LGBTQIA+ Leeds series: Lily Kerbey

So, after our brilliantly cringe origin story of meeting on Tinder and becoming fast friends, I am so excited to be able to write about Lily Kerbey.

I knew she sung, I knew she wrote music, and I had even listened to some of her stuff, but I was not prepared for seeing her live.

She regularly hosts a Sunday spot at LIVIN Italy (a place that honestly I could write a whole other review about – bellisima!) and from the second I walked in, I began to feel settled just seeing how relaxed she was singing to a loud, busy restaurant, while I would have been quaking in my boots.

All the passion, articulation, fun and emotion I had seen from our close friendship of ups and downs was laid bare before me in the lyrics.

She did it so perfectly that, she could be singing ‘It Wasn’t Me’ by Shaggy and you would feel like you’d been told a harrowing story of love lost.

I watched her go from low notes that explored sexiness and sadness that I didn’t even think could co-exist to belting out triumphant strong, high notes, Aguilera-style. Exuding the confidence of someone who has had a similarly lengthy singing career – which it appears she has.

Having begun singing at the age of eight after beating her primary school “nemesis” to the role of Jesus in the Easter school play (and performing solos while being crucified) Lily has led a musical life ever since. She began learning guitar at 12, wrote her first song at 13 and later joined the school soul band which she claims to have really defined her sound. She has sung in bands and solo ever since and even got coverage on Radio 2 in her university band Everything Tastes Like Kiwi.

She describes her original material as an “electronic dark moody ‘woe-is-me’ type thing. Halsey, Banks-esque.” While I have heard some of her earlier work and confirm that this is true, her original material is on hold while she pursues a teaching career. So, to avoid spoiling the surprise when she drops some of her own material, I’m going to discuss her live performances that consist of truly magical covers.

Each song was given a melancholy or slowed-down, sexy twist. I enjoyed the contrast between sad beginnings, such as the first verse of ‘It’s Raining Men’ which implied a genuine meteorological tragedy and the build up to the chorus which was up-tempo and triumphant. It made me grin from ear to ear as if I had survived the apocalypse of rough, tough, strong and lean blokes plummeting from above. I had to painfully resist the urge to sing along as my voice would probably curdle the cheese on the surrounding pizza.

I did notice during her performance that Lily likes to play along with pronouns. When I asked her about this, she expressed that “even if the original is sang by a woman and talks about ‘he’ or ‘him’ I’ll change it to female pronouns sometimes. Especially in ‘Ironic’ by Alanis Morissette  ‘it’s meeting the woman of your dreams and meeting her beautiful wife.’ In my original material I have definitely touched on my sexuality although I like to make it less explicit, as my sexuality is a little blurred so I like my lyrics to be.”

To expand on her “blurred” definition, Lily has questioned her sexuality over the years. She identifies as bisexual, but like a lot of bisexual people (myself included) she has expressed that she leans more in the direction of pansexuality or “queerness” in relation to her gender-preferences. However, as not all bisexuals identify this way, the lines of bisexuality itself are blurred. Things appear to have come full-circle for her however, as she jokes: “I am comfortable with my sexuality now and the fact that I like all genders. I don’t know if this makes me pansexual, I don’t know, I always think that sounds like I like pans and to be honest I’m only really into woks.”

When asked about her queer icons, Lily had a plethora of inspirations and influences: “I love Halsey’s work, she is very vocal about her bisexuality and I see her as a very influential figure in my music life. My friends in J Frisco are repping the experimental jazz scene and constantly push barriers for women in music. CAL is my friend from university who is rocking the Leeds drag scene with his amazing music and show-stopping performances, he regularly performs at Wharf Chambers and is not one to miss.”

Her next solo covers gig is 6th May at LIVIN’ Italy between 7-10.
You all have an open invitation to attend from Lily herself:  “Come down and request weird stuff for me to sing, i’ll do anything except Coldplay, Cliff Richard and Sean Paul.”

Check out more of Lily’s covers on Youtube, or feel free to visit her Facebook page.

Kitty Calderbank

Images courtesy of Lily Kerbey

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