Lindsay Powell



“You have to take care of yourself first. If your mental health is temperamental, everything - your ideas, your production, your performance, your songs, will only get stronger by taking care of your brain.”

October 8, 2016
interview by Madeleine Campbell

How did you get started [as Fielded]?
I started Fielded about seven years ago. I was 22. I was living in Chicago. I had been touring with bands for a few years. It was all kind of winding down as I started Fielded. The last time the music industry seemed to really be booming was like 2007 with the resurgence of record sales. I was clinging on to those 80s and 90s ideals. It was the tail end of that time. My band ended up not getting signed which caused a big rift among us. I started Fielded not knowing anything about recording. I had recorded on a 4-track before but that was mostly it. For me, it was this desire to work out all the shit I wanted to talk about. I had been through a lot as a woman and as the only woman in my band. It was a tough time. I didn’t go to therapy. This was kind of my therapy. I started this project and people asked me to play shows because they had seen me play in other bands. The music scene in Chicago was, and maybe still is, extremely male dominated, especially the noise scene. The first show I played was as Lorena Bobbitt.

Yeah. I changed the name to Fielded. It was really a vocal experimentation project. I wanted to use my voice in ways I hadn’t imagined before. Chicago allowed me a lot of time to work on stuff. I wasn’t paying that much in rent. I was pretty broke anyways so I just spent most of my time working on music for two years. It helped me keep moving forward. That was when it was really kind of dark and noisy. I started to want to make the music that I admired people for. I’m still trying to do that, I guess. That’s an endless thing. I don’t think I’ll ever make a record and think, “That’s it! That’s exactly how I want it to sound!” It’s a lot to be the producer and the arranger and the engineer and in charge of instrumentation. For a long time it was out of the need for musical control and generally in my own life, but also because I didn’t have resources. No one was like, “Hey I’d love to help you make those sounds.” I was really in my own zone. That’s changing more now though. I’m better at asking for help. I feel like moving to different cities changed my sound, too. I learned to put on a visually stimulating live show in Los Angeles and in New York City I learned how to hustle.

So you were in L.A. first?
Yeah. I needed to light a fire under my ass.

What took to you to New York?
I grew up in New Jersey. I’ve lived a lot of places. I lived in Nashville on and off for several years. For me, I went to L.A. thinking, “This is the city I belong in.” It just wasn’t the right fit at the time. I really missed my family. I felt far away from everything. When I moved, New York felt like the only other option. It makes sense for me. The pace is amazing. It’s fast. It’s intimidating sometimes but I like the way people are so upfront. I love how diverse it is.

You’re quite prolific. How did you arrive at the current iteration of Fielded?
I think it took a really long time for me to find something that spoke to me in terms of where my intelligence could be applied. I wasn’t the best student. I was lucky to attend the high school I went to. I had a hard time learning. When I find something that speaks to me, I learn in a way where I have to do it myself. For me, several years of Fielded was learning a thing and not asking for help. That was me empowering myself. For a while, I would never send demos to people. I was very secretive. When I did send demos to particular people, they would tear them apart. I was insecure. There was a lot of intense male energy around me at the time. I love my male friends and I admire a lot of them but as I got older I felt less intimidated about asking for guidance and advice. I’ve been learning how to open up to people. I record demos myself. I still do a lot of the engineering but I’m really excited for the next record to be about opening up the conversation. I’m putting together the live band. The first show I played with musicians was a Kate Bush cover show for Halloween. It was so much fun.

What song did you perform?
It was a whole set! A month before, somebody asked me if I’d be interested and I said “Hell yeah! How hard can this be?” It was hard. It was so much prep for eight songs. We played “This Woman’s Work” and “Running Up That Hill” and “Hounds of Love.” Hm. What else? “Army Dreamers,” “Wuthering Heights” I had never committed to covers like that before. I think it takes a lot of concentration.

Have you ever seen her Christmas Special?
Yes! At least the part where she sings “Egypt.”

My roommate sent me the Youtube link on Christmas morning a couple years ago and I watched it with my grandma. That whole show is amazing. Anyways. Back to you. So you’re still engineering?
Yeah, I’m still engineering a lot. I’m not the greatest at PR and promo. Some people are so good at that stuff but it’s not my forte. I just want to be in the studio or performing live.

What kind of space are you working out of these days?
I’ve been working out of a studio in New Jersey. They have a recording company where they do audio books and stuff. They told me if I ever wanted to use the space for Fielded I could. Right now I’ve been a lot more inspired as a songwriter. I’ve been working towards finding answers to some big questions. How can I produce this track in the way I want to hear it? I’ve been strengthening myself in a different way. It took a year and a half for me to find a way to write.

What software are you using?
I work a lot in Logic. My sampling comes from real life, my voice and instruments.  I love working with vocals.

Who are some of your production inspirations lately?
I feel really inspired by Top 40 or current rap. I’m really into Kendrick Lamar lyrically but the production of his album is even more incredible. I want to compare him to Joni Mitchell.

