Canadian Musician - January / February - Page 34

THE AMBITION BEHIND LIGHTS’ SKIN & EARTH hen you’re a child, there is no more intimidating question than the most common one: What do you want to be when you grow up? Kids and teenagers have so little sway over their day-to-day lives, and yet here they are, having to give an answer that encompasses their entire future. It’s no wonder they so frequently turn to the most power- ful, larger-than-life figures for their responses. Little kids reply with the fantastical: they want to be comic book heroes. Teens often go with something more grounded, if not just as hard to improbable: they want to be rock stars. Growing up in Timmins, ON, Valerie Ann Poxleitner wanted to be both. Tough times in the music and journalism industries mean that now, four albums into a wildly successful international pop career under the name Lights, she’s on the verge of pulling off the trickiest dual career since Superman applied for a job at The Daily Planet. On her new record, Skin & Earth, Lights veers into full-on Rush concept album territory, telling a tale of finding love in an impossible place. It’s a dystopian, Hunger Games-esque vision, with lyrics diving into territory the singer has, up until now, largely avoided. The story, as originally conceived, is a complex and cinematic one that the album’s 14 songs can only briefly sketch. To more fully flesh out Lights’ vision, the record has an accompanying six-volume graphic novel series written and drawn by the artist 34 • C A N A D I A N M U S I C I A N