THE PRELUDE to Lydian Studios and the artist that inspired it all
Dylan Lalonde: My story, who I am and why I do this
Hi there, my name is Dylan Lalonde and I pretty much run every aspect of Lydian Studios with my own two hands and breathe as much life as I can into this business. The story of how this studio came to be and how I came to be as a music producer and as a musician, I can pretty much attribute to one person. This is that story so if you’re interested in how this (and how I) came to be, please read on! I will be going into some very personal and somewhat dark details in this story regarding my early years as I feel it is necessary background information to set the tone just as a heads up.
I was born in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada and raised in a small commuter town south of Ottawa called Greely. I was born with a rare genetic visual impairment called ocular albinism and as a result am legally blind (to the government, though I still consider myself to be sighted). My disability is not something I like to dwell on though it is peculiar in the sense that because of the nature of the issues with my retina, optical aids such as glasses do not help me to achieve 2020 vision. Because of this, I will never be able to obtain a driver’s license and a few other things which prove to be a challenge day to day.
Growing up I had friends around most of the time in school. These few friends that I did have were usually in short-lived pockets. I had a few friends for a while and then they would tend to distance themselves from me and drift away for a while at a time or in many cases just permanently. Elementary school wasn’t quite so bad (though it had its times) as the staff at the catholic elementary school that I had attended took a very coddled approach to the students with a limited tolerance for bullying (as is the case in many elementary and primary schools). Middle school however was a completely different story. Most of the biggest scars that I have on an emotional level are from some of the beatings and verbal bullying I received during my middle school days at a catholic middle school for grade 7 and a private school for grade 8. In the case of grade 7 the fellow students were relentless in their bullying tactics and the staff was quite simply to ignorant and incompetent to care about the kinds of abuse happening right in-front of them. After being harassed and bullied several times I spent most of my break periods and lunch periods either eating my lunch in a bathroom stall, hiding behind the school or in detention for being blamed for hiding behind the school “where staff can’t see you” (not that they were useful even when they can see you, as was proven one day when I was pushed down and kicked in the school’s student parking lot). Between the various regular occurrences of bullying and the staff’s unfair blaming of me for much of it, I tend to think of that year as the closest I hope I’ll ever come to hell. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time alone and really just wanted a friend and someone to talk to. Grade 8 at a private school had better students to some degree but many of the staff were corrupt and also incompetent as well which evened it out with my prior grade 7 enrollment. So yes, these experiences left their scars. Scars that I hid for the better part of a decade. I didn’t tell even my parents at the time as I didn’t want to be “that guy” or a tattle tail (at the time, though now I admit that would have been very much fair game to come forward about these things). The few people that I have told some of these stories to have asked me jokingly how I ever got through it. I had one person that meant the world to me that got me through some of my darkest times and the funniest thing about it is… that person, to this day, has no idea who I am.
So, I spent often months on end without really having friends or anyone to talk to. Living in the country as well made it hard to be social in my early years. I spent a lot of my time listening to music when I was a kid. My parents were very interested in music and had amassed a large collection of CDs over the years that I used to put on my computer and listen to all the time. Because of my sight issues, my hearing is very, very acute by most metrics. Ever since I was young I’ve always been fascinated by music. Though, I tended to focus less on the melody and the words as much as the rest of the arrangement of the song. I’ve always been keen on poetry and literature and always considered myself a wordsmith. Just for some reason words in music never really clicked for me and I was always drawn to the instrumentation. Even to this day a lot of that still rings true when I hear a song for the first time… with one very notable exception.
One morning in February of 2007 I had a question for my mom who was in the washroom at the time. I had nothing better to do at the time so I just lay on the bed and wait. They very frequently listened to a local country station called Y101 based out of Smiths Falls. They were fans of country but I believe they listened to the station more because the transmitter was closer to our home in Greely than the other regional stations so the signal was one of the clearest options to get morning news, weather and traffic updates to wake up to. As I was lying in bed staring at the ceiling (…smartphones weren’t a thing yet) I could still hear the radio on that station as they would sometimes leave the radio on while they got ready for work. As someone who was never a fan of country music I didn’t particularly enjoy listening to that station at the time. While I was lying there though, there was this song that came on the radio. When this song came on it just felt like another country tune… until the singer came in. Right away I was drawn to the words for the first time ever it felt like. There was something about the emotional performance of the melody and its connection to the words in the story that I just clicked on to. As I listened I really felt like I could understand the song and the singer’s perspective even though I had never gone through this type of trauma at that point myself. The song that came on was called “Teardrops” (which is what I thought at the time based on the hook and the DJ didn’t say the name of the song. They did say the artist though and after some searching on my computer at school I found out that it was a little song called Teardrops On My Guitar by Taylor Swift. I didn’t know anything about the record that it came from or about her as an artist.
All I knew is that my interest was tweaked and I wanted to know more. That night when I was searching at home I found her MySpace page and read her Bio. The first thing I liked was that it was written in first person like she was telling me about herself which was unique to me because it felt so personal compared to other artist bios online that were all written in third-person for the most part. The second thing I liked was that she seemed a lot like me and she talked a lot like me. I heard a few other songs off that debut album over time and found not only that I was drawn in like the first time I heart Teardrops on My Guitar but that I felt comfort in these songs. I managed to borrow the album from someone at school to listen to and found that every song I felt a sense of comfort and connection in. Particularly the song Invisible stuck with me a lot in those days because that’s what I was to most people, invisible. When I found out that she wasn’t very popular in school either and read more about her story, I felt like there was someone that could really understand what I was going through. For once, I felt like I had a friend. It wasn’t long as time went on and I learned more that she felt like my best friend.
