Flame-haired balladeer Lily Kershaw’s music career kicked into high gear in 2012, when her gentle acoustic jangler “As it Seems” was in the season finale of the CBS series “Criminal Minds.” The next season featured her piano song “Ashes Like Snow,” and soon after came the release of her 2013 debut album “Midnight in the Garden.”
But the Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter had an epiphany a few years before, at age 18: “When I remember very specifically thinking that if someone told me that I could never write another song, ever again, I would actually panic. So I realized then that music was the path I should follow,” says Kershaw, 27, who appears in The City this weekend with her new EP “Work Tapes.”
Kershaw, who wrote plays in high school, imagined a Broadway-centered life of screenwriting and possibly acting. She has several IMDB assistant-production credits from those days having worked on acquaintances’ film projects.
“I just liked making art with friends,” she says. “And if anyone had a vision, I was always down to help execute that vision.”
Obsessed with Paul Simon, she also secretly began composing music at 13. But she shrugged songwriting off as a pipe dream, until intuition took over.
“My whole thing is about what feels right to my mental or emotional state, and I don’t feel good when I don’t write songs,” says Kershaw, who followed her album with a series of EPs and singles, including a breathy new version of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.”
The new collection has three tracks she penned within 24 hours, which she laughingly calls “a tribe.”
Kershaw is so beholden to her muse, she dreams symphonically. It’s an improvement over recurring World War II nightmares she used to endure, in which she fled bombing in a vaguely European village.
Although she doesn’t keep a dream diary for lyrics — sometimes she’ll wake up and capture song snippets in her iPhone’s voice memos — she says, “Some nights, a full-blown orchestra will be playing in my dreams, and it will get so loud it wakes me up.”
Kershaw believes that she chose a perfect time to enter show business. “Today, you can follow a creative impulse to a quick turnaround, making it easier for artists to create concept EPs and albums,” she says. “So my attitude is always, ‘Hey, this could be fun! Let’s see where this goes!’”
IF YOU GO
Joshua Radin, Lily Kershaw
Where: Chapel, 777 Valencia St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Nov. 25
Tickets: $40 to $45
Contact: (415) 551-5157, www.ticketfly.com