Tag Archives: R&B

Just Within My Grasp: Lauren of Lily Monroe

In order to live your life to the fullest, you have to follow your dreams and your heart.  Growing up, I was taught how important it is to have faith and not let obstacles keep me from achieving my goals, no matter how big they may seem. My parents always told my sister and me that we could be anything we wanted. Looking back, I see why they were so adamant on us pursuing our dreams. They missed opportunities in their own lives because they didn’t have faith. Now they both work jobs they don’t enjoy, but they have always been confident that my sister and I will accomplish great things in life and most importantly to enjoy every minute of it. As a senior majoring in Communication at the University of Illinois at Chicago, I’m balancing the practical life of school with my dream of being a musician, and my parents couldn’t be prouder.

Lauren of Lily Monroe

I sing in a group called Lily Monroe with my older sister Christien Cain, who is a UIC graduate with a B.A. in Criminal Justice. The group was officially formed in 2008; however, we’ve sung together our whole lives. It is hard to classify what genre we fit into, but R&B would be the easiest way to put it. Some of the influences for our sound are Michael Jackson, Janelle Monaé, Led Zeppelin, Amy Winehouse, Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, Janet Jackson, St. Lunatics, Trey Songz, Drake, and Kanye West, just to name a few. Christien and I are both classically trained violinists, so the ways in which we structure our vocals are similar to the various parts in a traditional orchestral arrangement. Each song is performed with intricate vocal arrangements that often lead listeners to believe that Lily Monroe is only one voice instead of two. We pride ourselves in having such a tight harmony.

We’ve performed at various open mics throughout Chicago, but we didn’t start recording until recently. It started with us doing a few hooks (choruses) here and there and eventually we started working with another aspiring Chicago musician, Boogy. After doing two hooks on songs for one of his mix tapes, he agreed to help us start putting together a professional demo. Up until that point, the only recordings of us singing were videos on YouTube.

The process of recording is still a small issue. Boogy and I are both full-time students, while my sister works full-time in the corporate world. Our schedules are hectic, so trying to find time to record, perform, study, write papers, and remembering to sleep gets hard. Finding the balance between passion and priorities takes practice. For us, it is not rare to be leaving the studio at 2 a.m., just in time to get a moment’s rest for an 8 a.m. class the following morning, or having ideas for a new song running through your mind, while trying to focus on a 12 page paper that’s due by midnight.

My tuition costs almost $5,000 a semester, but it costs me nothing to record. Because of this, school has been my number one priority.  It gets tough when there is movement with my music career because I am tempted to put school on hold to see where music will take me.  At the same time, there’s a fear of never coming back to school, and I’ve come too far in my college career to quit and let all the stress, headaches, and papers be for nothing. Given the economy today and the hard work it takes to become famous as a musician, I know there is going to be a lot of hard work in my near future, but I am putting my best foot forward for both, regardless.

Christien and Lauren of Lily Monroe

Fall 2010 is slated to be my last semester at UIC. I have been working through this spring semester with the comforting thought that I am almost done with my degree. About a month ago, we received word that Umbrella Music Association is interested in signing my sister and me as artists, as well as songwriters. While this is an independent label, it still is a big step into Lily Monroe’s future.  It shows that other people are willing to take a gamble on us and that other people have faith in what we’re trying to do. We are also about to shoot a video for our leading single, “Nerdy Boy,” and start performing again at larger venues throughout Chicago with our U.M.A. family. U.M.A. also has a radio show on 88.9 every Saturday from 8pm-10pm, showcasing all of the talent on the label. With all of this happening towards the end of my semester, it’s hard to focus on schoolwork. 

My plan has always been to work on my degree until something happens with music. With summer quickly approaching and plans being made for how to market Lily Monroe, I’m watching my dream unfold before my eyes. The closer I get to graduation, the more unsure I am about what types of careers I will pursue to bring me happiness. The safe bet is starting to seem risky and my outlandish dream is becoming more of a practical reality. Either way, I will get my degree next fall and continue on towards reaching my dream.

-Lauren Cain

Download your copy of Nerdy Boy free today!

Also, visit Lily Monroe on MySpace!

A Lil’ Bit of Time with a Chicago Idol

LiL'BiT with funk/soul legend George Clinton in Atlanta. Photo by Adam "DJ BLAK" Horne.

