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Lili Haydn

Country of origin:


Type of music generally:

Evocative/eclectic, experimental alternative pop/rock


Most recent release, More Love (2021)

See also:

Lili Haydn's site

Wikpedia's entry on Lili Haydn

Lili Haydn's Basecamp site


She reminds me of Never For Ever-era Kate Bush and early Happy Rhodes, though I don't want to push those comparisons too far. (Greg.Jumper@Eng.Sun.COM)

Covers/own material:

Own and co-written

General comments:

Some while back there was mention of violinist Lili Haydn, and I inquired whether she might be the same Lili that was a regular on the mid-'80s tv show The New Gidget. Well, after purchasing her CD today I again went in search of info on her, and found her bio on the atlantic records site...anyway, sure enough, same Lili. And the CD is pretty good....
     On the show Gidget is grown up, married, and has her teenage niece living with her. Lily played the niece's quirky best friend, who had a thing for large floppy hats and played the violin. Of course at some point they did the old 'hey, let's start a band' storyline where Lili's classical violin didn't fit in until she rocked it up a bit and started jammin'. I was kinda surprised when I first saw her name mentioned on the ecto list a while back, I went right out and got the CD and I like it a lot. Her playing is fantastic, and her voice is much better than I would have imagined from the squeaky voice she had on Gidget (of course she was much younger then though). (sspan)

Not only yes, HELL YES! Lili Haydn is awesome! I almost heard her open up for Fates Warning in Seattle a year ago but I was standing outside waiting for my friend. I didn't know who she was but I could almost make out that something cool was happening. Then the same line up concert from Boston (or somewhere) was broadcast on the internet. I was impressed and even madder at my friend for making me miss such a good new act. Then I bought the CD and fell in love with her music. Then I bought several more copies as Christmas presents to give out. I look forward to any new recordings or performances by her with great anticipation! (

I think Lili Haydn is the best classical-style violinist I've seen in a pop context, and her album Lili is first-rate. The thing that impresses me about the album is that it's a "pop" album while at the same time showing off (appropriately) her classical chops as composer and performer. (She's played with one of the big L.A. orchestras.) The last track, a faux-Baroque chaconne, is one of my favorite tracks; and though most of the songs have really strong pop hooks, I'm just as likely to remember the classical instrumental breaks. (I do in fact mean faux in the positive sense of pastiche. My own—good-natured, I assure you—nitpick is that Baroque music dates from the 17th–18th centuries—Bach's Chaconne for unaccompanied violin, from his 2nd Partita, which is the first chaconne that violinists will think of, dates to about 1730, I believe. Lili Haydn's piece is a late 19th–early 20th style pastiche of this older style. Not dissonant enough to be a "contemporary" chaconne. (

Comments about live performance:

Last summer I was at the Page/Plant concert at the Gorge in WA state. I had no idea who was opening. GUESS WHO IT WAS????? Yup, it was LILI! I was so totally pleased!!!!! What a great show and the songs came off even more aggressive than on the CD. (

