Interview by K. Cecchini @tonightatdawn
I happened upon singer and pianist Lydia René during my first visit at a more unusual venue. Hosted by Ghana Hylton, the Adinkra House in Montclair, NJ is an invite-only, intimate performance space nestled in Hylton’s home.
Although, I am sure René’s voice can fill a much larger venue, she connected with the thirty or so people in the audience by sharing personal stories that have informed her songwriting.
Tonight at Dawn was grateful for the opportunity to speak with Ms. René at this moment in her burgeoning career. She said that a high school friend, Makeda Mutema Newton, connected her to her husband and co-producer of “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill,” Tejumold Newton. René now works with Tejumold and his partner and twin brother Johari Newton. Since then, she has released her first studio album, “Vintage Heart” and her voice is featured in a Hollywood movie trailer for “The Perfect Guy.”
You can connect to René through her website, lydiarene.com.
Cecchini (KC): You said you write love songs because you “love love” and that you are a positive person despite the ups and downs of life – which I did perceive through your performance and interaction with the audience at Adinkra House – why do you “love love”?
Lydia René (LR): Love is a beautiful thing and I’ve always been a romantic person. But I really believe that Love is such a powerful thing. It changes us and shapes us, and we need it. I’m also someone who thrives on relationships. All of my relationships are extremely important to me-especially romantic ones. Those relationships inspired me to begin writing songs in the first place.
KC: Your parents not only shaped your musical background, but they also seem to be a great influence in many aspects of your life. Can you explain?
LR: I’m an only child so I’m very close to both of my parents. They were essentially my first mentors in the music industry and my father taught me how to play the piano. Also, my mom helped me get better at writing my songs and lyrics. They have always been very supportive of my choice to be a singer and always encourage me. I’m blessed to have that because not everyone has supportive parents.
KC: Are your parents full-time musicians?
My Father is, yes; he’s a music teacher, professor and music pastor. My mother isn’t a full time musician.
KC: You said your message to your fans is: “Real love exists and they can have it.” You also said real love does not always mean romantic love. Can you please tell us about different ways that “real love” exists in your life?
LR: I’m constantly on a journey to love myself more. I think next to God and your spouse, it’s one of the most important relationships to have. I think that when we love ourselves we are able to love others better. I love my parents and my family very much and that means a lot to me. Also I’m blessed to have found my amazing fiancé (Brian) who has shown me nothing but real love since the first day we met.
KC: Please tell us about one song that was inspired by circumstances in your own life.
LR: Well, every song is inspired by circumstances in my own life, lol! One song that I wrote called “Feels So Nice (Wasting Time)” is specifically about Brian. So many times we are both so busy, we have been since we first met, so when we finally have time to chill and relax by ourselves, it’s an extremely valued and precious time. When we have time to do what we want to do even if its stay in our Pjs and watch cartoons all day or binge watch Netflix all day we really enjoy that because we don’t get a chance to do it often. He’s the type of person that I can “waste time” with and its not a waste of time at all.
KC: Which of your songs is on the movie, “The Perfect Man”? What is it like to hear your music in a major film?
LR: Just to clarify: the song I’m singing for “The Perfect Guy” is “I Put A Spell On You”. I was originally hired to sing just a 30-second clip of the song for the TV trailer which is on TV now. The editors and movie production company liked the 30 seconds so much they asked me to sing a full version of the entire song for a very special Movie Trailer. That trailer has been showing in movie theaters before the movie “Straight Outta Compton.” “I Put A Spell on you” is a cover song originally performed by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and later Nina Simone. I was asked to re-create Annie Lennox’s version.
When I finally saw the trailer in the movie theater it was really a surreal moment for me. The whole experience happened so suddenly i never really had a chance to process it. Honestly, it really is a dream come true and I’m truly blessed and also excited for what’s next.
KC: What’s on the horizon for Lydia René?
LR: Right now, I’m working on concepts for a future Christmas album. I’m also writing for my second studio album. I’d love to work on more Movie Trailers and I plan to, as well as have my original material licensed for TV, Commercials, Movies etc. I’m always performing and trying to branch out to different states for my next tour.
KC: Anything you want to add about yourself-quirky, interesting, fun?
LR: Hmm, lol. I like to laugh a lot in general but especially when I’m nervous. I laugh so much people usually can’t tell the difference! I’ve been performing for 5 or 6 years and i still get nervous before every single performance no matter how big or small.