How so?
I mean in terms of his lyrics and the consistency of his production. Every song feels like it’s coming from a different place. Its how I think of a Joni Mitchell album. A complete work, a really great whole, but one that you can break up and it still functions well as individual pieces. If I ever meet him, I’ll ask him if he likes Joni Mitchell. The newest Kanye album, too.

Do you have any plans to tour?
I haven’t toured extensively in a while. I wasn’t taking care of myself. The last tour I was on was with Perfect Pussy.

Yeah! I was at the Pittsburgh show.
Oh, right! They’re great people and a great band. But I’m cautious about touring overall.  

Do you feel comfortably expanding upon to that?
Sure. My songwriting is more personal now. I put a lot of emotion into this production and music. It’s been intense. Touring is a really special life. It’s a blessing when you get to do it in a way where it nurtures your spirit. As an artist, you are giving so much every night. I’m grateful that the audience is there to give back. You’re connecting to something very pure. About 18 months ago, I was experiencing a mental breakdown. It felt like an avoidance of life. I was embarrassed that I wasn’t inspired to write at the time.  I couldn’t go out to shows. I was on medication and trying to heal myself. As hard as that time was, it was really important for me to realize that I wasn’t taking care of myself. I was putting opportunity first. I thought if I had enough opportunity, I could just take care of myself later. Your expectations change as an artist. Thank god they do. It’s so important for artists to remember that, especially in New York. It’s so easy to box yourself in. What if I don’t take this opportunity? There’s this anxiety-ridden voice nagging at you saying, “Oh no, I won’t get paid! No one will want me.” I think a lot of people feel this way. We think we’re all alone in our anxiety. Touring is the best but you have to look our for #1. You have to take care of yourself first. If your mental health is temperamental, everything - your ideas, your production, your performance, your songs, will only get stronger by taking care of your brain. Your brain is your body. As a young person I didn’t believe that. I was more resilient then. Everybody has their learning curve. I’m all about self-care right now. Exercise. Take your vitamins. Eat well. Go to therapy. Whatever works for you! Have an awareness of who you’re touring with. I didn’t think about that when I was younger either. That’s been a trigger for me. What if we don’t get along? Perfect Pussy was amazing. As soon as I got in their van, it felt like I was on tour with old friends. I toured alone for a long time as Fielded in a van going cross country. In the beginning it was very cleansing for me but it got to the point where it was too much.

Thank you for these invaluable reminders. I tell myself all the time, “I’ll take care of myself later. Work first.”
It’s so easy to get wrapped up in that headspace.

What’s coming up for you?
I’m starting a new record! Ah, I just got excited. I always go through this weird doom zone. All the things I just said to you about self-care, it’s so easy to say that but totally ignore it when you get into recordmaking. I think I can out-think my thoughts. I definitely went through a phase where I didn’t know how to handle it. I’m recording the demos the way they are. Opening up the conversation to say “Yo, you don’t have to do everything alone, Lindsay.” As much as I’m about being a female producer, it doesn’t mean denying people access to the project in order to say “I’m the sole producer.” I needed that at a time but I’ve honored that. I’ve been working a lot with an Israeli artist named Naama Tsabar. We did a piece at the Guggenheim together. We just got back from Mexico where we were performing at her gallery in Guadalajara and Mexico City. I just did a performance at the High Line in New York. It was an amazing group of 20 other female musicians. We’re doing that piece again in September. Oh and I’m teaching a workshop at Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls this week.

What advice would you give to your younger self?
Oh man, I’d say slow down! You are moving like wildfire. There’s a lot I didn’t think I’d have time for. In your 20s, you’re like, “Woah I’m a person now!”

Right? That’s so real.
Seriously. Don’t get caught up in thinking it’s the end of the world. Try not to doubt yourself in your writing. Don’t scrap things if it doesn’t sound like an artist you admire. There’s a lot of collective trauma in the world. Don’t be afraid of speaking on that. Feel that. Your music doesn’t have to be political in any one way. It can be political in a lot of ways. Meditate on how you can work through your own trauma. What does that mean for you? What does that sound like for you as an artist? Don’t be afraid of collaboration. And definitely don’t let fear of judgment stop you. I’m think I’m learning at 29 that I can do what I want.

Fielded performing vocals in New York-based visual artist Naama Tsabar’s “Transition #4”  (an orchestra of sonic sculptures)  at Kunsthaus Baselland, June 2018. Photo by Carmen Wong Fisch.

Fielded performing vocals in New York-based visual artist Naama Tsabar’s “Transition #4” (an orchestra of sonic sculptures) at Kunsthaus Baselland, June 2018. Photo by Carmen Wong Fisch.

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Since this article was published, Lindsay released her aforementioned album
Drip Drip on Deathbomb Arc Records. Watch her new for “Light Light” below and purchase her album here.

- Women in Sound 2019 -