Music

Los Angeles Indie Singer Luna Shadows Pens An Essay About California

The Golden State has long been a source of inspiration for creatives of all kind. Ahead, Shadows explains why exclusively for L'Officiel USA. Photography by Lolo Bates
Reading time 6 minutes

I almost never saw the sun. It was New York City in winter. I was waking up to be at a train station at 5:45 am every day. My station was outside. I would stand there in the freezing cold and stargaze through the air pollution and my crystallizing exhales, making up constellations to distract myself from the temperature. I traveled two hours each way by choice to a concrete building, where I spent half the day in a basement -- the place in which my music classes were taught. The little bit of light that crept in from outside was usually brushed over by grey, and then it was right back underground, into the subway, to a dark 7 pm where I got home and collapsed. Rinse & repeat. Four hours of traveling each day took its toll on me. I’d found a price tag on my dream.

A Brighter Color

I asked my parents if I could paint my bedroom a brighter color — more specifically, baby blue to mimic a summer sky. I programmed my alarm clock with ocean sounds so that calm waves would be the very first thing I heard in the morning to counter this new anxiety that I was suddenly gripped by. Despite my curiosity and excitement for the world around me, I felt low, disinterested, anxious, and perhaps most terrifyingly, alone.

Fool's Gold

Eventually, as clichés tend to go, I ended up on a therapist's couch. He told me that what I was experiencing actually had a name: "SAD" (Seasonal Affective Disorder) — a type of depression related to changes in seasons. My thoughtful mother went online and ordered me a special lamp that imitated sunlight. I would close my eyes, sit beneath it, and pretend it was the real thing. It helped a little, but it gradually revealed itself to be fool’s gold.

2,780 Miles Across the Country

I had never been to Los Angeles before when I told my family that I planned to move there. They laughed until they realized that I was serious. A few years later, I packed up my things and I flew exactly 2,780 miles across the country. I knew no one in LA — not a single person. I was leaving everyone I knew and loved behind. How then could it be possible for the following to happen: to step off the plane, and for the first time in my whole entire life, know that I was home?

My Personal Paradise

For me, California is not just a place. California has been my medicine, my relief, my prescription drug, my lifeline, my personal paradise. At the end of my worst day here, I am comforted by the feeling of Los Angeles wrapping its endless blue sky around me. The sight of the San Gabriel mountains behind the busy city always reminds me that there is a quiet place behind the noise The feeling of early sunbeams on my closed eyelids when I wake up literally gives me the energy that I need to get out of bed, to move, to create, to do anything else. California is my oxygen mask. I put it on, and no matter what the emergency is, at least I can breathe.

This Is Not a Metaphor

There’s also something comforting about being in a place that others in your position have been in before you. It’s like we all share this giant house. People come and go, but you find their names carved in the bed frames and you keep all their faded posters. On days where I'm ready to throw in the towel, I remember that all of my idols have quite literally stared up at the same iconic Hollywood sign (never gets old, by the way), walked the same palm tree-lined boulevards, and warmed up backstage at the same venues. Each and every one of them.

This is not a metaphor. Stevie Nicks literally walked these streets with her broken heart. The Beach Boys fought in these studios over who got to sing what line. I think of all of the idols that have passed through LA as "good ghosts" to have around when self-doubt becomes too heavy. It's nice to have company. Even a place with endless summer has its winters.

Those Early Fireworks

My obsession with the “endless summer” started early: on the very first day of my life. I was born on the 1st of July into early fireworks set off by all the people that were too excited to wait three more days. It happens every year, those early fireworks. Summer is where I began, and I always come back to it. It's the end of my circle around the sun. A time to reflect and celebrate. It’s less like a time and more like a place where I get to start again.

Going back to the original question, my answer would be the question turned on its head: "how could my music not sound like California?" I don’t feel like I will ever be able to give back what California has given to me. Dedicating a song to this place is the least I could do for all the shit I’ve put it through. If I could speak to it, I would probably just say “I’m sorry” and “thank you,” over and over, on infinite loop. Maybe “I love you,” too.

On My Worst Day, the Sun Will Still Shine

It is a strange thing to think about — what if home is a place you've never been? This was the case for me. Despite all of the mess that has happened to me in it, Los Angeles has kept its promise to me. It is a simple but deeply meaningful promise: on my worst day, the sun will still shine. It's something I can count on. And if it's not, I can count on there being no traffic, at the very least, because no one drives when it rains in LA.

Echo Park, CA. May 2018.

Words: Luna Shadows

Photography: Lolo Bates

Styling & Design: Simay Belur

Production Coordinator: Rosie Footitt

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