At this point I hadn’t really figured out what I wanted to do in life. I knew I liked music and I liked technology but I didn’t really have any major direction or drive. One day I was reading about the music business just out of curiosity after school and I found some definitions of some common roles like manager, agent and producer. The first 2 seemed cool but producer is the one that stuck out to me. At the time I had interpreted the producer role as someone that works with these really amazing songwriters that takes that raw idea of a song and helps to bring it to reality and turn it into a full-blown “song”. I said to myself “If this means I get to work with really cool artists like Taylor and means I get to help their songs touch the hearts and comfort so many people in the way that her songs and words touched me, this is what I need to do” So I began my journey.
The next day I got out my dad’s old BC Rich electric guitar and started to learn on it… very, very slowly. I got discouraged a lot learning it but I saw an interview where She told the story about how someone told her she couldn’t play 12-string which just made her want to do it more and that gave me the drive and determination to succeed. I could almost hear her in my head cheering me on to not give up and keep pushing, so I did. To this day I’m not quite to the level of perfection on guitar that I’d like to be, but I am leagues beyond what I thought was capable when I started. After grade 8 had finished I attended Canterbury high school for music which brought me amongst a better group of peers (mostly) and gave me an ideal environment to lay down some roots as a hopeful would-be producer.
After high school I attended college for Music Industry arts which gave me a great foundation on a technical level of how to produce a record. Though as anyone in the business would tell you, most of the most important lessons in the music industry you only learn from going through the motions yourself and learning as you go along. Most of the way I produce now and look at music now has been sculpted mostly from working and a lot less from my educational foundation (though I still consider that and every other aspect of where I came from to be very important to how I got to where I’m at now).
As the years passed, I watched Taylor grow up and experience rebirth and hardships in many of the same ways that I did as a person. Every one of her six studio records to date, though all being very different, are all themes and stories that I have been able to connect with and understand. I still consider her to be one of the best songwriters I’ve ever known of.
Coming out of high school working through college one of the biggest things I focused on as a producer was working with songwriters when I could. The first songwriter I worked with was in my Senior year at Canterbury on a song called Through Every Breath. This was trial by fire in that I had never worked with a songwriter with an idea that was raw like this before. The song was just singing and an electric piano when we started so it was the first time I was taking a tune from “0-100”. I remember most of the tracking I did “solo” over the week after we laid down the vocal and piano beds and then the following weekend I arranged for the writer to come over and listen to this rendition. I remember it quite well because she stood in the middle of the room and I played it for her and she was so filled with joy and emotion about it that she cried. I remember with that made me feel so satisfied like I had just made someone’s dreams come true for the first time and that’s when I knew for certain that this is what I wanted to do with my skills.
Over the last decade I’ve been constantly working on honing my ears and expanding my sonic palette as a producer in a variety of styles. As someone that has always been fascinated by many different styles, I find that I am drawn to many different artists spanning the musical spectrum both on a creative and technical level. Ottawa though is a very stylistically biased market when it comes to music so over the years my production abilities have grown to be heavily weighted in some areas while the dust settles a bit in others. Now I find myself trying to balance those tables a bit by creating my own pieces in those styles that have been the missing pieces of the puzzle so that I can start to be more innovative in my craft.
I can say at this point that I've done a bit of everything, Studio producing, composing/songwriting, live sound, radio production, radio on-air, broadcast engineering, film score production and audio for video. Anytime I see an opportunity to expand my horizons, I take it. Now I produce for radio part-time for major commercial radio stations across Canada during the day while still working on my craft as a record producer the rest of the time.
I keep pushing so hard at this growing more and more as a producer with one real goal in mind. Since I started this journey back in 2007 my ultimate dream has been to work with Taylor as a producer. Now I’m not as crazy as that goal might make me sound haha. I’m well aware that this amazing artist and industry leader has access to virtually unlimited creative and financial resources to get the pick of any technical personnel that she could want. I still find myself sitting here watching as she gets more and more successful (and as a result getting further and further out of reach of someone like me) thinking, why in the world would someone with talent like that, with an army of professionals as top-tier as she has, be interested in someone as far down the list as I am? Those questions and the reality of it all doesn’t stop me from trying and pushing forward with hope. I dream of a day when I have advanced my skills and sonic toolkit enough to the point where I might have the honor of working with my creative idol and to repay her by displaying the kindness to her and to others that she showed me during my darkest of times.
So I hope this deep dive into my past and my inspiration helped you to understand where the roots of this studio and me as a producer lay. I believe remembering where you come from is a great way to stay grounded in life and this piece not only helps others to understand but writing it helps me stay in touch with this very intrinsic part of my history and remain as grounded as I can going forward.
All Good Things,
Producer/Manager, Lydian Studios
PS: I am of the belief that dreams are healthy. Even if they aren't particularly feasible from a practical standpoint, dreams are the best fuel to drive us towards a better reality. Taylor had dreams from a very young age and regardless of who told her they weren't attainable for her as a " country brand" and that she was "breaking the rules set forth in the industry"... she still tirelessly pushed forward and in doing so made these dreams that at a time probably seemed so out of reach, come true. This incredible person is a living example of the fact that anything is possible.