Los Angeles-born performer LIZ was signed to Diplo’s Mad Decent label in 2012, after only a few years of experimenting with electronic music. Since then, the 26-year-old has been positioned as the ideal link between early-millennium R&B/pop and contemporary dance music. LIZ toured on the Mad Decent Block Party tour this summer/fall and has new album slated for later this year. In March of 2015, LIZ toured in Tokyo, and announced she would be releasing an upcoming single with producer Sophie.
Indira Cesarine: Tell me about your early days in the music industry? How did you get started?
LIZ: I started when I was about 13. Growing up in LA, it’s lucky because you have opportunities that you may not have growing up in the middle of the country. I was always ambitious from a very young age. I was a ballerina, did some acting, but music was always my number one love and passion, so it was just like little things, it was a domino effect, really. The first thing was through one of my voice coaches, meeting with a producer, and from there I just met a whole bunch of writers and producers, and worked on music up until now. It’s really just been the last couple of years that I’ve truly learned how to hone my style, and my sound, and really just get my artistry to a place where I feel like I was doing something original and completely confident.
IC: Do you remember the first time that you performed live?
LZ: Well, I would say performing my own material… I played this coffee house and I was so nervous, literally the whole day I felt like I was going to throw up even though it was a small amount of people. Friends and family for sure, it was me and I was singing and playing piano. Very raw, stripped down gig… I did a whole series of gigs like that starting out.
IC: Fast forward all these years… you recently signed with Mad Decent. How did you hook up with Diplo and start working with him?
LZ: I would say about four or five years ago I started experimenting with electronic music. My voice is soulful and has that pop thing to it… I was just having fun and working out of my friends’ studios and it was pretty crazy. It’s a small community, the electronic community, and word kind of spreads quickly when people – like an artist who can top lines and write over their beats – at the same time I was working with straight R&B and pop producers too, so I’ve always kind of been like one foot in and one foot out with the underground world and the mainstream world. So I think that’s kind of what my whole thing is about, marrying those two worlds.
IC: How would you describe your sound to someone who doesn’t know it?
LZ: I’m very influenced by a lot of the artists from the early 2000s and 90s – the Y2K era – so vocalists that I look up to are Mariah Carey and Brandi and Kurt David, so there’s definitely elements of that glossy, R&B/pop time in the early 2000s, and I’m also influenced by a lot of UK music like deep house and some elements of trap music. I kind of tastefully, I guess you could say, marry some of those sounds altogether. I think it’s my original sound.
IC: Do you have a favorite contemporary musician?
IC: I heard that you collaborated with Riff Raff on a track?
LZ: That was one of my first releases off of Mad Decent, it actually kind of happened because we’re both on that label. I often forget about that one because I’ve done so much since then… that was like January 2013. It was a super fun track.
IC: Who were your favorite people that you’ve collaborated with so far?
LZ: I definitely like the track that I did with Ryan Hemsworth, that was kind of a – we were a fan of each other. I had the idea to do that cover, and then we decided on how we wanted to post it. It was a fun collaboration. I would love to do some collaboration with some female artists.
IC: Are there any female artists that you would want to collaborate with?
LZ: I think it would be fun to do a track with Ariana Grande because I think that like our styles are similar, kind of. We’ve gotten compared to each other a few times, so that may be fun to do a modern Brandy/Monica type collab. I think it would be fun to do something with Lorde – she and I are both fans of each other’s stuff… that could be very interesting.
IC: So of artists that are out and about today, who do you consider the most legendary?
LZ: I think Gwen Stefani is a huge legend in her own right, and she’s one of my personal idols. Just the way that she’s carried herself throughout her whole career and been so stylish and reinvented herself… so talented and she’s so creative in so many ways. She’s like my number one. Britney is a legend for obvious reasons – she’s set so many trends, I remember looking up to her when I was little. Mariah Carey is of course – her voice is so completely timeless and no one will ever forget her.
IC: What inspires your songwriting?
LZ: Definitely just all the shit that goes through my head – relationships and things that I witness as a friend to other people. Definitely every song stems from a raw place even if I end up twisting it into something painful. So, I’m human and I’m just like every other girl when it comes down to your feelings. I’m a very sensitive person; I think you have to be as an artist. My goal is to relate to a lot of people, and so far I’ve been feeling that at like my shows and feedback I get from fans. It’s really special and that’s what makes everything worth it.
IC: Can you tell us about the projects that you’re working on at the moment?
LZ: I have an EP out that I’m very, very proud of it. It’s called Just Like You and the title is just a line from the opening tracks and it represents a lot of things that I stand for as an artist… I felt like an underdog a lot of my life, so I stand for having a lot of perseverance and patience and really just working towards what you love and never selling yourself short. I’m very proud of the EP, it’s very progressive, and I’ve taken a lot of risks, and I’ve worked with a lot of interesting, up and coming underground producers. It’s fun, it’s bright, it’s just… I’m very proud of it. It’s just a taste of what’s to come.
IC: I heard that you have your own merch line?
LZ: Yeah, I made some stuff for when I was touring. I made these beanies. I wear beanies a lot, it just seemed like a natural merch idea with my logo. I have a lot of ideas when it comes to supplementary ideas for my career. Obviously the music is number one… I want to make sure that anything that I do creatively makes sense and I’m also doing it because I can. I want it to be meaningful.
IC: Have you ever had a really difficult performance in your career that you had to get through?
LZ: A while ago I was in New York and my in-ear system, which is what you use to hear the monitors, was not working, and some button got pressed and it was completely on mute. I couldn’t hear myself through the whole performance so I just had to do it. I had to get through it, and it ended up being one of my favorite shows because the fans were so high energy. At some point you have to just be like ‘fuck it’ and get through it… I just relied on my vocals at that point, my training, to get me through, I’ve definitely had shows like that, I’ve had shows when I was sick – those were difficult. I dance a lot in my live shows; I have a lot of choreography. It takes a lot of energy and if something’s off it affects you. But every performer goes through stuff like that, you’re never going to be perfect. Your attitude gets you through it, you just have to remember why you’re there and why you’re on stage… it’s to entertain people.
IC: Do you have a motto or any sort of words of wisdom that you live by?
LZ: I go by ‘slow and steady wins the race’ because I’ve had a lot of times in my life where I thought things were going to happen and they didn’t but it ended up happening for the best and it was totally for a reason and it ended up being so much better because I was just patient. So pretty much like that it definitely one of the mottos that I live by. I’m happy with how things are going now, I could’ve made it when I was 17 and been a splash in the pan because I wasn’t mature enough to really know who I was as an artist and a person. I could be working at a coffee shop right now so I feel grateful for how my life is going. I just want to have a long and steady career and be a tastemaker and make good decisions and surround myself with good people and do some great work.
IC: Can you tell me, in twenty years from now, where do you see yourself?
LZ: I would probably like to be married and have a family by that point but I will always be involved with the business. I think I’m just… creativity is nothing to be saved. If you have that passion, you have no choice. I would like to have a cartoon series that I’m producing and music… possibly finding other artists and working with them and writing. Who knows? I’d love to continue acting because that’s something that I’ve been doing since I was really young as well. There’s no age barrier on that. Gwen Stefani is 44 and she’s killing it, so who knows!
For more from our interview with LIZ, pick up a copy of The Untitled Magazine‘s “Legendary” Issue 7 now!
Interview, Photography, and Styling by Indira Cesarine for The Untitled Magazine
Hair by Caile Noble @ Jed Root
Make-up by Roberto Morelli