Ever since I picked up Lili Haydn's very good lili solo album a few months ago I've been keeping an eye out for an opportunity to see her live. And at length it happened, at Mercury Lounge on Houston Street in New York City.
     Mercury Lounge is a small venue (it can't hold more than a couple hundred people), but up&coming major-label acts often play there on their way to larger places. (Elastica and Ruby, to name two, played their first U.S. gigs there.) There was something about the vibe when I went into the performance space that suggested this was an industry showcase (especially when Haydn herself peered out at the crowd and said, "Do I know everybody?").
     It's a fairly large band: guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, cello, and Haydn (pronounced Hayden) on violin and lead vocals. One way to argue the question of an album's production is to say: if the artist can reproduce the sound live, the album is not overproduced. The flip side, however, is that if the sound is so thick it overloads the p.a. system, then maybe the album is overproduced. Both these things were true of Lili Haydn's band. I was standing up close, and even watching her nearly-soundlessly warm up (while the sound guys tried to solve the technical problem of her violin setup not coming through—she and the cellist and the bassist had at least four effects boxes each and the guitarist had at least half a dozen) I could tell that she was not a fiddler (like, say, Eliza Carthy) or a folk/rock violin player (like, say, Lisa Germano), but a classically-trained violinist (I found out later that among many other session gigs she'd played with the L.A. Philharmonic). And just in case there was any doubt, when the band was finally ready she ripped into an elaborate Gypsy cadenza that suggested she was about to break into Ravel's "Tzigane" or somesuch.
     Instead the band went into "Daddy," the ensemble finale (before the violin/piano coda "Wants Deep") from her album. It was a barnburner: the band hit every mark and dramatic shift dead on the nose, particularly the crashing instrumental break. The violin was a little underamplified, with a bit of a buzz on the lower strings, but this was subsequently rectified.
     Lili Haydn's songs are an interesting mix: though they definitely have rock&roll rhythmic power and unusually strong pop hooks (which reverberate through my head for days), their structural sense is more classical; though they fall in the 4-to-5-minute range, they frequently interrupt the vocals with quiet cello/violin duets or extended ensemble instrumental passages; the live versions extend themselves with opportunities for Haydn or her fine guitarist (sometimes in alternation) to take fiery solos.
     As a performer Haydn is terrific: she is very small (about Kristin Hersh's size) but generates a lot of energy; she has a lead singer's and a lead guitarist's stage presence, and excellent rapport with both her band and the audience. In short, she has star quality. She did half a dozen songs from the album, plus about three new ones; the one she noted as brand-new, which is a shade darker and bluesier than most of the others, was one of the best. Other highlights included "Someday" (my favorite, with its driving bridge) and the soon-to-be-released single "Stranger" (those being the album's first two tracks).
     All in all it's one of the best shows I've seen in a while, and I'd go see her perform again like a shot. (6/98)
     For roughly five years I wondered what had become of Lili Haydn. Not long after the release of her fine debut album Lili (one of my 1997 Top Ten), I saw her perform at Mercury Lounge (June 18, 1998), a terrific show of which I have fond memories. According to a recent one-page feature in Interview, her other New York show that tour, opening for Page and Plant at Madison Square Garden (out of my price range), was also a tremendous success, winning over a crowd restless for the headliners.
     Then, nothing for a long while. Sometime last year, I checked her website and discovered a handful of demos (in a kind of New Age style); not too much later she turned up on PBS, accompanying mainstream pop singer Josh Groban on several songs during his TV concert (including "Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring" on which she sits in on his album); she was also featured in a Folger's commercial playing with a country band. Quite a stylistic range, but not difficult for a violinist of her abilities.
     Finally this August her second album Light Blue Sun was released. Where Lili was dark, turbulent rock (just the way I like it), straying towards classical structures and culminating in a chaconne for violin and piano, Light Blue Sun (co-produced by the celebrated Bill Laswell) is more relaxed and melodic, drifting into worldbeat and jazz grooves, and coming to a conclusion on a long, calm duet with venerable saxophonist Pharaoh Sanders. What hasn't changed is her knack for strong pop hooks and her abundant, exciting violin playing.
     I'm the first person to applaud an artist's growth and change, especially given her long absence; but being a rock band guy, I found that the stylistic switch on the new album took some getting used to, though I liked quite a lot of it (most particularly the big duet).
     When I discovered she was playing in New York again, I was excited, though with reservations: she was the opening act (for Particle, apparently a West Coast jam band), therefore it would be a short set; it was an expensive ticket; and I suspected (correctly) that she was only going to play music from the new album.
     But I couldn't resist, so I bit the bullet and went. And when she began her set with a short solo, her echo unit set to repeat about two notes behind, peaking with sawing Baroque quadruple stops, I stood there, jaw agape, happy to concede that coming to the show had been worth it for that brief moment alone.
     On her previous tour she played with a full rock band; this time she was accompanied by a bassist, two keyboard players, and a tabla player, quite enough to put across the mixed electronic and ethnic rhythms of the new album.
      After a good ensemble instrumental, she continued with the album's single, "Anything," not my favorite track but one I expected her to play; it's certainly catchy.
     Following was "The Chinese Song," sung in Mandarin; under its floating progress Haydn underlays a frantic electronic beat, which would seem contradictory if her playing and singing weren't so convincing. (Love that driving solo in the middle.)
     It transpired that the tabla player was also adept at conventional trap drums, and his very strong rock/funk groove on "Wounded Dove" was a significant improvement on the more electronic groove of the album. It's one of the more complex of the new songs, darker in tone (more like the earlier album), a vocal piece that also has extended instrumental sections. It was probably the highlight of the set.
     But the last two numbers made quite an impression as well. "Seek" is a long instrumental that begins with bracing figurations, centers on a memorable tune, and blisters through a thrilling solo as it develops. Finally, there was "Home," my favorite of the pure pop songs on the album. So those last three numbers, among the disc's best, brought the set to a strong conclusion.
     I hadn't forgotten, and I was glad to reaffirm, how wonderful a performer Lili Haydn is: a very good singer and composer, and one of the best violinists I've heard in a pop context. I also came away with a greater appreciation of the new album. It was too long an interval between opportunities to see her play, and I hope the next interval is much shorter. (9/03,

Recommended first album:



  • Lili (1997)
  • Light Blue Sun (2003)
  • Memory One
  • Place Between Places (2008)
  • The Horse Boy (soundtrack, with Kim Carroll, 2009)
  • Goodbye Stranger (EP, 2007)
  • How I Got My Brains Back (EP, 2014)
  • Lili Land (2014)
  • Evocations (with William Goldstein, 2015)
  • More Love (2021)


Release info:

1997—Atlantic Records—7567-83027-2



Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Lili Haydn—vocals, violin, programming, arrangements

Guest artists:

