4 To Watch: Ferraby Lionheart

The Separation of Church and Art

Music Features Ferraby Lionheart
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Hometown: Los Angeles, Calif.
Fun fact: While Ferraby is his given name, Lionheart is a stage name. "I feel like I just acquired it," he says. "It was some joke that ended up becoming my name."
Why he's worth watching: The Office's Rainn Wilson (aka Dwight Schrute) has been a fan for several years. He even asked Lionheart to write a few songs for his upcoming film, The Rocker. "It's a funny, Jack Black kind of movie," says Lionheart.
For fans of: Devendra Banhart, Rufus Wainwright, Billy Joel

The Bahá’í faith is an international religion that focuses on equality and the unity of God and humankind. Given that Bahá’í principles encourage community transformation through grassroots efforts, musicians who practice the religion would seem to have the perfect built-in platform to in?uence listeners.

But that’s risky business according to Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter Ferraby Lionheart, a strong advocate for the separation of church and art. “I’m a Bahá’í every day. I pray Bahá’í prayers, and I try to make it a part of my everyday life,” he says. “But I never really try to directly translate my religious beliefs into my music. That puts me off a little.”

The string- and horn-adorned folk songs on Lionheart’s new record, Catch the Brass Ring, allude to fairy tales and folklore—they also have a touch of autobiography (“Mainly it’s drawing o? of life experience, but then coloring it up and turning it into a story,” he says). From Lionheart’s instinctual writing process to his wobbly voice to the record’s only-what’s-necessary production, the songs never come across as calculated or affected. In fact, his lyrics don’t even necessarily line up with his spirituality. Take, for example, “The Ballad of Gus and Sam": "On a Ouija board we were talking to Gus / He killed a girl named Sam / And now she’s coming for us.”

And according to Lionheart, the line he draws between faith and art makes his music purer and more inspiring than that with a religious bent. “I just feel like, with music that’s trying to say something lyrically, whatever’s going on musically isn’t that interesting,” he says. “My religion defines me, but I define my music.”

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