Lily DeTaeye Bites Back With A New Record, A Little Harmonica And A Lot Of Sass

Oct 15, 2019

At the age of 21, Lily DeTaeye may not come across as a veteran of the music business, but she’s been writing and performing music for more than a decade.

This Friday, the Des Moines singer-songwriter will release her first full-length album, “BiTe Back,” along with a music video for the first single, “Peppermint.” 

It’s her third release overall and second from the Des Moines based label Station 1 Records. The official album release show is at XBk in Des Moines on Saturday, October 19 at 7:30 p.m. 

DeTaeye grew up in a family of Serious Music People and began playing guitar and writing songs at about 8 years old. When she was 13, she performed at the Des Moines Farmer’s Market for the first time. A year later, DeTaeye released the EP “Nothing To Say” while continuing to play shows around the area.

The summer before she began college, DeTaeye signed with Station 1 and began work on her second release, “The EP,” which came out in 2017. Since then, she's continued to write music while attending the University of Iowa. Her new album has a much different sound than her first two releases. 

DeTaeye spoke with IPR about the new record, as well as growing up as a professional musician.

Credit Photo courtesy of Lily DeTaeye

You’ve been performing since you were 13 years old. Did you grow up in a musical family?

My family has a big appreciation for music. My parents raised us with this philosophy that you do one sport and one instrument, just so you’re well-rounded, meeting people and involved. I just stuck to instruments. When I picked up guitar, my dad introduced harmonica, because we liked Neil Diamond and Neil Young.

“No more Taylor Swift covers, you’re gonna do something a little different.” (laughs)

My parents have never second-guessed that that’s what I want to do and helped me to do that for my job from when I was 13 on.

What was it like performing for a living while being a student?

It was weird, and it’s still a thing I’m grappling with. I just got out of college, and a bunch of my friends are getting internships and these ‘real jobs’ with health benefits. (laughs.) There’s been a lot of guilt, because I don’t have this regular nine-to-five job. How do I justify that most of my work gets done when I’m performing, or that I can sit in my pajamas and write? 

It’s weird to explain, but now I’ve got this really great group of people that all understand and value my time when I’m working, even though that may be from my home. But that took a while, and I’m still trying to figure out how to avoid the guilt of the whole ‘make your own hours thing.’ Just because it’s fun doesn’t mean it can’t be hard. It is my job.

You became connected with Station 1 Records and recorded “The EP” while you were a student at the University Of Iowa. How did that come together?

It was me recalling things I’d learned while recording my first album, and then also learning what it was like to collaborate creatively with people. Suddenly, this wasn’t just my project, which was very eye-opening to me. When you sign with someone, it becomes everyone’s project. But if they’re people you trust, then it becomes something you could never make on your own.

It was a great learning experience, I’m very grateful they didn’t let me dive into a full album right away, because I wouldn’t have been ready. I wouldn’t have made it something I loved.

Credit Elly Hofmaier

There’s much less piano on this new album than on “The EP.” It’s mostly guitar and harmonica. Why?

Harmonica was a big priority. Before, we hadn’t really been able to record it the way we wanted it to. This time, I wrote and selected songs specifically to showcase harmonica, because it’s very important to who I am as an artist. “The EP” is great, and I’m proud of it. But it definitely approached more of a pop vibe than I was expecting, so I consciously wanted to pull back from that.

“Bite Back” is about mental health, and about being a woman today in kind of a tumultuous time period. All these rough things aren’t necessarily the same things I was writing about when I was writing “The EP.”

I wanted this gritty sound. The piano is deeper and more roomy. The guitars and lap steel are darker and more haunting.  This album is definitely darker. But when you’re an artist you can only check in with your audience every two years when you release music, so it’s a very true update to who I am now.

What’s the significance of the album title, “Bite Back?”

The second song on the album is called “Sweet Tooth,” and it has the line, “I bit the apple/And the apple bit back.” It’s about how sometimes, when we’re given hard situations in life, we can self-victimize and make the situation worse, or get down on ourselves and become our biggest enemy. 

I’m biting back at these things that keep me down. I’m biting back as a woman for those people that make me feel unsafe. And I’m biting back as a human who was young and is now growing and becoming a different, stronger person.  It’s very much about empowerment and figuring out what you need to do for yourself.

Why is “Peppermint” the first single from the record?

It's a bit of a departure. It was written in one night, and I didn’t think it would go anywhere. But we ended up fleshing it out with our full band, and it was all of our favorite. We just love playing it. It was the first one that came together, and it’s very indicative of the vibe of the rest of the album.