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Lillie Syracuse: “Listen to your gut. Trust it, too”

The most important to my heart is the movement of integrative wellness across the scope of human experiences: mind, body, spirit, emotions, connection to community, realizing the intrinsic value of human life, safe and preventative health care for both mind and body, true nutrition, the list could go on and on. Though this movement is […]

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The most important to my heart is the movement of integrative wellness across the scope of human experiences: mind, body, spirit, emotions, connection to community, realizing the intrinsic value of human life, safe and preventative health care for both mind and body, true nutrition, the list could go on and on. Though this movement is one of long-standing presence in our culture there have been great strides forward in the past few years. It is my life’s work to contribute to this movement and continue exploring new ways to support others on their journey, wherever they may be. Music and the therapy found in that space is one of the many ways I know I can be of support. And, I hope that my speaking of this movement may inspire others to step on board for themselves and the healing of our collective.


As a part of our series about Nashville’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewingLillie Syracuse, a retro-pop musician and songwriter living in East Nashville. Her first few years in Nashville were spent exploring her artistic boundaries, performing and singing country music at bars and festivals. After discovering that country music didn’t fully satisfy her soul, she took a brief hiatus to write songs that were more aligned with her roots in 70’s soft rock, pop and Motown. During this time, Lillie found a core group of friends to play, write and collaborate with who helped her discover her sound and herself along the way. In 2018 she connected with 2 time Grammy nominated drummer and producer Mike Marsh (best known for his work with The Avett Brothers and Dashboard Confessional) and put the wheels in motion to record her first full-length album, Coming Up Diamonds, which was released in September. Influenced by a mix of legendary acts from Marvin Gaye to Fleetwood Mac, Coming Up Diamonds is an 8-track bell-bottomed rock’n’soul record with glittery soundscapes.https://content.thriveglobal.com/media/4cb8c1460c3921413edb2fafee7207de


Thank you so much for joining us in this series! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit of the ‘backstory’ of how you grew up?

Gladly! Thank you for having me. I grew up in a little town called Pumpkintown tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains of South Carolina. My childhood was filled with nature, music, and wild adventures. If I wasn’t romping through the mysterious woods of my hometown, I was playing the piano and singing along to light rock tunes from the 70s or sliding across America in a 18-wheeler with my dad.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I got a full scholarship to attend the musical theatre program at a great university in SC by auditioning with Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 (which had just become officially “musical theatre” in the Broadway show 9 to 5). This story continues on with me needing to leave school early due to changes in my personal life which eventually led to me landing in Nashville, TN. I figured that if couldn’t finish my studies at school for music but somehow wound up in Music City, that music might have its own plans for me.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Nashville is a town brimming with interesting stories to walk into — or at least that’s how it feels here sometimes. There are stories that have been running for many song-soaked years that an individual may have the pleasure of finding themselves in the middle of for a moment, the length of a cover song on a Friday night, or a lifetime. Nashville is magical in that way.

I was sent back to a corner booth during one of my breaks at a sports bar I used to play on the outskirts of town. The towering old man in a trucker cap (with actual cob webs on the bill), cut off sweat pants, and a windbreaker looked up at me as I approached the table and introduced himself as Red Lane. He asked me to sit down with him, told me that he liked my voice and wanted to hear me sing his songs. He also told me about his years of playing guitar for all the country music greats, writing a number one hit for Tammy Wynette, having 45 Merle Haggard cuts and a cut by Ray Charles that he still can’t believe he landed. I was so fascinated by his gracious reverie that I could feel myself slipping in to his country-music legend while he casually drank his half and half. He invited me and my manager at the time to come to his house for some tunes and to have me sing a few songs from his catalogue. And just when Red couldn’t have been any more intriguing, he proceeded to give us a heads up that his “house” is actually a DC8 Airplane that he renovated into a plane-home.

Red and I became fast friends and he personally mentored me for a year before falling ill. I was blessed to be with him the last few days of his beautiful and fascinating life. He was so gracious with his time and talents and left a mark on my life that only a man like Red could conjure. One night while hanging out in the plane-house Red starting playing my favorite song, Somewhere To Come When It Rains by Merle Haggard. All along I assumed Merle had written this song. I told Red how that song meant so much to me and then asked him if he had played it with Merle on the road or in sessions. He nodded “yes”, smiled, and said “I wrote it, too”.

Can you share with us an interesting story about living in Nashville?

Living in Nashville is interesting by default. This town never stops serving fascinating “only here” scenarios. I will share some of my actual living arrangements that I consider to be rather “Nashville”. I started out living in a music studio. I crashed on the couch for 4 years and rolled up everything that alluded to a human living there during business hours and then pulled it all back out once the last session was complete. Now, my wife and I live in a house that Roy Acuff bought for his girlfriend back in the 60s. I can only imagine the music that used to be played in these walls.

Can you share with us a few of the best parts of living in Nashville? We’d love to hear some specific examples or stories about that.

