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Through one listen of Elizabeth, the debut album by Toronto singer Lokre (pronounced lock-ree), there are at least a couple of things you can take away from the project. One, it’s filled with affirmations and reminders that point toward her true worth and optimism that the light at the end of the tunnel is much closer than it appears. Secondly, its 11 tracks are mostly carried by a vocalist who bears a honeyed voice that equally soothes the body, tugs at the strings of the heart, and uplifts the mind into a new level of confidence. All of this more or less lives at the surface of Elizabeth, but beneath that, lies a woman whose affirmations and reminders are just as necessary for herself to hear just as they are for listeners to absorb.
“I’ve been doing this since I was 16.” This is one of the first things that Lokre, born Elizabeth Loughrey, tells me at 27 years old over our lengthy conversation via Zoom. In those 11 years, Lokre has gone through the trials and tribulations that we’ve heard from countless other aspiring acts: a name change for a fresh start, the pains of a cut-throat industry, missteps in love, and the unknowns of tomorrow in regard to a dream she desperately wanted to become her permanent reality. All of that is poured into Elizabeth which, regardless of its commercial performance, stands as a point of celebration for Lokre. “I can’t reflect on that album without reflecting on my story in its entirety,” she says. “It makes me grateful to be where and who I am.”
Music is a large part of who Lokre is, and her roots in it go back to her late grandmother Champa Devi, who was a famed Indian dancer in Trinidad. Her talents and art were passed down to her daughter, Lokre’s mother, and while Lokre did not extend the family’s history of dance, her foray into music is just a mere sidestep from it at best. Nonetheless, music remained a foundational aspect of her relationship with her family as she recalls the “vivid memories” of her mother taking her to piano and voice lessons as a child. “She wouldn’t just drop me off and be like, ‘Peace, have a good lesson!’” Lokre notes. “She would drop me off, sit in the lesson, [and] take notes as the teacher was instructing me. She was just very much a part of that process.” This came after Lokre’s true first introduction to music, which came through the church where she watched her mother lead worship. It was here that Lokre saw firsthand the power of the voice and the power music has to shift the energy in a room.
Though Lokre is long removed from the days of piano and vocal lessons, her mother is still very much present in her musical endeavors. Just look at “She (Voice Memo)” on Elizabeth. Just 17 seconds long, Lokre’s mother’s voice shoots out and impacts like an angered fist banging a table. “That’s what you need to always remember,” she commands. “Who you are as a person.” It spills into the following track, “Finish Line.” “You know what I mean? Always remember who you are, my God.” The tracks sits at the midpoint of Elizabeth amid’s Lokre search to regain her self-power after drowning in battles of fear and self-doubt. “Don’t Dare” addresses the former with the clarity that only 20/20 hindsight can provide. “I wouldn’t be on the outside / If I had just let you in,” Lokre admits with both regret and acceptance on the song. “Guess I was scared you might find / The scars under my skin.” Her down-and-out feelings over this loss are soon replaced with a win over self-doubt on “Self Talk.” Here, Lokre presents the fighting spirit that takes a life of its own through the second half of Elizabeth. “I’ll swim to the river to my soul,” she sings. “Go deeper than anybody goes if that’s what it takes.”
“I’m fighting always for my own freedom, my own liberation, my own peace of mind,” Lokre says when I inquire about the things she’s fighting for. “I’m also fighting for the opportunity to allow people to experience their own freedom, their own presence of mind, their own peace of mind. I want this message to be global.” Lokre is fighting for liberation, the very thing that her mother begs her to keep in mind on “She.” When I point out the fighting spirit that she and her mother share, Lokre can only laugh in agreement. “I have like 50 voice notes on my phone of her just catching the spirit and ranting to me,” she reveals. This similarity is a benefit as much as it is a nuisance, as it often can lead to them butting heads in the way that siblings do (“Nobody pisses me off more than her”), but in the end, its effect on Lokre has not gone unnoticed or unappreciated. “The grit that I think that has given me is irreplaceable [and] she is the source of that.”
For what it’s worth, Lokre is long removed from the person that we hear on Elizabeth. That is, most of her fears are gone, self-doubt is minimal, and she is much more protective of her peace nowadays. Though they were released just two months ago, the records on Lokre’s debut album are two years old “at the youngest,” leaving plenty of time for growth, change, and new strengths. She now looks at “Finish Line,” a standout on the album and my personal favorite, and chuckles as the record details a woman who once made her life much more difficult than it needed to be. “I was really making life hard for myself,” she admits. “I wanted it to be hard almost. It was this idea that the struggle has to be present in order for it to be worth it.” As noted, change arrived and pushed things for the better. “At this point, I’m like no to the struggle, no to making life harder than it needs to be,” she says confidently. “It doesn’t need to be such a push and pull all the time. Joy is very much on the menu at this point.”
The intention to improve and change is the first step in the process of actually doing so. Acknowledgment is the first step in recovery and Lokre found her own way to make these changes when she sought it was necessary. “What I do is I set intentions for the season that I’m in,” she says. “I get really clear about a word for that season or a word for that year. Then I take time as the chapters are evolving to adjust, to recalibrate, to check in and be like, ‘Am I upholding that word for myself? Does there need to be something new added to the equation to keep going?” The intentions she sets are remembered in the form of sticky notes placed around her home more so than a repeated chant said in the mirror each morning. Its impact on her seems to be similar to that of poet Dominique Christina who Lokre heralds as an “incredible, divine feminine voice” whose advocacy for women has “become such a powerful guiding perspective for me.”
Christina concludes Elizabeth with the “Aquarian Poem,” an original piece that Christina wrote specifically for Lokre’s debut after the former discovered the singer on Instagram. Lokre sent Christina “Generations” and “Sun Don’t Set,” the full-length songs that start and conclude Elizabeth respectively, and noted her desire for the project to begin with a “wake up call” (“Grand Rising”) and end with “a prayer,” which turned out to be the “Aquarian Poem.” Christina understood Lokre’s desires and got to work. “The first thing she sent back to me was that poem in its entirety,” Lokre says. “All the words were just free flow from hearing those two songs. She just tapped in entirely to the ethos and the prayer that I had in my heart that I didn’t even have words for. Needless to say, I was like sobbing the first time I heard it.” The poem is truly a soothing and well-supplied dose of closure to Elizabeth, which Lokre is eternally grateful for.
Jumping back to Lokre’s point about the songs on Elizabeth being at least two years old, I took a moment to ask her about the artist that we’ll soon hear on the current music that she’s working on. “She is very sure of what she wants, she is very self-assured,” Lokre says proudly. “She is exploring other sides of herself. It’s not all about this becoming, it’s coming from a place of, ‘Alright, I am who I am now. I’m fully formed into Lokre.’ So I think there’s a sophistication about it, but musically, I love what I’m making right now.” With that message also comes another one for listeners, both new and old, who will eventually gather again to deep dive into the next body of work she puts out into the world: “Don’t box me in.” She continues, “I hope that I’m creating a relationship with listeners where they hear my heart so that regardless of where this goes musically, they’ll be down to ride with me for whatever evolution it brings.”
Lokre will continue to evolve, she’ll continue to fight, and she’ll extend her season of winning into a lifetime of success.
Elizabeth is out now via Eccelectic Electix Inc. You can stream it here.