In our Inspiration Fuel series, we interview writers, artists, musicians, entrepreneurs, and everyday heroes about how they manage the ebbs and flows of motivation and creativity in the pursuit of their life’s callings.
Aubrey Mable and Kathleen Hooper are seriously on a wavelength.
As the two halves of Colorado-based folk-soul duo LVDY, their careers and their creativity are as intertwined as their voices. Theirs is an intoxicating harmony that speaks to the closeness of their friendship and a potent mutual trust.
For this edition of Inspiration Fuel, I reached out to Kathleen and Aubrey to hear their thoughts on creative collaboration, the mysterious power of being in a band, and the importance of taking your journey at your pace.
For people who haven’t yet had the pleasure, how would you introduce yourselves and describe your music?
Kathleen: Hey friends! We are Kathleen and Aubrey and we make up the band LVDY (pronounced LADY). Aubrey holds down the guitar like a champ and I’m known as our harmony queen.
Aubrey: Our music is what you turn to on a sunny day, driving with the windows down. It’s also what you turn to when it’s snowing outside and you want to curl up on the couch. We hope to make you feel more connected to what it means to be a human.
Kathleen: Our music is a mixture of our experiences, a deep love of nature, our dynamic voices, adding in layers of sound that inspire and influence us.
One thing that strikes me is how tight your vocal harmonies are. It’s almost as if you’re both singing with one voice. How do you develop that kind of close musical chemistry?
Kathleen: From the moment we first started to play music together, we both felt something special. It feels as though the tones and qualities of our voices blend in such a way that the only explanation that makes sense is magic.
Aubrey: I think what makes our creative connection so special is the deep foundation of friendship that formed long before LVDY was born. It all started in New Zealand when we were juniors in college studying abroad. There’s a deep knowing we have of each other that weaves its way into our music.
The first time we sang together it felt like butter. On stage we can tell what each other is thinking with just one look. It is something I have never felt with someone else and it is also palpable to anyone who sees us in our zone. It is also important to mention it is the product of lots of practice.
How did you both discover your passion for music? Was there a specific moment when you realized that this might become a calling for you?
Kathleen: I remember music very clearly as a little girl. There was often music playing in my house, with musical parents and sisters. When I heard the choir at church sing, I knew my connection to a higher power was directly through music and singing. I loved it immediately.
Supported through theater, singing lessons, college a cappella and many years of performing, singing allowed me to feel more connected and alive. I started working with a professional voice coach named Linda Brice in 2018 and it was clear from our first lesson that she saw something in me. I remember a very specific Zoom call with her where she shared her encouragement and confidence in my ability to choose singing professionally.
While I was shocked and flattered, I didn’t know the path forward. When LVDY was created, I found my musical match. Once I discovered and believed music chose me, I haven’t looked back.
Aubrey: I taught myself how to play guitar when I was 12 and started writing songs in high school. In those days it was just for fun and served as a healthy emotional outlet for me. I sang in bars throughout college, but never really entertained the idea of doing anything more than that.
For me, for us, music is medicine. It has the power to heal and connect us unlike any other medium. Every time we sing our songs to the people listening it feels like we are right where we belong.
Some artists describe their best moments of creativity as flow states, while others say even good sessions feel like hard work. For you, what does a “good” creative session feel like?
Kathleen: Creativity shows up for me right when I’m falling asleep, in my car on a long drive, alone dancing around my room, when I’m crying, or when I’m in full bliss. When/how often/if those things happen is completely unpredictable. The main flow comes through when I’m fully present and available.
I’ve had experiences where a melody or a line comes in right away and if I don’t catch it in that moment, it’s gone. Giving myself patience, spaciousness, a journal, and the occasional hit of cannabis definitely helps.
A good creative session is when I am able to transmute feelings and thoughts, turning them into art. Mostly, as a process for my personal growth, and maybe someday to share with people so they might feel less alone.
Aubrey: I would agree; a “good” creative session feels like ease, flow, and fun. Oftentimes I will start strumming something on the guitar and ask Kathleen, “What do you hear?” She then starts humming a melody line, perhaps mumbling a few words, and then next thing you know we have a song.
It doesn’t always come so easily, but when it does, that’s how I know we are in the flow. I also find that sitting down for a “session” does not always work for me or us. The voice memo and notes apps on my phone are full of melody and lyric ideas because it’s also important to capture inspiration in the moment.
I believe that presence and creativity go hand in hand; when you make yourself available to find inspiration wherever you are, magical things can happen.
A band has always seemed to me like a unique kind of relationship. Each band member makes their own creative contribution, but the band as a whole is so much more.
For that to work, there has to be a lot of mutual trust and ego-checking involved. In LVDY, how does the collaboration process play out? How do you think about the relationship between your own personal creativity and the band as a whole?
Kathleen: Absolutely! It’s probably the most unique relationship I have, not only because we’re in business, collaboration, and creative space together, but Aubrey is also one of my best friends.
We both have different responsibilities that we take care of for the band, and are often doing our best to find a balance that works for both of us. It’s taken us time to figure out who does what, and it’s been very important for us to stay in conversation about expectations.
From Aubrey handling sound set-up, while I handle merch set-up for shows, to the business side of things, to handling different conversations, we do our best to connect to our skill sets.
I feel our collaboration stems from our friendship first, which takes our ability to show up for each other to a new level of trust, respect, and understanding.
Aubrey: Kathleen answered this exactly how I was going to!
Many of us struggle to maintain our commitment to and enthusiasm for work that we love, even if we feel a calling to pursue them. I’m sure that being a young band in the age of Covid has been a massive challenge. What advice would you give for dealing with dark days?
Kathleen: Write about it all. Even when it feels darkest, write it down. It doesn’t have to turn into music or art, or even be shared in any way. Talk about the things that are coming up, letting them go from your body and your psyche. If we allow all the emotions to come through us, it gives them a better chance to avoid getting stuck.
For me, dark days fluctuate with dark moments. In the midst of a perfectly beautiful day, I may have dozens of dark moments. But the moments of light remind me that the whole day wasn’t dark.
And giving myself permission to do nothing but take care of my needs. Also, listen to yourself – if you need time alone, take it. If you feel the need for connection, allow friends to support you. Although it may often feel like it, we aren't alone in any of this.
Aubrey: My advice would be to just keep going. In the days of social media, it can be easy to look around at other people and feel like we are behind.
I am constantly reminding myself that we are on our own journey, doing things our own way at our own pace, and that is okay. It wouldn’t be LVDY if we weren’t doing that. One small step at a time is still forward motion.
My other bit of advice would be to do it even if you don’t have everything figured out. I am very much a “full send” kind of person where I would rather move forward without having every detail planned out than wait until all the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed. The best way to learn is to do it!
And, finally, how do you take your coffee?
Kathleen: Ooh! If the flavor is available, I’m a honey-lavender latte with oat milk gal. If not, oat milk, a dollop of coconut oil, honey, cardamom, and cinnamon! I’m fancy, I know.
Aubrey: Honestly, any way it’s being served. I love a good pour-over and I also appreciate a good cortado.
We asked Kathleen and Aubrey what songs they've been listening to lately to get inspired. Check out LVDY's Guest DJ playlist on Spotify. Spoiler alert: It's rich with perfect harmonies.
Main photo by Anthony Retournard. Additional photos by Walker Leigh Chrisman.