Artist Interview: Singer-Songwriter Lizzy Ross

Lizzy Ross, an artist I found through her YouTube cover of “To Make You Feel My Love” helped us out by answering a few questions about her music.  In addition to the video at the end of the interview, I highly encourage you to check out Lizzy’s other music on YouTube.  She’s terrific.
1) How did you get your start in music?

My birth scream may have actually been an attempt to sing. My parents dubbed me “the loudest child ever born” (flattering!) and for the first few years of my life, I insisted that people call me Ariel. I had trouble saying the name, though, so it was more like “Awiel, the liddle merlaid.”

Once I got out of the mermaid phase (never actually happened), I kept singing. I learned to play the guitar. I went home about a year ago to recover an old filing cabinet and found that it was full of terrible, terrible songs I had written in my tween years. I hope I’ve gotten better at writing since then…
I played in a few high school bands with great high school band names. Among the gems: Baboon Forest and Tijuana Schoolbus. We didn’t even make the top 10 in the county battle of the bands. Undeterred, I went off to college and goaded my first roommate into disposing of her myriad pizza boxes – stacked neatly under her loft bed – by singing to her. She said she liked my singing and she’d “trade” me cleaning for songs, but I strongly suspect that the dumpster was preferable to my early overtures.
A few years and a philosophy degree later, I was ready to leave school and my college band Lafcadio. Looking back on it, I see that Lafcadio was something really special – a group of friends making music that we all cared about. Sure, we were disfunctional. Really, really disfunctional. But I have occasional nostalgia for shrimp dinners, Schlitz, and the 2-part harmonies inspired by Caitlin Cary and Ryan Adams. In those days, we put the flannel in Americana.
But… all good things come to an end. I was leaving school and determined to play pro. I started my own group and it’s been a long odyssey of learning about music, communicating (musically and otherwise), finding relatively sane people to play with, and learning to work as a group under frequently difficult circumstances. The good times outshine the bad ones, and there is a constant sense of progress and learning. We learn about music, we learn about ourselves, we meet all kinds of people and get a lot of chances to grow – emotionally, artistically, and as a business. It’s a really awesome job.
2) I found you through a YouTube cover.  Who are your favorite artists to cover?  Do you have a favorite cover song?

Thank you YouTube! Hmm… I don’t do a lot of covers, but when I do they are:

1. The recognizable cover -to get people in a venue to realize that you’re playing music, not just making random noise (bar patron: “Oh, I love  “Brown Eyed Girl!!”)
2. The cover I love – something that makes you feel good, something that fits in the set, something that you wish you wrote (“Down Home Girl,” written by Artie Butler and Jerry Leiber, played by everyone from the Rolling Stones to Old Crow Medicine Show)
That said, I do love Van Morrison. Hardnose the Highway and Astral Weeks are two of my favorite albums. I love Rubblebucket, a young psychedelic rock band out of Vermont. I love Joni Mitchell, especially Blue and Court and Spark, and I love Richard Thompson’s Vincent Black Lightning. I love Paul Simons’ Rhythm of the Saints, I love every sneeze Lennon and McCartney ever emitted, I love to hear Bonzo slay his drum kit, and I love Bill Evans on the keys. I love a lot of things and I want to learn as many of them as I can before I die.
3) What projects are you working on currently? 

I’m doing a lot of writing right now, working on our next album. It’s exciting!

4) What does the song writing process look like for you?

I usually start with some kernel that has been developing in my head without my realizing it. Melody, words, all of the above. Sometimes it comes easy, sometimes it takes a long time to tease it out. After the initial little “gift” of the song kernel, there’s often a lot of work to be done crafting a whole song – structure, poetic logic, etc.

5) What would you like our readers to know about your music?
I hope they enjoy it. I make music because it helps me understand the world, and I think my music sometimes (when I’m lucky) helps other people do the same. Among many other things, music is a way for us to connect and process things that go beyond words. We make it together. An audience watching a show and participating in it plays at least as big a part as the lead guitarist. I’m grateful for their ears and their involvement, and for the opportunity to do work that is creative and liberating and helps me grown in self-knowledge. Thank you.

Leave a comment