I had the chance to catch up with Lydia Sutherland to chat about her solo career and new single “Date a Friend”.
Sutherland grew up in a small town about an hour outside of Montreal called Godmanchester. She was introduced to music at an early age by her grandparents who listened to classics like Johnny Cash, Shania Twain, Patsy Cline, and Willy Nelson.
Growing up in Quebec, she was also exposed to French artists such as Paul Daraiche and her personal favourite, Laurence Jalbert.
Sutherland started writing music when she was 16, “and that’s where everything changed and [she] started pursuing music”.
When asked what got her into writing, Sutherland expressed “I always had an easy time finding myself through music until I went through some things in high school […] I was feeling like no one was writing about what I was going through so I started writing it myself during lunch time. Instead of hanging out with people, I would go to the music room”.
Sutherland taught herself to play piano during those times in the music room and began to use writing music as an outlet to process her overwhelming feelings.
Aside from music, Sutherland enjoys bonfires, fourwheeling, hiking, and all things outside with her close friends.
The first artist who had a significant impact on Sutherland was Taylor Swift because of the honesty in her lyrics, but now tends to gravitate more towards pop artists like Julia Michaels and fellow Canadian JP Saxe. “ I love love country, but I think it’s so fun to do more pop and hooky melodies on a country base”.
Her current country influences are Carly Pearce and Kelsey Ballerini. Sutherland’s favourite lyricist at the moment is JP Saxe because she feels “like he’s gravitating towards topics that are super simple, but he’s writing them in a way that nobody has written them before […] in a super conversational way, so it’s easy for the audience to relate to them”.
Listen to “Date A Friend”
Sutherland prides herself on authenticity, and feels that is the most important part of her music, saying “what makes it special is that I talk and write about things that actually happened to me, and I’m super honest about it” and hoping that her experiences will help others.
When asked what it was like to work with Robyn Ottolini, Sutherland responded “I love Robyn. She’s one of my best friends, so working with her isn’t even working at this point”. Sutherland feels she’s learned a lot about the “no filter thing” from Ottolini over the past year as Sutherland would try to “pretty things up and make them sound better than they are”. Ottolini encouraged her to be honest with herself and her audience to make a more authentic connection.
Sutherland met Ottolini on Instagram over a year ago when “someone DM’d someone to write”. Their writing styles are similar, making it easy to write together. The two artists met in person for the first time about three weeks ago in Nashville and there was much shouting and excitement.
On how the pandemic has impacted her, Sutherland mentioned that prior to COVID she was writing only for herself.
She had many people telling her that she shouldn’t write her own record or songs because she “wasn’t good enough”, but when the pandemic paused things it gave her time to figure out her sound and write with other people like Ottolini, Aaron Pollock and Chris Yurchuck. She credits Pollock with opening her eyes to her abilities as a writer, which has led her more towards being a songwriter than an artist.
“The pandemic really gave me a chance to process my love for writing and figure out where I want to go career-wise”.
Sutherland’s toughest challenge through the pandemic occurred at the beginning when she was new to the industry, feeling lonely and believing that she wasn’t a good writer. As she has met more artists learned more about co-writing, it’s given her the boldness to reach out and believe in her writing.
Over the past year and a half, Sutherland has spent a lot of time writing with Pollock and Ottolini, but has also had the opportunity to meet the James Barker Band and John Byron, connecting with artists from Nashville to Canada and Australia.
The pandemic hasn’t stopped her at all, in fact it’s provided her with many opportunities to develop her craft.
I asked Sutherland what suggestions she has for people who choose to date a friend. Her response was that “I actually sing don’t date a friend but the whole concept when we were writing it was don’t date a friend if you want it to be easy”.
The song was initially intended to be a breakup song with more negative lyrics as a reflection of Sutherland’s personal struggle with having dated and broken up with a close friend, but her cowriters encouraged her to look at the positive aspects of the experience.
Her advice for those who date a friend is to go for it, but make sure that their communication is 10/10.
“I was so in my head about the whole relationship and where it was going that I needed to write something that shed a positive light on the whole situation. Something that would highlight the reasons why I chose to cross the friendship boundary with him in the first place and why I shouldn’t regret taking that chance. “Date A Friend” is a song that speaks on how intimate friendships can be and how naturally it can lead to something more. It can be the easiest and most special feeling ever, even when it’s not meant to be forever.”
Sutherland’s current top three go-to tracks right now are: Carly Pearce’s “What He Didn’t Do”, “Like That” by JP Saxe, and Camino’s “Know It All”.