The Process: The Expanding Universe of Luna Li

A Q&A with Hannah Bussiere on existing in a world of her own creation.

Photographer: Halle Hirota @hallehirota

Styling: Cat Calica @yungguava

Assisted by: Olivia Mokrzycki @sink.bug & Antoni James @antonijames

Floral Arrangement by: Jaime McCuaig @j_aime

Whether she’s harmonizing centre stage or jamming live from her bedroom, Toronto-based musician Luna Li curates an immersive experience beyond our wildest dreams.

We sat down (virtually) with Hannah Bussiere, the fairy-like songstress behind Luna Li to learn more about the girl who could play melodies with mermaids and sing lullabies to the moon. We discuss experimenting with her identity and the many puzzle pieces that form her current project.

Moving through the industry as a woman is no easy feat, but Bussiere’s talent makes it appear almost effortless. It’s clear this is what she was meant to do.

What does your “workbench” typically look like? What is part of the “essential toolkit” of a Luna Li song?

My essential tool kit would be having logic open — I really like to be recording all of my ideas as I go. As a multi-instrumentalist, I obviously can’t play everything at the same time, so it’s nice to just be able to build things and record as I go.

A really essential tool for me is a full MIDI keyboard. With that there are so many sound packs that you can use to create so many different kinds of sounds with just the one keyboard, so that really allows for a lot of variety. Also, just having all my instruments around me is really helpful. But, I usually start off with the keyboard. It was my first instrument and it feels like the most versatile for me because I'm the most comfortable with it. One really necessary tool for being creative for me, is exploring new sounds and finding something new every time — otherwise it just doesn’t work if i’m doing the same thing over and over again. I need to push myself and go somewhere new every time.

And when did that start? You and music?

I grew up in a very musical household. As a kid my mom was always just singing with me around the house. I asked for piano lessons at age five. And then my mom joined her partner in running a music school when I was just a little bit older. So I was just really lucky to be able to grow up in a musical community with students and teachers and just be surrounded by all that all the time.

When did you start getting experimental with your sound?

I think I would say that when I first started learning the guitar is really when I branched off. I was really focused on classical music before then. And then I turned twelve and thought “I’m going to rock out on the guitar.”

I don’t know if that was the time that I really started finding my sound yet, but it was a stepping stone to get there. That’s when I started learning covers and started writing my own songs for the first time — those will never see the light of day, thank God.

I think a really big turning point for me was after I left high school, I went to McGill to study violin. I ended dropping out after a year and moving back to Toronto to start my project. I realized what I really loved was being creative and so I knew I wanted to start building something from the ground on my own. I felt like I wasn't getting that in music school.

What is the magic touch that you feel a song is complete? Are songs ever complete? How do you know when to move forward? How do you know what to keep or to discard?

I think about building songs like a puzzle. Arrangement feels kind of like you're fitting all the little pieces together to create this one big picture. I would say that there's a moment where you just know that it's done, where it's like, I have used all the pieces here and I know sometimes I go overboard and then I have to take things out. Usually it's just a lot of experimenting until you feel like it's good.

A really key thing for me is to leave it and come back to it the next day. Have a break and come back and be like, “Okay, am I still liking this? Does it still feel like it's done?”

The [Instagram Live] jams were a really good exercise in songwriting and production because I had to create something with the intention that it was going to be heard [as it is]. I was going to post it on Instagram and people were going to listen to it.

Whereas usually when I'm making a song, I'll create a demo first. And then I'll be like, “I know I'm going to take this to the studio so I know it's going to change before the world hears it”. I build it as much as I can by myself, but I know that's not going to be the final form. I feel like I've also been able to learn a lot about production in the past year, just experimenting and being on my own and having to do everything myself.

Does that feel different to release music that is just you playing instrumentally, versus a complete lyrical song where you're using your voice as an instrument as well? How does that feel different, when you get that out into the world,

It definitely is different. I had never created something from start to finish completely on my own and released it into the world. So that was new for me and exciting. Um, I would say that instrumental music feels easier to create because I find lyrics tough sometimes and also, it can be really vulnerable and feels a lot more personal to me. So I would say that the instrumentals have this kind of easier and more chill feeling to them where it's maybe a little bit less scary.

Do you first