Lia Ices was pregnant with her first child when she started writing her forthcoming release Family Album. She was living with her husband, a wine-maker, and she would walk from their house to the studio through a rose garden with an orchard at its center every day to sit at her piano and see what fell out. It was a “total Eden,” Ices describes. “I got pregnant in January, and Una was born in September, so I was on the same ripening mode as all the fruit.” Recently she returned to the garden with Una to pick some flowers and realized Family Album wouldn’t be what it is if she hadn’t made it on the mountain, next to the flora. “This album is terroir,” she says, using a wine-making term used for the complete natural environmental factors that make something taste the way it does. Fully, spiritually connected to the soil on which it was made, to the air Ices breathed.
For Family Album Lia worked with producer JR White (Girls) all over California: three studios in LA, one in Stinson Beach, and one in San Francisco. “There’s a clarity to the album,” Ices says of the production, “you can hear what I’m saying, you can hear what the instruments are doing. But I really think that because the production supports the ethos you can dive in even deeper.” It was organic: Ices, White, and the four-man backing band she had record with her, live in the studio. Written during the first of three weeks in which Ices and her husband were evacuated from their home during the forest fires in 2017, “Family Album” is about immediacy and memory, and again that piercing contrast between the beauty of nature and its aloofness.
It’s been a long personal journey to get to Family Album, which she’s putting out on her own label, Natural Music. After over a decade on the east coast, from New York City to the Hudson Valley, this is Ices’ first California album. It’s also a return to the piano, on the precipice of motherhood. “Coming to California and living on the mountain and being in nature, and then starting to grow a human, I wanted to make something without having any ulterior motives other than letting what naturally happens, happen,” she says. She felt parallels between her musical output and occupying an archetypically feminine space; being confronted with the intense, grounding feelings surrounding motherhood made it hard to bullshit pretty much anything.
“Making art is communal,” says Ices. But that doesn’t mean Family Album isn’t the most Lia Ices album to ever exist. Part of that is allowing a higher level of collaboration than ever before, part is motherhood, part is Sonoma’s Edenic Moon Mountain, part is the Wild West freedom inherent in Californian lifestyle, part is an awareness of herself, and, most significantly, of growing ever more into that. Ices started her own label, Natural Music, because she felt empowered by herself, by the places that she was able to reach within herself and translate into music, and she wanted to follow the freedom that feeling gave her. “There’s a synchronicity to it, about the way things have happened or who I’ve met,” Ices says of Family Album. There’s a “universal timing” to this record that it’s had since its beginning, with Ices’ ripening. “It keeps being a teacher to me, it has its own energy field around it.”
3. Young on the Mountain
4. Anywhere at All
5. Careful of Love
6. Beauty Blue
7. I’m Gone
8. Family Album
9. Our Time