We were blown away when Dixie Lynne popped by to play Live@YP. Originally from California, in the US, the 15-year-old singer-songwriter honed her gorgeous sound in San Francisco cafes and is now a seasoned HK performer.
Lovely to meet you, Dixie! What’s been your musical journey up to this point?
I actually didn’t know what I wanted to do until fourth grade [Primary Four]. Our school had a musical, and I tried out for the lead part … and got it! I was a stowaway in a pirate play. Then I was like, okay this is kinda cool, this is something I want to do for the rest of my life. So I started taking singing lessons right away – the guitar lessons came later because I broke my wrist falling off my horse.
When I was 9 and 10, I performed in coffee shops back in California, singing covers like Bonnie Raitt and older classic rock. I’d also sing my own songs for about five minutes. That’s how I started performing.
I had lessons until I moved to Hong Kong when I was 11. Since then, I’ve taught myself guitar.
Now I’m writing my own songs – I wrote my first when I was about 11. It wasn’t great, but it made me realise songwriting was something I could do as well. I’ve written about four songs this year and a couple last year. I just want to keep writing more music.
Was it really scary performing live for the first time?
It was scary the first few times, but then I got used to being onstage. I’d get nervous before, but onstage I’d feel nothing. All good!
How about nowadays?
I’m really confident when I sing, but before I’m a little nervous. I love getting up onstage – the energy is so fun.
What influences your music taste?
My parents played a lot of that music. Also, I started learning songs like Angel from Montgomery [Bonnie Raitt] and Crossroads [Robert Johnson] with my guitar teacher as they’re easy to play. Those songs also worked really well with my voice, as they’re super emotional, I guess, and they brought out more belting and my real singing voice.
Do you feel those emotions when you’re playing the songs live?
Yeah, I’ll learn the back-story of the song and try to connect it to my life somehow. If it’s relatable I can feel it inside me when I sing. It’s the same as my songwriting – I’ll listen to another song or read a book, and write down some of the topics. So it’s not always relating to my life personally, but I make connections and can still relate.
Does it annoy you when people focus on your age?
I’m actually pleased that I’m younger, because it means that I can do a lot more. So when I’m onstage someone says “oh, she’s only 15!” you can hear everyone going [gasps].
Are you working towards releasing an album?
Yeah, hopefully. I want to write at least three more and then record. So probably this year! It’ll be a mix of covers and originals, I think.
What else does the next year hold for you?
Well I want to release an album and write a few more songs. I did a music video for 360, which was really fun, so I want to do some more after the album. Just continue to write songs and perform, and take as many opportunities as I can.
Do you want to be a singer-songwriter when you leave school?
Definitely. I love it so much; there’s nothing I’d rather do.
Is there anything else you’re interested in?
Right now, this is pretty much all I’ve got going for me! I’m not really into sports – I’ve tried every sport and couldn’t do any of them [laughs].
Would you prefer to stay a solo artist, or could you see yourself joining with other musicians?
I want to try joining with other people – I think that would be amazing to have back-up music and be able to focus on just singing. I want to be a solo artist, but also have the experience of having a band.
Who would be your dream collaborator?
I really like BØRNS … they’d be fun to collaborate with. Or anyone like Vance Joy, or indie pop artists.
What inspires your songwriting?
Like I said – the books, the movies. Also, my everyday life. Being a teenager, there’s a lot of things going on! I just merge it all together to create a song.
How do you pick a song to cover?
I choose ones I know my voice will fit well with, or if I really love a song. Like Crazy in Love [Beyoncé] – I love that song. I can’t really relate to it too much being only 15, but I love the emotion and making it my own, which is totally different from the original.
When you’re writing, do you start with lyrics or melody?
It depends. They kind of come together. I’ll play a few chords on my guitar and then write down a few lyrics, then I’ll keep on playing the same chords over the lyrics.
Could you see yourself staying in Hong Kong?
I think Hong Kong is a good place to start out – there are so many amazing local bands. But I’ll probably grow out of it, and want to go and do more and try more. I think I’ll go more towards the States – back to California probably. I think Hong Kong is a great place to learn to perform.
Is it challenging being an artist here?
Underage venues – most of them only allow 18-year-olds after 6pm. It’s difficult to find different gigs, but there are so many different opportunities. I’m really excited about Girls with Guitars, where I’ll be playing with a lot of local bands. Apart from the age issue, I don’t really see any challenges right now. I’m really independent, so I can go out and find inspiration. Even looking out over my balcony and seeing the skyline gives me inspiration.
What advice would you give other young singer-songwriters?
In my experience, people have perhaps judged me more because I put myself out there. But the more you do that the more confidence you gain, so I’ve learned to not really care about what other people think. It’s something everyone has to face, but can’t let others put you down. There’s always going to be someone who doesn’t like what you’re doing, or is jealous.
What’s been the highlight of your career so far?
I love writing songs and showing what I can do. I love expressing myself through my lyrics and seeing whether people can relate. I’m just trying to make an original mark. There are a lot of performers out there with a similar style, but I’m trying to make it more unique. I saw Four Quarters perform at The Underground show last year, and they were really cool to see.
What’s the best comparison to another artist you’ve had?
It’s mainly artists I don’t really know. When someone compares me to an artist I haven’t heard, I go and look them up and be like, “Okay, I can kinda see that!” I get compared to Taylor Swift, but I’m cool with that – she’s Taylor Swift!