Lido Pimienta on Being a Witch, Collaborating with Nelly Furtado and Conquering the Small Screen with 'LIDO TV' The Exclaim! Questionnaire

"I can't wait to write a song for Ariana Grande and Rihanna"
Lido Pimienta on Being a Witch, Collaborating with Nelly Furtado and Conquering the Small Screen with 'LIDO TV' The Exclaim! Questionnaire
Photo: Ada Navarro
A tour cancellation ended up being a turning point for Colombian-Canadian musician Lido Pimienta. After the tour behind her 2020 album Miss Colombia was called off, she put on an online show for her fans instead. What she created was a concert in collaboration with YouTube Music, and, between songs, Pimienta performed sketch infomercials. That's where she realized what her next project was going to be.

"I was like, 'This is it. This is going to be our pilot,'" Pimienta tells Exclaim! in Toronto. "Maybe I can integrate my visual art and my comedy. I've always wanted to do puppeteering and voicing cartoons. My kids have always enjoyed the different voices [I use] when I read books to them and when we play."

LIDO TV is a colourful and vibrant variety show that recalls the beloved kids' programming of the '90s. But make no mistake — this isn't a show for children. With episodes entitled, "Colonialism" and "Feminism," Pimienta tackles big issues through her unique brand of humour, documentary-style segments, and, of course, music.

The series, which features guest appearances by Nelly Furtado, Shad and Kittie, among others, will have its world premiere at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival on September 11 and will then be available to stream for free on CBC Gem starting September 23. Ahead of the festival, Pimienta answered the Exclaim! Questionnaire, discussing the time she met Björk, her powers as a witch, and the fallout after that infamous concert.

How does it feel to have LIDO TV premiere at TIFF 2022?

It's definitely a proud moment. You're next to Lars von Trier and The Handmaid's Tale [and] they had like a bajillion dollars to make their shows, and we had $6.95 to do ours. It feels great to know that CBC Gem believed in this project, [and that we have] their support. We're doing [the show] in a beautiful way that really highlights the talent that we have here. My wildest dream is to continue LIDO TV for many, many, many, many, many seasons, and to keep it local, because we have so much talent here.

What are your current fixations?

I'm really fixated on Czech film from the '70s. Specifically, this film called Valerie and Her Week of Wonders. And the score is by this Czech composer called Lubos Fišer. The music in that film is fantastic. Film from the '70s is so inspiring to me, because they didn't have CGI or digital tools. Every scene was composed like a beautiful theatre tableau. So that's my fixation. I want everything that I create, especially for my next record and the videos for my next record, to look like a Czech film from 1970.


Why do you live where you do?

Because I want to give my children space to be children. [Pimienta currently splits her time between Toronto and London, ON.]

What's the last book or movie that blew your mind?

Valerie and Her Week of Wonders! It's about the sexual awakening of a teenager. But It's told through vampires, Catholic guilt, theatre, celebration of life, sexual liberation and sexual freedom of women. It's so many things. It's chaotic, but it somehow makes sense. And the music is beautiful. That's what I want to make: I want to make beautiful chaos.

What has been your most memorable or inspirational concert and why?

The infamous show that put me on the map in Canada as a racist against whites — that has been my most iconic show. At the time, I didn't understand it. I was so hurt and so confused, especially by the Canadian pseudo journalists that weren't even there, but said all these mean things about me.

It made me understand the power that I hold, an individual that does not come from colonial wealth, that doesn't sing in English or French, that doesn't have ancestry here. That I don't have to compromise my vision for no one. Even though I didn't understand that at the time, it was a show that would define me as an artist and that made me check my motives every single time that I am about to go on stage and anytime that I'm about to engage with an audience. It's helped me respect myself more and be more cautious of who I show my power to and who I allow in my aura.

Even though it was painful to deal with so much online hate and death threats, even three years after, it made me understand that I am powerful, beyond what I consider just another day at the job. So now, when I do things, I'm more intentional with them. I am grateful even for the bad and how painful it was for me and [for] my children to see me go through all of that. It needed to happen for people to see that segregation in Canada is real.

What's been the greatest moment of your career so far?

What's happening now! There's a few things that have happened in the last years, apart from making the show. I was able to, not only become very close friends with Nelly Furtado, but I am learning from her how to make delicious, strong, sensitive pop music. She's giving me an education on this other side of the music industry that I never thought that I would even be near. I'm helping her with her record, and I get to record and see her in a studio with massive producers that are all excellent people. As an independent artist, it's always been like, "That would never be me." But now, I can't wait to write a song for Ariana Grande and Rihanna.

I think I'm going through a very challenging but exciting moment in my career, where I am learning what else can I do, what else can I tap into. And it turns out, I can write a mean pop song.

What's been the worst moment of your career so far?

The burnout. When you have a label, or when you have management or a booking agency, you are responsible to [them]. You're responsible for how the art is going to be seen and performed. After two and a half years of not playing, I've been thrown back into the game. But I feel like it's been too much and I haven't had the time to rest.

