In 2014, after Lia Ices released her third album Ices—her first time adorning her ethereal piano with electronic loops—she realized she needed to recommit to her intuition’s call. She took a break from recording and touring, but she hardly lay fallow. Instead, she got married and moved from New York to Sonoma, California’s Moon Mountain, where her husband, Andrew Mariani, co-owns Scribe Winery. They now have two young daughters, Una and Alice. On new record Family Album, released on Ices’ own Natural Music, the singer-songwriter celebrates the bounty she’s found.
As Ices fell in love with the landscape and her daughters, her new reality felt downright hallucinatory. “The more real it is, the more surreal it feels,” says Ices. “That sentiment came to me throughout pregnancy and right after I gave birth to [my first daughter] Una. It’s the most primal, mammalian thing you can do, birthing a baby, yet it was very psychedelic. After I gave birth I felt like I was on acid. The same goes for living in such a crazily beautiful, abundant place.”
In tribute to the motherhood and landscape that nourished Ices’ creativity, the singer-songwriter built a living altar. “I went to the garden and got all these roses and plums and made an altar for my living self,” Ices says. “There’s something to bringing in all these pieces from nature. There’s always been this motif of conjuring spirit. The meaning of the album keeps deepening after it’s done. The waves keep coming.” Family Album nixes the electronics, returning to songs that highlight her piano and vocals, with and without a backing band. The music moves effortlessly through Americana and psychedelia just as much as minimalist piano and vocals.
Returning to the piano also signified an assertion of creative control, one which led Ices and her husband to start Natural Music. There’s an easiness to her recent output, and it proves that being raw doesn’t always have to be heavy. “I couldn’t do anything but be totally honest. These songs started coming from a pure, organic place. My only motto was to let what happens happen naturally,” Ices says. “Sitting at the piano is something I hadn’t done in a long time. I abandoned it on purpose just to see what it’s like. This time I leaned into my surroundings and let them take over me.”
“Young on the Mountain,” the album’s third track, is the first one Ices penned for the album. With its upbeat tempo, lilting vocals, and spacious “oohs,” the song is a welcoming to Ices’ big new sky and the music birthed beneath it. Her songs are infused with spirit, with nature, with universal forces like synergy—and yet, she doesn’t even creep near New Age territory. Instead, these are the genuine testimonies of a woman preoccupied with the capital-M Mysteries of existence.
Among them are the synchronicities that kept piling up as she made the new record. “The more people I worked with on the project, the more I realized they knew each other. There were these crazy overlaps,” she recalls. Those working relationships included her producer JR White (best known as half of indie band Girls), who recently passed away. White heard the final album before his death, lending a bit of closure. “Now that JR passed during the cycle, it makes the album mean so much to me,” Ices says.
The fact that she feels White’s presence in the album deepens the mystery, not just of the music, but of the immortality of creative forces. Ices speaks often about the Muse, though her definition is always in flux. At present, she sees the Muse in more pragmatic ways than one might expect. “I think pregnancy and motherhood support the idea of the Muse. Being a mother and an artist at the same time, I can be more expedient with my means. I used to tinker and not trust my gut. But when you don’t have all the hours of the day, you can access what you need to access quicker,” she says. The Muse also relies on dedication, she adds, saying that it’s “not a romantic thing. My biggest takeaway is that if I don’t show up, the Muse won’t show up. Showing up is more than half the battle. Even if you don’t feel like showing up, you have to do it and allow for the possibilities, which can be terrifying.”
“We’re on our way to go anywhere at all,” Ices sings on “Anywhere At All.” In her own life, she dove into that anywhere – it’s no wonder she had the confidence to follow her intuition, embrace risk, and sing honestly about beautiful, mysterious things.