British singer's career takes a path through Lawrenceville
By Rachel Weaver
Published: Sunday, Nov. 3, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Having spent years scouring the L.A. club scene as a scout for big-name record labels, it doesn't take Mike Mulhern long to know what he likes. When he heard British singer-songwriter Lyla Foy's ethereal sound and intimate lyrics, he was sure he wanted to work with her.
“I absolutely love her voice and the clever way she says things,” says Mulhern, a Pittsburgh boomeranger who now lives in Lawrenceville. “I appreciate very strong personalities, and she's as strong as they come. Most musicians are the complete opposite of that.”
Mulhern is now U.S. manager for Foy, the latest artist to sign with Sub Pop. The Seattle-based label is infamous for signing Nirvana in the late 1980s.
“It has a timeless feel to it,” Mulhern says of Foy's music. “She really is more of an old soul.”
After a three-year stint working with major West Coast labels in Los Angeles, Bethel Park-native Mulhern moved back to Pittsburgh when he decided to pursue management. Now, he spends his time working with booking agents, overseeing artwork and social media, planning the next year with the label, in general, “day-to-day creative stuff.”
Foy, a singer, writer and producer from London, began writing music when she started recording demos in her bedroom — “a therapeutic kind of thing,” Mulhern says.
She released her first single, “Magazine,” with Black Cab Sessions, which signed her as the first act on their label, BCS Records. From there, she signed a worldwide deal for her “Shoestring” EP with Big Picnic Records. Her deal with Sub Pop is for three records.
Because her music is so intimate, Foy admits that being in the spotlight can be a bit of a challenge.
“It is hard sometimes, and I struggle with stage fright,” she says. “But I love the challenge, and when you can get a whole room of people on your side, listening to your little tale of woe, that's a wonderful thing!”
Foy tends to start her writing process when practicing on her guitar, then works on a laptop to record instruments to create the song's mood and structure.
“Always music first, then lyrics,” she says. “It's like I have a million lyrics stored up, but I need to write the music to unlock the words.”
Sasha Morgan, Sub Pop A&R representative, says she was impressed at Foy's involvement in every aspect of song creation.
“She writes, she records and mixes them,” Morgan says. “She plays a huge part in the process.”
Even more impressive to Morgan is Foy's sound.
“It's minimalistic and kind of haunting,” Morgan says. “She has a very good way of structuring songs. They're quiet, haunting pop songs.”
Foy's first release with Sub Pop is a limited-edition 7-inch vinyl record, available for order online. Her next full album will debut in the spring and will showcase a sound that's “developed quite a bit from previous releases,” she says.
“I've been experimenting with lots of vintage instruments, and the tracks are more layered than ever. But I, certainly, stay true to my sound, and the melodies and lyrics are still the most important thing.”
Mulhern says Foy is “maturing into a bigger sound,” with her new work, helped by the addition of a drummer to her band. For his work with Foy, Mulhern says her strong vision allows him to be “much less producer guy.”
“With most acts, I start with them sending me rough demos of new song ideas and force them to write as many songs as possible and then offer a lot of in-depth thoughts that sometimes get put into action,” he says. “With Lyla, it's much more about reminding her about songs I love that maybe she forgot about a little bit, and suggesting some things here and there.”
That approach is ideal for the artist.
“Mike is an amazing manager,” Foy says. “He's really supportive and lets me realize my ideas and makes them a reality.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Review: Swiss troupe’s performance sheds ‘Lux’ on choreographer’s artistry
- ’Burgh recording studios each carving out a niche
- Drummer Owens explores variety in music, bandmates
- 2014-15 PNC Pops season drops Thursdays, adds more film to schedule