I will never not be blown away by creating music with people who created music that most influenced my life and career. I’ve sang on sessions with players who have a Grammy on their mantle for the work that they’ve done on records that forever changed my life. I’ve played shows with bandmates who made their living touring with artists that I grew up listening to. These folks simply live and work here in Nashville and love making music, so this is a pretty normal happening here. I’ll always be a little giddy and a lot grateful when it happens, though.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I’ll share my 5 year-long mistake of taking my wardrobe too seriously at the expense of my physical well-being. I couldn’t bear the idea of showing up to any of my gigs without being fully decked out in rhinestones, high heels, multiple layers of vintage wares, the biggest hair you can create with 1/2 can of hairspray, and enough makeup to cover three photoshoots. Looking back at this is rather hilarious to me. I was physically miserable and I looked absolutely fabulous. I learned that music and entertainment can happen alongside my physical comfort. I still make myself presentable (whatever that means) for all of my gigs, but I let the music do the talking and if I feel like rocking my converse and trucker cap that day, I happily enjoy every second of flat-footed singing. Or, I just go barefoot.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Just one? I have been blessed with so many mentors and cheer leaders along the way. I will say that my friend Larry O’Brien has been a constant during some of the most fruitful years of my journey with music, so far.

I had just come off of a year-ish hiatus from making music (I was intentionally detoxing from a wild and weird few years with the hopes of rediscovering my own voice) when I agreed to play one of my first writer’s rounds ever. Larry was playing guitar for our friend and host for the night’s round. We’d seen each other around but didn’t really know much about the other musically. After the show, we decided to try some co-writes and I asked him to join me on guitar as I started wading back into the live waters of gigging. Larry and I became fast pals and musical comrades. We’ve written many songs together in the past few years. He ultimately opened the figurative doors that led to my recording my new record Coming Up Diamonds with Mike Marsh because he personally believed in the music so much. He is an incredible talent with the kind of experience, graciousness, and knowledge to truly encourage other’s growth and exploration within the music space.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I just got a “new” piano off of Facebook Marketplace. Besides painting it Elton John Electric Blue, I am actively participating in what we can call the “Coming Home to Me Project”. I recently spent the first 2 years of my life (ever) without an upright in my living space to create with or move my emotions through when a long therapy session is in order. It is enriching to have this instrument in our home, however un-tuned it may be. I sense that I might write my second album with this soon-to-be electric blue piano.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1. “Listen to your gut. Trust it, too.”

I spent many years going with what my gut told me to do in moments of crisis or at cross-roads. It never lead me wrong but I was always so worried that my gut didn’t know what she was talking about. She did!

2. “Allow room for the ‘unfolding’.”

I used to think that there would be a moment when I had it all figured out and in that moment I would be the most “Lillie” I would ever be, and then I’d be that way for the rest of my life. As soon as I starting reveling in the growing and “unfolding” process of life (instead of looking for the ultimate outcome), I relaxed into the magic of being alive. I appreciate each moment with wide eyes and curiosity now and that feels great.

3. “Fill yourself up and then your gifts will over flow.”

I used to think my gifts were for others first and then me. Now I know that my gifts have always been for me first and that is how I am able to give of them freely. It’s a totally different transference and exchange of energy that feels more sustainable. (My therapist may have helped me with this one.)

4. “Take it easy, baby. This is your life and no one really knows what’s going on, anyways.”

I found myself allowing expectancies that had been super-imposed over my story (by others) make me anxious and feel less than capable to thrive. I think this was easy for me to allow because I had somehow been convinced that other people knew more about my story, goals, life, and heart-song than I do. I don’t know if there was a distinct moment that caused me to realize I had been misinformed but I do know that realization changed my whole world. I now can actually breathe.

5. “It’s ok to be selective with what jobs and opportunities you accept.”

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lesson in every opportunity. Though, I found that sometimes the lesson is simply “stop spending your time here”. I learned to honor my gifts and energy in ways that are exclusively in alignment with what I have to offer and what I long to see in the world, not just what pays the bills. It feels wobbly at first but works out with more authenticity and success in the long-run. I also found that once I shifted my approach, I was able to find alignment in places I wouldn’t normally expect to find.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Can I be that gal and say: “See previous answers.”? Haha! These are all my “fundamentals” that I learned through time and lived experience. They are all the pieces of encouragement I would share with a fresh, eager 19 year old version of myself over a fancy cup of coffee. I would hope that she may be gentle with herself while also being fierce in the knowing of her boundaries and ability to show up for herself. I don’t burn out (as easily) anymore now that I’ve learned the above 5.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

The most important to my heart is the movement of integrative wellness across the scope of human experiences: mind, body, spirit, emotions, connection to community, realizing the intrinsic value of human life, safe and preventative health care for both mind and body, true nutrition, the list could go on and on. Though this movement is one of long-standing presence in our culture there have been great strides forward in the past few years. It is my life’s work to contribute to this movement and continue exploring new ways to support others on their journey, wherever they may be. Music and the therapy found in that space is one of the many ways I know I can be of support. And, I hope that my speaking of this movement may inspire others to step on board for themselves and the healing of our collective.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“This is the season she will make beautiful things. Not perfect things, but honest things that speak to who she is and who she knows she is meant to be”

-Morgan Harper Nichols

This quote feels like my soul wrapped up in an old sweater, laying in the grass and yellow leaves, resting deep on a sunny autumn day. Full of grace, authenticity, warmth, breath, and grounded-ness. This quote evokes and speaks to the values I hold dear and find comfort in when I need reminding of my innate gifts and wisdom.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

There are so many folks who I just know would be excellent hangs. This is a tough one!

I’m gonna go with Christine McVie.

She is one of my favorite songwriters and musicians. I’d love to hear her stories and all about her relationship with song and music. She seems incredibly kind and warm as well and I enjoy that energy very much.

How can our readers follow you online?

Instagram: @LillieSyracuse

Facebook: (not as active but still there) Lillie Syracuse

Website: www.lilliesyracuse.com

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