On screen, actress Lola Kirke is best known for her starring role as oboist Hailey Rutledge in the Amazon series Mozart in the Jungle. She has also appeared in other movies and TV shows like Gone Girl, Mistress America, The Leftovers, and Law & Order: SVU. But acting is just one facet of her talents; she is also a singer-songwriter. And like acting—her sister is Jemima Kirke of Girls fame—music runs naturally in her family. Her father is Simon Kirke, the founding drummer for the legendary rock bands Free and Bad Company, and her sister Domino Kirke is also a musician.
Last year, Lola released her full-length debut album Heart Head West, an eclectic-sounding, moody yet shimmering collection of songs whose styles cover ’60s-influenced pop and rock, as well as country and western—all voiced by her sultry singing. Most recently, Lola, who divides her time between New York and Los Angeles, released two new romantic songs, “Lights On” and “Baby Where You Are,” a collaboration with musician Wyndham Garnett. Currently, she is the middle of a tour as the opening act for Alex Cameron that includes an upcoming stop at the Bell House on March 1. Brooklyn Based recently spoke Lola about her new songs, her most recent album, and whether she prefers acting or music.
You’re on the road with indie artist Alex Cameron. How did that happen? And you will be performing for the first time at SXSW as well?
Alex is a good friend and has been super supportive of my music! It’s very important to have allies and pals in this strange business. It’s wild out there. And yes, it’s the first official time I will be playing SXSW. I can’t wait. Though they probably shouldn’t let me go to Texas anymore.
Ahead of the tour, you recently released two new songs, “Lights On,” and a cover of Ted Lucas’ “Baby Where You Are.” What prompted you to record those two new tracks and could you possibly riff on what each song meant to you?
I absolutely love making music and it feels really good to take advantage of the opportunities my label provides and also of the fact that I’m surrounded by so many amazing musicians who I love collaborating with.
Wyndham Garnett and I have made so much together over the years. He produced my first EP and LP and the last few singles I’ve released. He’s such a great musician in his own right and we’ve been singing that Ted Lucas tune for a long time now so it just made sense to release our duet version of it. I also loved his song “Lights On” and thought that would make a good A-side to it. In this way, I probably approach music more like an actress. There are many different reasons why I’ll want to record a song and release it. Not everything has to be my “heart song,” so to speak.
Heart Head West is a lovely album and very eclectic as it is romantic-sounding, too; and I believe you did a residency in New York City for it? How special was it to release your first full-length album. And would it be an understatement to say it’s an autobiographical record?
Thank you! That means a lot. We did do a sold-out, three-night residency with some of my favorite artists—Johanna Warren, Cornelia Murr, my sister Domino Kirke, WYNDHAM, Cassandra Jenkins, Beau played sets too. It was very special.
And yes, the album is totally autobiographical—I don’t really know how to write from other people’s perspectives! Luckily songwriting doesn’t necessitate that. Though I do love artists who are able to write that way!
I’m sure you probably get asked this a lot, but given you are both an accomplished actress and musician, do you prefer one more than the other? Or do you see them as both sides of the same coin?
More two sides of the same coin. I do love the level of agency being a musician affords me, it’s more on my terms, but in a lot of ways I wouldn’t be able to do that without my success as an actress. I’m aware of that and very grateful for it.
Going back to the two new songs, are they harbingers of a new record at some point?
Not yet, but I did just finish a country duets EP with producer Austin Jenkins that features Kelly Zutrau (WET), Brent Cowles, and Lilah Larson (Sons of an Illustrious Father). Also two singles with Matthew E. White. They’ll be out later this year. I’m very happy with it all!