Take a little trip down Trinity Lane with Lilly Hiatt in our newest NoiseTrade One-on-One. During our chat, Hiatt talks about the significance of naming her new album Trinity Lane (out 8/25 on New West), the influence of ’90s alternative music on her own sound, working with Michael Trent (Shovels and Rope) as the album’s producer, and more.
NoiseTrade: First off, I always find it so interesting when albums or songs are framed around real-world geographical references. Tell us about the decision to name your new album Trinity Lane and about the significance that Nashville street holds for you.
Lilly Hiatt: Trinity Lane is actually the street in East Nashville that I live right off of. I moved there about a year and a half ago and it’s where I began writing most of these songs. It quickly became my little neck of the woods. To me, albums are just moments in time and my most recent moments have been centered around here.
NT: Keeping to the theme of place and setting, you’ve recorded some cool slice-of-life music videos for the album’s first two singles “Trinity Lane” and “The Night David Bowie Died.” Are the places in those videos specific to you or were they just picked for their aesthetics and atmosphere?
Hiatt: The video for “Trinity Lane” was all done in my house and in my neighborhood, so that one is very specific and significant to me. “The Night David Bowie Died” was shot by Will Holland and he picked out all of the locations along Nolensville Pike here in Nashville. There were all places I’d never really been before but we just thought they suited the theme of the song really well.
NT: From a songwriting perspective, which Trinity Lane song seemed the easiest to write and record and which one seemed the most difficult to get to a finished state?
Hiatt: The easiest song was “The Night David Bowie Died” because it all just came out at once. It’s always cool when that happens and you don’t even feel like you’re writing a song. The hardest one was probably “I Wanna Go Home” simply because I had the melody and the majority of the words for quite awhile, but I couldn’t figure out what I wanted it to say in the chorus. I usually just write a song and if it’s happening I’ll stick with it and if it’s not I won’t. But that one I really liked and didn’t want to just toss it out. I marinated on it for awhile and then took it to a friend that helped me finish it. That one took some time, but it was all worth it.
“Trinity Lane” was also an interesting one because it started out as more of a mournful-yet-hopeful kind of folk song written on my acoustic. However, when I started playing it with my band, we all wanted to rock it out a little more. When we got in the studio, it developed even further and got a lot faster and a lot brighter. It was a fun transition to watch.
NT: How did you first get connected with Michael Trent (Shovels and Rope) to have him produce Trinity Lane and how would you describe the experience of working with him in the studio?
Hiatt: I got connected with him through Kim Buie at New West. She recommended him to me because she thought we might make a cool pair together. I liked Shovels and Rope a lot but I didn’t know he really produced records for other people. We started talking about the songs a few months before we even got in the studio and then I just took my band out there and we had a great time together.
It was an amazing experience and I was impressed that he was so in tune with everything we were doing. Also, he’s an incredible musician but he kind of put his performer hat down during the initial tracking session. He let us be the performers and he was the producer. When it came time to lay some extra parts on top of everything, he did some incredible stuff, but only after we did our foundational parts. He bedazzled almost every track and shined them up with like mellotron, guitar, shaker, tambourine, background vocals, all that good stuff. He also did some really cool background vocals with Cary Ann on a song called “Everything I Had” which was so special to me because you can really hear her in that song.
NT: While most folks would describe your sound under the catch-all Americana label, there’s an undeniable ‘90s alt-rock vibe to a lot of your songs, especially in the guitar tones. There’s even a copy of Pearl Jam’s 10 that shows up in the “Trinity Lane” video. Do you count any specific ‘90s bands amongst your influences?
Hiatt: Yeah, totally! Pearl Jam is on the top of my list and my goal is to get some songs to Eddie Vedder! I grew up with them and they go deeper than just being a favorite band to me. They’re part of my upbringing. Let’s see, who else do I love from the ’90s… I love The Cranberries. Liz Phair is such a huge one to me. I was really into Veruca Salt as well. I got to meet them when I was 11 and Louise Post’s autograph to me said “Rock on with your frock on” and I’ll never forget that. She was my favorite because she had dark hair like me but Nina Gordon was totally awesome too.
NT: Finally, you recently tweeted out that your realized your dad’s lyrics run through your head all the time. Do you have a favorite song of his that always gets you?
Hiatt: I have so many songs that my dad’s written that I really love, but one of my absolute favorites is “Crossing Muddy Waters.” It’s such a beautiful folk song and it always hits me and makes me emotional when I hear it. I could list like 40 other favorites of his, but that’s a really good one for me.