I'm going to have to go to Europe [on tour] for the fourth time, or the third time this year — I'm so tired. My father passed away when I was in Europe and I didn't stop the tour. I went to visit my family a week later. There was the sense of responsibility [about] how much money we were going to lose if I stopped. That was very hard, to feel like I don't own myself because of this sense of responsibility to others. I am working for my management, booking agency, my label — I don't want to disappoint anybody. But that ends up affecting my mental health. The good thing is that I'm learning to express myself, and to know what I want and what I don't need. And it had to be this way, so that I could know. If things would have been slower, I wouldn't have noticed anything. I would have just continued on autopilot.

Who's a Canadian musician that should be more famous?

My husband, Mas Aya. He's fantastic. He's my best friend and he makes wonderful music. He's a multi-instrumentalist, and makes the most sensitive, multi-layered, beautiful music. He doesn't like fame [laughs] and he's very successful in what he does. But you know, the friend in me wants more people to talk about him.


What advice are you glad you didn't take?

To go to Mexico and get liposuction, dye my hair blonde, and sing in English.

What was the first song you ever wrote?

I was such a precocious kid. When I was 13, I was in this university arts program — it was like a 13-year-old goes to OCAD. So my friends were in their 20s and we had this wonderful, beautiful friend who was doing his thesis [about] drugs from pharmaceutical companies. Part of his practice was to try the drugs on himself, [it was] super extreme. He overdosed and I wrote him a song.

That was the moment that I understood that the way that I cope with life is: I take what happens, process my emotions in my head, and then it comes out as melody. That was the first song that I wrote that I remember. It opened the door for me to write other songs, and I haven't stopped since.

What do you think of when you think of Canada?

I think of happy little English subjects that are happy to pay their taxes to a Queen that thinks lesser of them. I think of broken people that want to be healed, but don't have the resources or the opportunities to do so because they've been taught that happiness is to go to a mall and buy stuff that they're not going to use later. I see Canada as a confused place. Canada's like The Truman Show, knowing that it's a show and happy to participate.

What's the meanest thing anyone has ever said about your art?

I don't think people have said anything mean about my art. Maybe "singing like a crying, dying seal" is mean, but I think it's awesome. I think the meanest things that people say about me is about my physical appearance. I feel like people that get into the hater mode and critique my work don't even see it. They just read a headline and then they go after the easiest thing, which would be my looks.

What was the first album you ever bought with your own money?

The CD of Demanufacture by Fear Factory.

What was your most memorable day job?

I've had two jobs, none of them were long-lived. I worked at a key engraving place at the mall, and then I had a part-time job refilling ink when I was in school and pregnant with my son.

The one manager at the first job, she would clock in but never clocked out. She made so much money by saying she was working so many hours, so that was iconic. She was also my first experience with a white person that thought that people from a Latin country didn't know what technology was. I had to use a machine connected to a computer as part of the training, and she physically made the shape of a square with her two index fingers and asked me, "Do you know what a computer is?!" So that was pretty memorable.

If you weren't playing music, what would you be doing instead?

I think a radio host… or a teacher. I think a teacher, actually. A kindergarten teacher, that'd be a great job.

How do you spoil yourself?

Shoes all the way. 100 percent. It's an investment. I see my clothes as an investment in myself, but also in new independent designers. I'm not a big spender. I don't drink, I don't smoke — I don't even drink coffee or tea. My thing is just buying vinyl, shoes and clothing from up-and-coming designers.

What traits do you most like and most dislike about yourself?

I'm a witch — I really like that about myself. I'm very powerful; my energy is off the charts. I'm an inspiring person and I'm very transparent. I think those are the best things about me. I'm transparent and powerful and loving, so the people that are around me, they want to be around me. They love me. What I don't like about myself is that I'm too trustworthy.

What's the best way to listen to music?

Live. But if you can't see [the artist live], vinyl. Actually, however you can get your hands on it, that's the best way.

What do you fear most?

That I'm not there for my children.

If you won the lottery, what would you do with the money?

I've thought about this many, many times, so this is weirdly specific.

1. I would pay off all my student debt.

2. I would pay for my closest friends' student debt.

3. I would buy the building in Toronto where I raised my son.

4. I would build a school in the Wayuu territory in Colombia. I bought the land already, so I just need to build the school that I designed.

5. I would start an arts collective. I would buy another building where artists can make art and live in. [There would be] a daycare so that single moms can go to work or get their degree and have their kids in a safe environment so they don't have to stress out. When I was in university, I was a single mom and that was very stressful to me to have to do all the schoolwork and not being able to give it 100 percent because I had no one I trusted with my son.

What has been your strangest celebrity encounter?

I recently met Björk. We've been trying to meet each other since 2020, but then the pandemic happened. We finally played the same gig in Manchester and she invited [my husband and I] to her show, which was awesome. We talked for a couple of hours about music and shared songs. What was strange about it was how relaxed it was. Someone like that, who has influenced me and so many people around the world, you would think that she's untouchable and would be guarded, but it wasn't like that. It was actually very inspirational. I hope that I still have that curiosity for new music when I've accomplished all the things that she has accomplished. That was really cool.


Who would be your ideal dinner guest, living or dead, and what would you serve them?

David Lynch. I would love to have David Lynch over. I would give him a full on Caribbean Colombian meal: coconut rice, fried plantain, a sugar cane drink with lemon, and rice pudding or a tres leches cake.

What is the greatest song of all-time?

"Llorando te coge el día" by Etelvina Maldonado.