Since the release of her debut EP, Boats, in 2012, Lydia Hol has toured the country from coast to coast, filling rooms with her songs and stories. Lydia’s time spent living in Ireland flavors her performances with a storyteller’s honesty and charm, and her studies in English Literature has helped to shape her songwriting into an insightful, and mature art. Sharing the stage with folk legends such as Sylvia Tyson, Dar Williams, and Shari Ulrich as she did this past year, has further encouraged Hol’s place as one of Canada’s most dynamic young artists.
In 2013 Lydia was a Top 20 Finalist in the Peak Performance Project, and a Regional Finalist in CBC’s Searchlight Contest. In 2014 she showcased in Toronto and Kansas City, was the Featured Musician at The Vancouver Mayor’s Arts Awards, and curated the Acoustic Guitar Project.
The writing and recording of ‘Heading North’ was the focus of 2015, recorded at Afterlife Studios in Vancouver. But whereas ‘Boats’ was very much a solitary, stationary effort – that of a young artist writing in her quaint cabin on the Pacific coast – Heading North is a more communal collection. The arrangements on this record are more lush and elaborate than those on its predecessor, thanks in large part to a top-tier cast of supporting players. The list is a long one, featuring the likes of Jesse Zubot (violin), Paul Rigby (guitar, steel), and John Raham (drums/engineering) Many of the musicians are on loan from Be Good Tanyas frontwoman Frazey Ford, and helped bring that welcome collective spirit to the album.
At their core these are Hol’s songs, and embody her essence as a musician and lyricist. On both fronts, the album captures the essence of femininity through a delicate, elegant take on folk – simultaneously subtle and sultry; sometimes vulnerable, others tenacious. Her voice and guitar anchor a host of tasteful instrumentation that colours the tracks with tinges of everything from country to classical and beyond.
“The north is really the last frontier, the last unknown,” Hol muses, speaking to the themes of exploration and risk-taking threaded through these nine songs. The title track is about “throwing the tethers off and finding strength,” about moving forward into something bigger than oneself. As for the stories she tells, both in the songs and in between them from the stage, Hol is a student of literature and skilled wordsmith. Some of those shared on Heading North are her own; others are borrowed, like “Mistress of the Track,” about Canadian jockey Ron Turcotte, and “Loneliest Word,” based on a Wordsworth poem, both which soar from her perspective.
Lydia’s communal spirit reaches beyond her own music, and into the broader music world as well, as she is passionate about promoting songwriting and community. She annually curates the Vancouver Acoustic Guitar Project, started and hosts The Yale Songwriter Sessions, a weekly songwriter’s showcase in Vancouver, and works for The Rogue Folk Club. In 2016 she is heading to Austin TX as part of the House of Songs project.