Liz Rognes is an indie-folk, Americana, and jazz inspired singer/songwriter. While she is currently based in Spokane, Washington, her open-prairie Midwestern roots are apparent in her clear and lilting songwriting. Classically trained as a soprano, Liz started writing and singing folk songs in college and fell in love with the idea of singing about her trouble. Liz worked closely with her cellist friend and producer Dan Zamzow (Cloud Cult, Deep Soul Deities) of Deep Sea Productions to create her first album, Red Flags, in 2009, and her second album, Topographies (2012).
Liz’s new album, Topographies, is a collection of songs that maps the terrain of physical and figurative landscapes. Her signature real-life songwriting is featured in the album, but Topographies also includes songs that explore less tangible contours, like identity and survival. Songs on the album range from flirtatious country stomp (What I Can’t Have) to ethereal, ambient songs (like Lake Okoboji) that feature rich vocal harmonies and string arrangements. All of the songs, though—whether playful or powerful—explore some aspect of the landscapes of the human condition.
“Liz Rognes has established herself as one of the finest local voices. Writing songs of heartbreak and life's struggles, she sings as an angelic soprano in her upper range, but can get downright soulful in her middle register.”
—Matt Loi, producer, 103.1 KCDA
“Liz Rognes makes simple music beautiful. The Spokane-by-way-of-Minnesota singer-songwriter has fast risen in the local scene with her powerful real-life songwriting. She's a unique female singer: her vocals often starting submissive and evolving into something strong and powerful. A true Spokane gem.” —The Pacific Northwest Inlander
"Her music leads with her articulate soprano voice — and she has an incredible range."
—Jordy Byrd, The Pacific Northwest Inlander
Liz Rognes: vocals, guitar
Dan Zamzow: cello, bass, etc.
Topographies, 2012 (Deep Sea Productions, Minneapolis).
Red Flags, 2009 (Deep Sea Productions, Minneapolis). Re-released in Spokane in 2010.
Liz Rognes' Vocals Continue to Captivate on Second Album, Topographies
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Spokane songstress Liz Rognes' lilting, articulate soprano and impressive range are just as captivat...Spokane songstress Liz Rognes' lilting, articulate soprano and impressive range are just as captivating on her second full-length album, Topographies. Jazz influences spice up the earnest ballads and old-time instrumentation that keep it indie-folk.
Topographies (Liz Rognes)
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It's a balmy August night, damp and hazy and lazy and drawling, and I sit and explore Topographies, ...It's a balmy August night, damp and hazy and lazy and drawling, and I sit and explore Topographies, the second album from Liz Rognes. Originally from Minnesota, her maps have led her west, to relocate in Spokane, spinning tales of loss, hopes, and redemptions. Whatever caves were carved in the Midwest, she has filled with song, and her voice is a sonorous whisp, a resolute defiance in the dark caverns we all have. A perfect stand against this summer night stagnation.
Songs like the syncopated "Mirabelle" leave you imagining an alternate universe where Liz became a jazz-singer, and her tone is perfectly well suited for the sensuous, smoky beat of the old standards. In this universe, however, she was a classically trained soprano, and now makes her art like a rowdy Jewel, and the mountain folky tones and acoustic rock instrumentation (with haunting cello additions) are a perfect fit for her home-spun tales of our own inner pathways. I particularly like "Mama Said," with its hilly melody of the resounding strength of stepping into our own potential: "the only feet to get off this road are the two that I call mine... I'm going to play like my elders and stand up too.. there ain't nothing braver than the women I come from." We have a hand in our own history, our own story, and Rognes knows it. "Mountain Pass" is a beautiful hymn... comparisons of the dangers of a snowy pass and the dangers of a relationship: careful driving is the only way to make it through. Where some might make such a premise hokey, Rognes manages to make the metaphor poignant, touching, and honest.
It's this honesty that shines through the entire album. Liz Rognes is a woman who is not afraid of her own self, her strengths and her flaws, and she sings her truth in a voice of redemption. Life is a stance worth taking, and she takes it, and turns it into great music. I look forward to hearing more from this talented singer-songwriter, as life continues to inspire her and her art.
