Treya Lam’s album, Good News, doesn’t lack for sonic detail. Lam, though, believes those details are the icing on the cake.
“I want to create works that can stand on their own in the barest form,” Lam said. “My approach to songwriting is kind of rooted in that idea. Whether it’s just me and piano or me and guitar or me and viola, I want to be able to capture people’s attention just in the barest form. Then all of the layers on top are just bonus.”
As a multi-instrumentalist, Lam can strip their songs down to vocals and guitar, piano or viola. When they do add those layers to songs on Good News, Lam and producer Kaki King do so with a light touch.
Recording with King, also a multi-instrumentalist who’s known primarily as a guitar wizard, afforded Lam lots of opportunities for layering.
King’s studio, Other Cathedrals, doubles as King’s “guitar museum.” All her instruments, effects pedals and amplifiers are stored there.
“Just having the presence of instruments gives the room its sound and its character. It’s very intimate and a lot like a sacred space to create music,” Lam said.
King and Lam welcomed several guests to the sessions, including bassist Cat Popper, who has played with Norah Jones and Jack White, and mixer Erin Tonkon, who was an engineer on David Bowie’s last couple of albums.
Lam notes that everyone who had a hand in creating the album “was a woman or gender nonconformist.” Lam, an Asian-American who identifies as non-binary, said they are beginning to share aspects “of my identity in my work,” which they describe as “work that feels relatively new to me.”
“I think with Good News, what I wanted to do was create something broadly accessible and like more of a general conversation of how I saw the world,” Lam said.
Lam calls more recent material “the opposite” of the songs on Good News. “I’m diving into parts of myself and what it has been like as an Asian-American, non-binary person who was raised by immigrants. I’m working on strengthening, getting into performance and speaking shape before I get down there.
“I’m aware of all the stuff that’s happening in Florida like the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, and I want to be able to speak on that more eloquently when I get down there,” Lam said. “I’m looking forward to sharing space and sharing music.”
Treya Lam performs May 9 at The Straz Center’s Jaeb Theater.
Other music events taking place at The Straz this month include:
Alex Cuba: Singer-songwriter Alex Cuba goes his own way, incorporating different musical styles and genres in create a powerful, melodic sound of his own. (May 23, Jaeb Theater)
Amythyst Kiah: Amythyst Kiah’s music combines the indie rock that first inspired her with the traditional music she heard later on. Her 2021 release, Wary + Strange, chronicles what it means to be a Southern LGBTQ+ woman of color in the 2020s. (May 27, Jaeb Theater)