,” a sparse, downtempo track, Conway admits, “Lately, I’ve been trying to find the answer to being alright.”
“I was struggling a lot creatively and so it was unavoidable to make something honest,” she says about the personal nature of her new record.
On the softly groovin’ opener “Try,” Conway sings, “And the community thinks you haven’t done anything. You’re just wasting everyone’s time.” It’s a line that feels like it was bred out of a panicked state of self-doubt. In what is a powerfully proactive stance against this thought though, Conway surrounds herself with friends on this record. Composer and multi-instrumental Karen Ng plays saxophone and clarinet throughout and on the piano ballad “The Art of Staying Tough,” Conway takes a step back and lets Casey MQ take the mic. It’s a reminder that your friends can be a light even in the darkest of days.
“My community is what keeps me making things,” Conway says. “It’s a pretty solitary process to be a songwriter and composer especially in the way that I’ve been doing it. Having Karen play parts that I’ve written or improvise over one of my songs is the most magic feeling. Or, with Casey, having somebody else sing your song is pretty incredible.”