Gary, Indiana native and Indiana University grad LiL’BiT describes her sound as Soul-Pop-R&B-Blues. “My inspiration comes from any and everywhere. I like to write about stuff that nobody else is singing about, songs that talk about the things that the everyday Jane or Joe is living through, songs about love and relationships, hard times, stuff in the news, etc.”

LiL’BiT lists Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Minnie Riperton, Norah Jones, Laura Lee, Tevin Campbell, and Shanice among her many influences. She got her start as a playground rapper at age 10, where the name LiL’BiT first stuck. When she started singing at 22, she kept the tag but otherwise never looked back.

She recently graduated with her Bachelors in Communication, but LiL’BiT has been balancing school and music for years. Her first lyrical inspiration came in the 7th grade, when she wrote a poem about autumn for her teacher. “That was my very first poem, and she got so excited about it, she showed [it] to all the other teachers in her department.”

Her formal training is in theater and dance, but she says that the speeches and analytical writings she produced as a Communication major at Indiana University helped boost her songwriting abilities. “I also love to buy books and read online articles on songwriting and singing to improve my skills.”

Keeping up with school has been a challenge. It certainly had an effect on her practice schedule. “College hindered me musically because I put my education first. That choice made life extremely difficult. I was working plan A and plan B simultaneously.”

But did college help LiL’BiT get her music heard? “I kept my school life and music career separate,” she says. “Time will definitely tell [if] that has helped me or hurt me. I took many dance, theater, and music classes in college, but few knew I was a singer . . . not my teachers, not my classmates, not even my parents!” Yet she does believe that the classes she took, even those not directly related to music, helped her develop skills in time management and self-discipline.

LiL’BiT typically works solo but is open to collaboration – it’s a lot of work to craft and record songs, then promote them on Myspace and Facebook, all by herself. “Most of my songs were written solo.  However, [sometimes] the subject matter or title came from a friend, and I’ll just make a song out of it.  Of course, I share half of the creative rights with those friends. Working alone has been out of necessity.  I would love to work with others . . . I think.” She recently took the first step in this direction, recording several tracks with a member of the “awesome Chicago band” called Animate Objects (http://www.myspace.com/AnimateObjects), and she’s proud of the results.

As she browses law school catalogues for the fall 2010 semester, it is unclear what the future holds for LiL’BiT and her music career. Law students are notoriously busy, and LiL’BiT is a dedicated student who puts her education first at all times. But she hopes to continue singing for as long as she can. “I met a really cool attorney who formed a band while in law school.  He was able to work both sides while in school and continues to do so now, even as a new lawyer.” As of late, LiL’BiT has been balancing law school applications with practice at CPE Sound Studios, located in the West Loop (345 N. Loomis St.), or in the free eighth-floor rehearsal rooms at the Harold Washington Library (400 S. State St.).

What has been the high point of her career so far? “Meeting the one and only Michael Jackson.” When the King of Pop visited their shared hometown of Gary in the summer of 2003, Lil’BiT shared a special moment with her idol. She was discouraged by her lack of success in audition after audition and had focused on her new day job instead. So, in order to raise money for a friend, she planned to wear a jacket decorated with over 200 vintage MJ pins and sell them to fans at the appearance.

She didn’t expect to get even a glimpse of the legendary performer, but journalists swarmed her as soon as she arrived. “That jacket garnered so much attention that, within just 3 hours of devising our plan, we were being introduced to Mr. Jackson himself, who let out a very mild-mannered, ‘Wow!’” It was a life-changing moment. Just days after that encounter, she placed in the top 15 finalists in the Chicago Idol competition and was inspired to fully recommit to her music.

So what’s next? After recently moving back to the Chicago area from Atlanta, LiL’BiT is looking ahead and considering suggestions that a possible name change might better reflect her development as an artist. While she hasn’t had a chance to play live recently, she hopes to “change that in 2010 . . . It would be a dream to tour.” In her song “The Possibilities,” she emphasizes the importance of making the most out of life and following dreams.

So far, it looks like she’s off to a pretty good start.

Kayla Zimmerman

You can find LiL’BiT’s music at http://www.myspace.com/mslilbit and  http://www.soundcloud.com/LiLBiT. Check out her Facebook fan page at http://www.facebook.com/msLiLBiT.2010.