Artist of the Week: Lily Oakley debuts album, Late November

By Maggie Lorenzen
Executive Staff

Lily Oakley (C’24), a student from Cookeville, TN, is an up-and-coming singer, song-writer, and producer. Over the winter break, she produced an EP titled “Late November” complete with four songs created entirely with household equipment. 

Oakley says she does not remember ever getting into music- “It was always just kind of there.” From a very young age, her father would play music for her and her 3 siblings on guitar, drums, and bass. He taught Oakley everything she knows about recording and producing music and inspired her style

Like her father, Oakley plays guitar, drums, electric bass, mandolin, violin, and piano, and sings. In terms of musical aspirations, she looks up to Dermot Kennedy, but she thinks she sounds like singer/songwriters in the alternative genre. Oakley started doing it seriously when she was 13 and began recording two years ago at 18. “As I started to understand the world around me more, I began to understand the importance of music more.”

When Oakley first thought about releasing songs, she looked at all she had finished and selected both her favorites at the time and those fitting to her current life. She eventually released them because she finally found the time to. “If it weren’t for her family reminding her that her work is worthy of releasing, she never would have actually done it,” said Oakley.

All of the songs on the EP were written at different times:three in January and February of 2020 and the most recent in January 2021 (“Late November”). 

“Tennessee Rain” is all about home. Oakley wrote it when she was living in California but home in Tennessee on a break. To her, the song is a sweet reminder of what all of the sounds and feelings of home are, like Tennessee rain on the windowsill of her childhood room. 

“Late November” is about a group of friends Oakley had in middle and high school. They loved being together and spending time in community. She explains, “The song reminds me that no matter how things change in life, there are always going to be people who are my people.” It is called “Late November” because their annual gathering was after Thanksgiving, but the group got smaller and smaller as time went on, and they eventually grew apart. The group still holds some of her favorite high school memories. 

“I Love You” is about her great-grandfather. One of the wisest people she knows, he urges her to never wait to tell people she loves them. Additionally, he reminds her to not just sling the phrase around. She remembers him saying, “Use it with intention, because you never know when it will be the last time or a pivotal moment for that person.” Some of the lines are direct quotes of his, like: “You can try to run away, but tomorrow will always become today.”

Finally, “Escape” is about her family and home. This song also reminds her of her grandmother, who passed away in 2017 of lung cancer. The line, “I can’t escape the smell of smoke,” is an homage to her and how the grief remains even though, “It’s been a long time since [she has] seen her face. . . or heard her voice.” “Escape” is about remembering a loved one and remembering that while the grief is there, the love is there as well. Grief and love can exist at the same time. One cannot exist without the other. As a final addition to the song, in the background are crickets and bullfrogs from her grandmother’s backyard.

When asked “Why Sewanee?” Oakley said, “there were no competitors.” She applied to many schools, and after getting into Sewanee, she came to EQB Day. When she saw the campus, Oakley turned to her mother and said, “Yes. This is it.” She took a gap year in Redding, California to go to the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (BSSN) to study Worship Ministry, but returned to Tennessee as the pandemic hit. Now, she plans to major in biology on the pre-med track.

As she settles back into her studies on campus, Oakley is also working on new music. While she can’t make promises about a release date, listeners should expect more work from Oakley in the future.  Oakley’s music can be found on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, and YouTube.