Mindful in a World of Distractions: Leila Lopez’s “Our Animal Skin”

September 4, 2017 |
Artwork by Daniel Martin Diaz

Artwork by Daniel Martin Diaz

Leila Lopez writes songs that explore the depths of human relationships, with ourselves and others, and our emotional struggles as we move through this thing called life. She is vulnerable, resilient and authentic, sapient, contemplative, kind and loving, and her richly layered folk songs are imbued with those attributes.

The album is also imbued with a gentle acceptance of life’s pain, joy, challenges, and ephemeral nature. It conjures the Japanese concept “mono no aware,” the poignant, wistful reflection on the transience of existence; calling on us to be mindful and have faith that we’ll receive what we need, as being distinct from what we want.

Over email, Leila shares the dichotomies she writes about: struggling with depression while pretending like everything is okay, “the climb and fall, shadow and light, the high and low.

“My grandmother passed a couple years ago, and she was always the voice of reason for me. Light needs the dark, sorrow paves the path for joy.”

Through discussing the songs, it’s clear this is a deeply personal project that took some time. “The album was written over a period on and off of about three years, starting around spring of 2013,” Lopez explains. “The songs ended up coming together organically, but as somewhat of a timeline, or chain of events that felt cohesive to one another. They came slowly and I let them, not wanting to put pressure on the process, and to genuinely respect the space in between so I could keep it fun and natural.”

Her intuition was spot-on; the flow of the songs is seamless. And pretty much by herself in her home studio, Lopez created a gorgeous, heart-rendering album that features her playing almost every instrument: vocals, backup harmonies, guitar, bass, drums, keyboard, mandolin, and cello. The sole exception is Christabelle Merrill’s violin on one track.

The songs on the album are beautiful, poignant, interesting, and they collectively provide an examination on how life moves and morphs us. So, what is “our animal skin” and why is it important to shed it?

“The album name came from (aside from the actual lyric) the feeling that I keep having about time, and where we have been, and who we become along the way. The layers we shed both internally and externally change us whether we want them to or not. We go through this process on our own, or maybe in different relationships throughout our lives. Can we adapt to our new layers? Can we fully support the ones we love through the tides even though they may be uncertain? Sometimes we don’t even know why it’s important to shed some of our layers, or for others to do the same, and we just have to trust the process and know that whatever comes is an opportunity for so many things. We are leading ourselves along, but in so many ways, we are also just tiny particles in a really big current.”

Enjoy Leila’s songs – with bandmates Brian Green (bass), Christabelle Merrill (violin) and Julius Schlosburg (drums) – live on Friday, Sept. 22 at Flycatcher, 340 E. 6th St., starting at 8 p.m. Dutch Holly opens. Free! Details at Facebook.com/leilalopezsongs.

Leila Lopez

Leila Lopez

Category: MUSIC