At the time of conversation, Lido –a self-described “studio rat” — is holed up in a studio in the Los Angeles area doing what he does best: use music to explore and experiment. Throughout his whole career, Lido has treated the spectrum of sounds contained with modern music as stepping stones to hop back and forth from. Influenced by his family’s ties with gospel, he dove headfirst into music as a pop producer. Once he emerged as one of the most promising, unique pop auteurs out there, he did a 180 and began making amalgramations of electronic, soul, R&B, rap and everything in between. Throughout it all, he’s always held onto to one single truth: explore and experiment at all costs. Guided and inspired by the likes of Kanye West and T-Pain, he has ensured that aforementioned approach stayed paramount.
With a new, somewhat nostalgic, older-school-indebted collaborative R&B EP with singer-songwriter Santelle entitled The Passion Project still fresh, we spoke to the 23-year-old Norwegian polymath about his recent round of releases, his unique approach to crafting songs, his love for the work of Kanye West, The Dream, T-Pain and more, older eras of R&B and pop, his next album and more. When given the opportunity to talk, Lido is more than happy to dig deep.
You come from a more pop-leaning backbround but have almost completely shifted your sound from when you first came out. Are you still pretty proud of your initial sound?
Absolutely. I think my music has always been diverse and all over the place, even when I was making pop music I was making very unconventional pop music. Most people would argue there were a lot more elements of gospel, R&B and hip hop in my music than actual pop elements. I come from a gospel and soul background first and foremost — that’s my real background. I did make pop music for a few years and I’m still proud of it, even though as an artist you always feel whatever you did a little while ago is not up to the standards you’re at right now. It’s definitely not something I’m ashamed of, but to be honest with you, I’m completely more stoked on the music I’m making right now.
What got you into gospel and soul at first?
My dad was involved with gospel when I was kid, so that’s how I was first exposed to gospel and that kind of music. That was the music that sort of got me into hip hop in the first place. The first hip hop record I heard was College Dropout and there are so many gospel and soul samples on that record. That sort of helped me understand hip hop and was a big part of me liking it in the first place. But, initially, it was a family thing and the love for that just stuck with me.
So, early Kanye was a big influence at first?
Huge influence. That album was super important to me because it showed me that hip hop can be melodic and have interesting harmonies and all the elements of R&B and soul that appealed to me at a young age. All those elements that i just loved were re-packaged into that record. I just really f*cking love that record (laughs).
How do you feel about Kanye’s new direction?
I aboslutely love it. To me, Kanye is probably the most inspirational dude in the game right now. He has really impacted the sound of hip hop so many times. When he came out and did College Dropout, people weren’t really sampling soul records anymore and he brought that back with him. Then, he completely came and changed the game when he made 808s & Heartbreaks and sort of made a lane for emotional rappers. There wasn’t really a lane for the Drakes and all these new emotional, melodic rappers that are popping off right now. Then, he came back again with Yeezus and shifted the mood in hip-hop again.
He is just a genius. As much as I love his music, I definitely first and foremost respect him and am inspired by him for his non-compromising way of making music and how he has changed his sound multiple times and changed the sound of hip hop multiple times. But, he has still remained very much himself throughout the entire thing. I definitely aspire to be an artist with a simiar mentality to him — that’s really inspirational.
Do you see yourself transitioning from sound to sound as your career progresses, but still keeping your core as an artist and individual intact?
Absolutely. I can’t change the way I write melodies and I can’t change the way I think harmonically and I think that’s what — weirdly enough — has become my sound, as much as I dont have an actual sound. I appproach each remix and each song with a very diferent mentality. My mentality whenever I approach a song — regardless of whatever the song is — is to take the song as far as I can in terms of its potential and the actual nature of the song. So, that might result in a piano ballad remix of a rap song, or it could turn into an eleven minute Latin jam of another song. It all just depends on what that song does to me and what I think I could have done with the potential of the song if I had the original idea for the song.
