Growing up in Los Angeles, Lily Donat always had a knack for storytelling, especially through sound. The granddaughter of Helen Reddy, Donat has songwriting in her blood, honing her craft and learning on the go. But to commit to a career as a musician, Donat had to shed some of her pain and focus on finding her emotional center. “I was always writing songs, but just kind of waiting for opportunity versus chasing it. Recently, within the last year, I was like, there’s no option but to give this my all,” she tells Audiofemme. “You find your way and you learn on the fly and cool things happen that way. There’s no one way to do things.”
That commitment has paid off – Donat released her debut single “Supernova” in November of last year, following it up in December 2021 with “Most Important Man.” Today, she premieres “How It Feels” on Audiofemme; taken together, the three tracks tie loosely together in a trilogy that documents Donat’s personal journey in overcoming a toxic relationship fueled by obsession and heartbreak. “How It Feels” is the story’s uplifting conclusion, analyzing how the singer-songwriter felt after that period of emotional turmoil, and the subsequent growth from the experience – the musical equivalent of the notion that with the closure of one door another opens.
“It’s a three-part story and each song is like a story on its own. With this song, I wanted to kind of be… truthful, but optimistic and hopeful. It’s the emergence of hope… the song of recovery and healing,” Donat explains. “I hope it’s energizing. I hope it’s that kind of song you hear when you think you might be coming on the other side of something [and can] see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
That contrasts sharply with her previous singles, which depict being trapped in a vicious cycle that seems impossible to break. In “Supernova,” Donat sings, “I wouldn’t go back to the dark alone/But I’d meet you there,” and “I know why I fell in/Into your well of love and rage and sin/All the chaos and the anguish/Somehow better than the absence.” Musically, the track incorporates elements from electronic and pop music to reflect the deep sense of isolating darkness she felt at the time.
“Most Important Man” is sonically lighter, with a fast, punchy beat and energetic piano, but its lyrics are even more bleak: “They must think that I just love the pain/You’re the dark side/I’ve got dark sides/Now we’re both fucking insane.” There’s a sense of realization about the situation Donat describes in the second verse, when she sings, “Oh, can you see yourself?/Clearly I couldn’t/I thought your violence was for everyone else,” before she finally admits, “I have made a grave mistake/Confusing the torment with pleasure.”
But without these dire lows, Donat may never have arrived at the sense of freedom she captures on “How It Feels.” There is a tangible sense of sailing through the ups and downs, with Donat’s gaze fixed ahead.
Soft acoustic guitar accompanies Donat’s resolute opening lines: “I push my crown through the crest of a wave/The water’s deep, it’s the color of jade/And I love the crash, it’s the sound of escape/You slip my mind most days.” Like those waves, each verse builds layers of instrumentation and with each chorus Donat gains increased strength from her conviction. Airy synth, resolute percussion, and a subtle but triumphant electric guitar riff come to the fore as Donat literally belts, “I feel stronger.” It’s easy to imagine Donat sailing through the waves in the direction of the sun, toward a new horizon.
This is in large part a result of how Donat communicates via natural metaphors. “How It Feels” is abundant with references to swimming, the ocean and the natural setting in which she says she can express her most authentic self. “I use nature in all my songs and sometimes there’s deeper meaning,” she admits. “Things can be kind of layered in my songwriting, and be more personal than maybe meets the eye.”
Like with any good poetry, there is more in what’s unsaid than said. Donat’s lyricism transports the listener and empowers them to fill in their own blanks and relate their own experiences to the vivid imagery Donat creates; her powerful visuals allow the resonant emotion to sink in. In this case, it’s the positivity that comes from striving forward – and maybe even a little glimmer of satisfaction from glancing back at a bad situation that’s lost its once powerful grip. “Is this how it feels to win? Cause didn’t I? Is this how it feels to live in one world at a time?” Donat sings in the song’s chorus.
“Essentially, it is kind of about revenge,” she says. “My revenge is… a display of the maturity that can come when you are actually removed from the emotional pull of something that caused a lot of pain and anger.”
Ultimately, “How It Feels” is a tale of healing and inner peace, and Donat knows the journey is ongoing. “There’s always that pull, right? To turn back and return to the darkness – I’ve written a lot about that. My first two singles were about that [need] to look back, and to go back,” she says. “I hope [“How It Feels”] propels you towards the momentum… realizing that this appreciation and gratitude is only possible, because of healing and a deeper personal peace.”
Follow Lily Donat on Instagram for ongoing updates.