Geri Sutyak—cello
George Nakas—guitar
Frankie Blue—guitar, programming on "Take Somebody Home"
Corky James—guitar
Jeffrey Connor—bass
Toss Panos—drums
Harleigh Kibbee—keyboards, CS80, percussion
Paul Cantelon—piano on "Wants Deep"
Michael Severens—cello on "Someday"
Leroy Ball—bass on "Someday"
Chad Smith—drums on "Take Somebody Home"
Gabriel Rowland—drums on "Daddy"
Tim Boland—programming
Patrick Shevelin—programming
Static—programming on "Real"
Rahat Ali Khan—vocals on "Daddy"

Produced by:

Lili Haydn, Jeffrey Connor


Actually, my opinion of this disc has cooled somewhat. I got it around the same time I got Caryn Lin's disc, another violin-based exploration, and I decided then that I preferred Lili's disc, since it reminded me at times of Never For Ever-era Kate Bush and early Happy Rhodes. However, although I still like the experimental aspect of Lili's album, I now find it a bit more "raucous" than I usually go for these days. I still think I prefer it to Caryn's album, however. I like it—better than I remember liking Rasputina, for what it's worth. The violin is used to good mood-defining effect, and Lili has a good Ecto-style voice. (Greg.Jumper@Eng.Sun.COM)

I was actually disappointed with the CD...she was so much better live. There was so much more violin live, there's very little good parts on the CD, except for "Salome". (khighnight@ONLINE.EMICH.EDU)

I respectfully disagree. I *LOVE* the CD. I just stumbled across the phenomenal Lili Haydn and her CD Lili. I'm very excited to have made this discovery—an incredible CD!! I confess I bought the CD because of the cover!! Oh it is horrible to confess that!! The handful of times in my life that I've done that I've been—naturally—very disappointed. But the cover art of her CD Lili just really "spoke to me", as it were. I saw this striking artwork, and this woman holding a violin, and her look, and the style of the artwork, and the fact that she is—obviously—a violinist yet was in the "Rock" section at the record store just reached out and said, "I'm really unique—buy me!", so I did! I am just completely slayed by this CD.
     I think "Wants Deep" is positively sumptuous. I think she is an artist I will want to follow throughout a (hopefully) long career. (

Some of the album is too much for me (too hard rock, too experimental) but some of it I like very much, particularly the middle of the album, where the violin seems to stand out more, starting with "Salome" (track 4). I also really like the piano on "Wants Deep". She does have a lovely voice, especially on "Baby" (track 7), the harmonies on "no one, no one, no one can save her/but no one enslaves her, enslaves her" are just gorgeous. And her violin, which can be used to make sonorous, beautiful music, or disturbing, dissonant tones. A strong and complex album, a promising debut. (JoAnn Whetsell)

my my my my my my my my my my my my my my my my my my my my my my my my my my i am still recovering from my excitement, i've only listened to her for about two hours now but am TOTALLY HOOKED. she's a violinist extraordinaire who's played with No Doubt, Tom Petty, Jewel, Spinal Tap, Brandy, everyone pretty much! at 25 years old, she has released a debut. definite ecto-material. i think once people know about her ecto will be buzzing about her! she writes her own songs, ranging from teenage pregnancy to the faith lost with age. her voice, ranging from a soft, wispy BEAUTIFUL tone to a raging belt. such a great album. tons of beautiful violin and cello work but backed with drums, guitar, and piano. wonderful wonderful wonderful. (

Place Between Places

Release info:

2008—Nettwerk—0 6700 30788 2 5



Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Lili Haydn—voice, violin, piano, programming

Guest artists:

Woody Aplanalp—guitars, ambient weirdness
Brian MacLeod—drums
Dave Palmer—piano (except 4, 5, 8, 11, 12), vibes
Justin Meldal-Johnson—bass (except 5, 10)
The "Liliharmonic" Orchestra—strings
Thom Russo—programming, sound design, percussion, organ, piano
Martin Tillman—cello (3, 4, 9)
Marvin Etzioni—mandolin, Arp
Dane Little—cello (3)
Jim Wilson—piano (4)
Ital Disraeli—bass (5, 10)
Christoph Bull—piano (5, 12, 13)
Adam MacDougall—Rhodes, Wurlitzer, drums
Ben Hong—cello (7, 10, 12)
Sara Sant'Ambrogio—cello (11)
Paul Cantelon—piano (11)
Rebekka Raff—harp (12, 13)
Geoff "Double G" Gallegos—conducting, arrangements (13)
Fish—drums (13)
Corky James—guitar (13)
Danny Saber—bass, additional production (13)

Produced by:

Thom Russo and Lili Haydn; additional production by Marvin Etzioni


Simply a fantastic album, the best expression to date of Lili's talents as songwriter, violinist, and singer. (JoAnn Whetsell)

"Soaring, postmodern pop" with lots of violin. I keep returning to this disc. (

Further info:

Lili Haydn appears on the 1997 Intel Creativity Software sampler, the 1998 Lilith Fair sampler, and songs of West Side Story, and her song "Come Here" is on the Anywhere But Here soundtrack. She has also played on albums by many different artists, including Tracy Chapman, Vonda Shepard, and Victoria Williams.

Thanks to JoAnn Whetsell for work on this entry.

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Entry last updated 2022-08-11 16:52:41.
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