I feel like my signature for all this is my messiness with trying different things and how I treat things melodically and harmonically. I think the songwriting part of my music is way more important than the synth and drum sounds I choose to use. It’s a pretty cool situation to have when you want to do as many weird things as I want to do with my career
So when you go into a studio you basically start from scratch.
Absolutely, and each song happens from a different mentality. Often, I approach songs from, “wow, there’s a potential that I heard that whoever had this idea didn’t hear or didn’t interpret the same way as I do.” I approach things from exploring it as opposed to putting it into one format. A lot of people are getting hit up for doing remixes and productions for people because they have a signature sound and way of going about things that is wanted by the artist aesthetically. My aesthetic is all over the place — people come to me when they want something interesting, when they want to explore. They don’t come to me for hits and club bangers. Each time I go into the studio it’s a new story.
Your new project alongside Santelle showcases a pretty unique take on R&B. What motivates you to attempt to create that sort of R&B?
The motivation behind that project in general was Santelle and I being songwriters and producers who work with a lot of different artists. We were in a session for another artist, and we sort of connected on our love for R&B in terms of its songwriting. We love R&B and we love how it sounds right now and the impact it’s having right now. R&B is popping right now and all over the radio and it’s having a huge impact on pop music. But, we missed the mentality of the songwriting it used to have in the late 90s and early 2000s — back when R. Kelly records were storytelling records that were intricate and funny. That was sort of the motivaton.
We felt like we didn’t have a platform with any artist we were working with that were interested in making that type of music and approaching music with that sort of mentality. Neither of us had a platform for it, so we sort of used ourselves for a fake platform to make it so we could write it. It really is a passion project as much as it is an EP about passion. It really is about what lies closest to Santelle and I’s hearts — this is the music that really triggers both of us. We wanted to really do it exactly how we wanted to do it and write it for the music itself with no real motive or real plan. We weren’t trying to get radio play or any of these things. We just wanted to write the music we wish was out there and that we could listen to and make us feel the same way.
What intially got you two to make a whole project together?
It was just us starting to write these R&B songs that we couldn’t find a home for. The first song that wrote was “Ashley” and we pitched it to a few artists and a few artists were even interested in it and I believe some cut it, but they weren’t interested in actually using it because of the nature of the song. It doesnt work with what fits in on the radio right now and what fits in with general with the pop mentaliy R&B is in right now.
So, we just kept writing songs. Very early on, I fell in love with his extremely characteristic voice. He has a signatue to his voice that I can’t find any comparison to anywhere. We wanted to explore that and write music exactly the way we wanted to; very late in the process did it actually en up becoming a project. We already had three of the songs done before we even realized it was an EP. It sort of just happened, to be honest.
Could you see you two making more music like this in the future?
I always talk about my team and my crew as a band and he is definitely a part of my band. He is very much involved in the album I’m making right now, both on a vocal level and a songwriting level. We work on music all the time and we’ve written music for other people before. We are definitely going to keep working together a lot. But, this project is definitely just a project. We didn’t create a duo — this was something we just needed to get out of our systems. Maybe we’ll have that need again one day, that’s very possible, but we don’t have any plans to do that currently. So, the Lido and Santelle thing is — in theory — a one time thing. We’ll see if we feel like doing any projects later. However, I can’t imagine that happening for at least a couple more years.
Going back to that earlier era of R&B you felt most connected to, besides R. Kelly, who do you feel encapsulates that feeling the most for you?
We have tons of love for Jodeci, Blackstreet, and Ginuwine and all these artists. But, R. Kelly and The Dream would be my personal biggest influences in terms of this sort of tongue-in-cheek type of songwriting, this type of story telling. The list of R&B artists that we love is endless and we go pretty deep wih this sh*t. But yeah, I’d say R. Kelly and The Dream were pretty big influences for me personally when it comes to writing these songs.
The Dream is crazy. Even that Terius Nash album he did was pretty cool.
Aboslutely! He is just all over the place. He has such weird production and such a weird mentality towards this music — it’s incredible. He’s an incredible songwriter and for other people he even has hits for days. When he really does what he really wants, that’s when I really f*ck with him.
