Today, on her birthday, folk rock diva Lilli Lewis is releasing an A/B single of her rendition of Radiohead’s “Creep.” The A version, she says, is “for people who just like the song and want to add an emo piano version to their catalog.” And the B version, “for people who want to hang out with me in the isolation chamber that was my mama’s apartment when everyone was away at school or work, or later the practice room where I used to lock myself away for up to 12 hours a day.”
The piano became a coping mechanism and safety strategy, a place where just a few notes could create her own infinite world of beauty and possibility. A place where no one could hurt her. Suffering in silence for decades, she received a PTSD diagnosis. “I had little to no awareness of who I was or how people saw me, because I’d mostly tried to stay out of my own skin by every mechanism my mind could muster up for me.”
Lilli’s live rendition was included as one of Rolling Stone’s AmericanaFest 2021: Best Things We Saw. She tells me, “This version is different from what I usually do live. Both versions are solo voice and piano, and the special one is about seven minutes long. I think the only time I’ve done that arrangement was at WWOZ piano night last year. There’s something really special about this recording, though. When I play it live it’s usually for others. When I did this recording, it’s the first time I gave myself the luxury of playing it for myself, and I think it’s… different.”
“It’s as much about the music as it is the story,” Lilli once told me in an earlier interview. The use of the arpeggiated melody channeled through her vocals and piano imbues her performance of “Creep” with greater emotional depth — a performance she tells me is “the little version of myself, making sounds on a big wooden box…” It’s the sound of someone who has been through a lot in one lifetime, who has ultimately succeeded, because after everything she is still here doing beautiful work and facilitating healing for herself and humankind. “It’s about what it can feel like being all the intersections of me, especially as a person living with cPTSD and still trying to find her way in the world.”
And tonight will find her making her way to another show opening for her lifelong heroes, The Indigo Girls. The remaining stops of this tour are Wilmington, NC (4/14), Savannah, GA (4/15), and Orlando, FL (4/16).