A fixture of Toronto’s music community and a sought-after collaborator, Lydia Persaud stands alone with her debut album Let Me Show You.
Exposed to music from a very young age, Lydia’s early influences sprang from the gospel styles of her religious upbringing. “Unpacking the last 24 years of my life as I grew up in church is an ongoing journey. I was sheltered in many ways, through homeschooling (grade 2-5) and extreme involvement in my church. At the same time I was introduced to the concept of singing for a greater purpose than that of fame and glory. Music was for God and for giving thanks, a foundation that I am grateful for to this day. Removing the ego and vanity in music and giving back, connecting, and sharing relatable stories is how I have grown from these early experiences.”
It wasn’t until Lydia stumbled across a cassette that she was exposed to soul music. “My first introduction to soul music was through one of my early tapes, VH1 Divas Live. It was a live performance taping with Mariah Carey, Aretha Franklin, Celine Dion, Shania Twain, Carole King and Gloria Estefan. I so wish that Whitney had performed as that would have covered all of my favourite vocal queens.” The vocal skill of these icons drew Lydia in to explore the soul genre. This influence ultimately reached into the recording studio where Lydia created Let Me Show You. “Soul music has always affected me the most, a soulful conviction on matters of the heart. Voicing struggle or sharing joy and celebration has always been my favourite method of expression.”
Lydia’s sound expands the boundaries of soul to include both folk and jazz, styles that have been foundational to her musical growth. Lydia attended the rigorous jazz program at Humber School of Music, where she won the Oscar Peterson Jazz Award and connected with fellow members of the folk trio The O’Pears, whom she has been collaborating with for the past 5 years. Working in these styles honed Lydia’s mastery of sophisticated vocal harmony and blend, leading her to become an in-demand vocalist. She has performed with a varied range of artists such as Jill Barber, Lee Fields, and Royal Wood, and is a member of renowned cover band Dwayne Gretzky.
Participating in the folk and jazz scenes in Toronto developed Lydia’s technical expertise while infusing her work with a storytelling and emotive quality. “I’ve always considered jazz to be very soulful, expressive and spontaneous where folk music and is a bit more calculated with a singer-songwriter form that boil down to the root complex feelings and concepts”.
As a woman of colour from a multiracial background, Lydia has actively sought to break stereotyped expectations of her identity through her music. She finds it empowering to disrupt assumptions that pigeonhole her in genres such as R&B: “Swaying far from those expectations by picking up the ukulele and writing folk songs felt like I was carving out my own space. I always had a love for early country music and storytelling through song, which always kept me close to artists like Shania Twain and Stevie Wonder.”
Let Me Show You, recorded in Toronto with producer Robbie Grunwald (Donovan Woods, Jill Barber), is an album that runs the gamut from romance, to social activism, to anger: “The songs shift from being based in love and heartbreak to social commentary on race, LGBTQ and gender issues. The album conveys a full spectrum.”
With Let Me Show You, Lydia draws inspiration from her musical heroes, such as Donny Hathaway, Bill Withers and Carole King, while touching on vital issues that deeply affect her. Her music melds genres while Lydia’s clear message shines through on the power of her unforgettable voice.
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