People like him and T-Pain are sort of like “artist’s artist” and “songwriter’s songwriter” types.
How did I forget about T-Pain?! That’s ridiculous; that was dumb of me. Thank you for reminding me (laughs). T-Pain is probably my favorite artist of all time. Honestly, I’d say T-Pain is as equally important to me on a music level as kanye west. T-Pain is a huge inspiration for me.
He’s already a legend in my eyes; his first couple albums are perfect. Rappa Ternt Sanga, Epiphany, Three Ringz — all incredible albums, espeically Three Ringz. That’s a masterpiece, that album is so slept on.
He became the face of something that is considered extremely “not musical.” Autotune is something most people connect with people who can’t sing and need help singing, and he used it in such an incredibly musical way. I’ve always been fascinated by that. What he did is he took Autotune and used it in a way that is making the focus on music more clear because it removes human error. In a weird way he’s making very pure music because you’re not distracted by the performance of a voice, you’re focusing more on the melodies and harmonies than you would if more of the actual character of his voice was there. Obviously his voice sounds great with or without Autotune and I f*ck with it. That’s just such an interesting thing to be such a musical artist and have such advanced harmonies and songwriting and then becoming the face for something that not musical. Really, really interesting situation with T-Pain, I’m pretty passionate about T-Pain (laughs).
You can extend that same mindset to people like Future. It’s just really musical stuff.
Absolutely, a million percent. Future is one of the most expeirmental artists out there as far as writing melodies. It’s such an an interesting use of something that people would use to help them fake a good voice. They use it to such an extreme that it becomes an instrument. Future, T-Pain, Travi$ Scott and Kanye West for that matter, these are all artists that are using Autotune as an instrument, not to try to make their voice sound better. Thats sound that’s really misinterpreted by the public. Most people would hate on them and say, “oh they’re using Autotune, they can’t sing.” That’s not what they’re doing with Autotune at all. theyre using Autotune as an intstrument, which is fascinating! That’s such an interesting way to approach music. It’s such a musical way, such a very pure way to approach music. It’s performing with an instrument, thats exactly what is is.
Now, as far as your next album, what sort of sounds and styles are you working with?
This next album is interesting. It is a concept album, there’s a storyline with it. There’s a very specific purpose to the album, there’s a specific motivation behind it. Musically, it’s me continuing the non-comprising mentality that I’ve had with all my music until now. It’s a fairly schizophrenic album– it’s all over the place. It has a lot of elements from gospel, lots of elements from neo-soul.
I’m f*cking around a lot more with timing than I was earlier. When I first came into electronic music, my first challenge and the first thing I wanted to expose people to was the harmonic side of things; like, incorporating more complicated jazz chords into stuff but still being able to play it in a club. I feel like I did that. Now, I’m curious to see if i can f*ck with people’s heads with timing and sort of pull them back and forth and challenge people there. That’s something that I feel like isn’t happening a lot in electronic music because of the nature of the music itself.
It’s a lot darker than what people have heard from me before. It’s still very much Lido, but it is very much Lido in the sense that it’s very experimental and all over the place. It’s almost done, I’d say I’m at 85 percent done with this album. I’m really f*cking proud of this album and I’m super stoked on the entire album and to expose people to this entire project.
Should we expect an official album announcement and single within the next few months?
This is a complicated album in many ways, so there will definitely be an announcement and a few tastes to prepare people for the music before the actual album comes out. Hopefully the album comes out fairly soon, but who knows.
You were saying it has a specific concept and narrative. Is there anything you can reveal about right now or are you keeping it secret?
It’s an interesting album becauses it’s an extremely personal album and it’s an extremely honest album. It’s the most honest piece of music that I’ve ever made, but it’s written in a very vague way. It is still very much electronic music. Everyone around me who understands its story fully have a lot of interesting reactions to the record that probably no one else would react to. It’s not a gossipy or gimmicky record, but to me and the people who get the full explanation, it’s definitely extremely personal. The actual story is something I’m going to explain when the time is right. But, I still have to figure out how to explain it.