Lilly MacPhee continually searches for a deeper understanding in life.
The metro Detroit indie folk singer-songwriter explores the true meaning of everyday words and actions on her new contemplative EP, Between the Lines.
“When I named the EP and thought about the overall theme of all the songs, I wanted people to really think about something before they say it. I believe in the notion of ‘say what you mean and mean what you say,’” MacPhee said.
“My whole goal with songwriting, and especially with the lyrics on this EP, is to always be authentic and raw. I also want to write lyrics universal enough to where everyone can interpret their own meaning.”
While reading Between the Lines, MacPhee digs beneath the surface and uncovers hidden thoughts about the passage of time, the loss of a loved one, the value of simple pleasures, and the need for lifelong connection.
Each haunting track also reminds listeners to learn from the past and find a sense of gratitude in the present, even as life’s troubles and uncertainties continue to build.
“Even through all the loss and the grief that I’ve experienced and others have experienced during these crazy times, I’m always trying to find the bright light,” MacPhee said.
“And for me, that’s through songwriting and the idea of trying to find the bright light in the darkness and finding the positivity when it might be hard to see.”
A Soulful Search
MacPhee radiates that positivity on the EP’s soothing opener, “Matter of Time,” which stresses living for today and abandoning the worries of the future. Mystical electric guitar, wistful acoustic guitar, soft drums, tranquil cymbals, introspective bass and melancholic synth provide a brief, comforting escape.
She sings, “I tell myself for my own peace of mind/What’s for me, won’t pass by/On the other hand, if days turn to years/I’ll be waiting right here.”
“That song was inspired by a Scottish quote that I just love, and I try to live by it. It’s called, ‘What’s for you won’t go by you.’ My family says it all the time,” MacPhee said.
“It’s also to not worry about things too much. Everybody, in some way, tends to overthink things, but they need to just go with the flow and not worry about the future or the past. If you’re feeling anxious or overanalyzing something, then just remember, ‘What’s for you won’t go by you.’”
MacPhee also spreads well wishes on the uplifting Between the Lines relationship anthem, “I Hope It’s You,” as mesmerizing acoustic guitar, hopeful synth, sincere drums, forlorn bass and reflective electric guitar channel an old-time love.
She sings, “Yes, I’ve said some things I didn’t mean/I broke you, hurt you and I did the same to me/I wish I could go back, rewrite the past.”
“With people from the past, you don’t want to wish bad things on them. Even if you don’t talk to them anymore, they can still pop into your mind, and you just always hope they’re doing OK,” MacPhee said.
Outside of past connections, MacPhee relishes cherished moments with family and friends on the heartfelt closer, “Simple Things.” Upbeat acoustic guitar, grateful electric guitar, cathartic piano, placid violin, strolling bass and thumping drums rejuvenate the spirit and enrich the soul.
She sings, “Conversations over coffee/The way you smile at me/And I take a picture in my mind/To remember the simple things in life.”
“I’m more of a person that would rather have experiences with people I love and care about. It’s more important to me than sitting around and staring at a bunch of materialistic things,” MacPhee said.
“I love the part about having conversations over coffee. It’s just such a sweet thing to be in the moment and have a nice conversation.”
The need for conversation also arises on “If You Hear This,” a sparkling duet (and Between the Lines CD bonus track) with singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Aaron Markovitz. Luminous electric guitar, somber acoustic guitar and airy bass seek closure and acceptance from a broken relationship.
MacPhee and Markovitz sing, “Every time I call/You never seem to be home/But I think you are/You’re just not picking up the phone/I know you’re lonely, I am too/Isn’t it something when a soul is split in two?”
“It’s about finding closure within yourself, and it can be about any type of relationship … that’s the beauty of it. We, as humans, always think, ‘Oh, I wish I would’ve said this,’ ‘I wish I would’ve said that,’ ‘I should’ve said this,’ or ‘I could’ve said that,’” she said. “That will drive somebody crazy, so that’s why you have to find closure within yourself just to accept ‘It is what it is.’”
Last week, MacPhee released an intimate live acoustic video for the track. Filmed by Jackie Pappas at Wiltsie’s in Clarkston, it features MacPhee and Markovitz performing the song in a wooden pallet-lined room.
“The track is already on all streaming services, but it’s nice to have an actual live video where people can see us singing it,” she said.
For Between the Lines, MacPhee wrote, recorded and produced all six tracks in her home studio. This latest release allowed her to add some lush layers and textures alongside her signature acoustic sound.
“The production was a new avenue for me to take on fully by myself. For my last EP, I had the help of an engineer and another musician. But for this one, I edited, produced and arranged all the instruments,” said MacPhee, who also mixed and mastered the EP.
“I already had ideas in my head production-wise for what I wanted it to sound like and if I wanted to keep the production more basic. I always like to think that less is more.”
MacPhee also collaborated with drummer Collin Lademann on a few tracks and worked with Markovitz to record “If You Hear This” at Jim Rawlings’ home studio.
“Within a week, we were in Jim’s studio recording ‘If You Hear This.’ I only went there one day, and then Aaron went back and did the bass another day while Jim mixed and mastered it,” she said.
“I’ll be promoting my new EP, and it’s exciting to be opening for an international touring folk band, too,” she said.
In the meantime, MacPhee will focus on writing, recording and releasing new material, including two singles this spring and summer.
“My ‘Intuition’ song … I want to release that maybe in May. And then, I have another song I wrote recently called ‘My Favorite Song.’ I think I’ll post a clip of it on Instagram in a couple weeks, and I definitely want to release that in the summertime,” she said.
Friday, March 11 | Doors 7 p.m. & Show 8 p.m.
The Parliament Room at Otus Supply, 345 E. 9 Mile Road in Ferndale