Local Lounge--Liz Rognes
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Liz Rognes grew up in Iowa, spent time in Minnesota, and now resides in Spokane. She started writin...Liz Rognes grew up in Iowa, spent time in Minnesota, and now resides in Spokane. She started writing songs in college as she was studying classical music. Her songs are accessible, but her classical influence comes through in her singing abilities. Liz's voice features clean tone and articulation, great control and sustain...all tempered with an earnest folksy characteristic that highlights her songwriting. This Sunday she will drop by the Local Lounge to perform a few songs live and play some tracks from her CD "Red Flags."
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The peachy floral of her skirt, the softness of her boots, the flicker of her nose ring — she casts ...The peachy floral of her skirt, the softness of her boots, the flicker of her nose ring — she casts a gentle silhouette on the dimly lit walls of the Rocket Bakery. Liz Rognes has a sweet, friendly demeanor, both onstage and in person. It’s almost impossible to see the cracks.
Last year, the singer/songwriter from Minnesota packed her bags and enrolled in Eastern Washington University’s Master of Fine Arts creative writing program, leaving a troubled past behind her. Six years ago, this former prom queen was in an eating-disorder treatment center, drunkenly confessing that she was sneaking in soapy vodka via a shampoo bottle. And weeks before that, she was lying in an intensive care unit recovering from a dangerously close suicide attempt.
Back then, a good day was measured by whether the scaled tipped 100 pounds, whether she had been kicked out of an all-you-can-eat buffet for eating too much (this happened twice) or whether she had blacked out the night before.
She’s battled through alcohol and drug dependency, achieved six years of sobriety, shaved off her dreadlocks, lost a friend to cancer and had her heart broken by her first girlfriend.
This isn’t your polite, everyday conversation. Unlike Rognes herself, it’s not always pretty.
“I think writing for me has been healing,” she says. “Blogging is almost like stream-of consciousness writing.”
Rognes writes when she cannot speak and sings what cannot be said. And nothing about her smile or Pepto-Bismol pink sunglasses gives it away.
“Having a creative outlet of some kind is what’s necessary,” Rognes says. “It’s what energizes me. I’ve been through some stuff and gotten out of it. All of it all plays into the way I feel about art.”
The classically trained vocalist began writing and performing in coffee shops during college. Her music leads with her articulate soprano voice — and she has an incredible range. The pitch of her voice and her scat-like tendencies sound like a little girl playing with her dolls, or a grown woman singing about the ghosts of past lovers.
“The content of my songs are pretty personal,” she says. “I’m in the process of sorting out what I call myself and my recovery. I try to take something intimate, take something personal and turn it into something that people can relate to. To make a personal story, publicly resonant.”
In 2009, she compiled her lovesick stories and diatribes with Minnesota producer Dan Zamzow into an album called Red Flags. The entire work is reminiscent of Jewel’s Pieces Of You.
The openly queer singer kicks things off on the sultry side with a song called “In Your Hands.” The album’s title track showcases Rognes singing coyly about the faults and misgivings of lovers, while “Solid Ground” is a bluesy number that gives a needed variety to her songwriting. At times her voice and songs have a childlike quality to them, another similarity to Jewel’s debut album.
Since moving to Spokane she’s played the gamut of open mic nights, coffee shops, the Revolving Music Project, Bike to Work Week and Pride Week.
“I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to get into the music scene here,” she says. “But I couldn’t not play music. I enjoy getting to share my songs with people, and I’m always surprised they actually want to listen.
“I really occupy the space in between, and learning how to live in this in-between space isn’t so easily defined. So I write about it.”
The personal, public and private side of her life may feel at odds, but this is her story to tell, the best that she knows how. And judging by her album, she seems to have lost something in the Midwest. A lover? A lifestyle? Herself? Either way, it will be exciting to hear what’s to come of her meanderings and rebirth in Spokane.
Liz Rognes album re-release party with Adam Kogler, Johnny Unicorn and readers at Empyrean on Sunday, June 27, at 7 pm. Tickets: $5. All-ages. Call 838-9819. Rognes also plays with the Revolving Music Project at Empyrean on Thursday, June 24, at 7:30 pm. Tickets: $5 - $7. All-ages.
Student creates music inspired by personal experiences
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When most girls were playing with Barbie dolls, Liz Rognes was playing the piano. She received one ... When most girls were playing with Barbie dolls, Liz Rognes was playing the piano. She received one as a Christmas gift at the age of two and hasn't stopped playing since.
Rognes is originally from Iowa. The classically trained vocalist has studied music theory and composition, earning her bachelor's degree in music in 2005. Recently enrolled at EWU, she is working toward a master's degree in creative writing.
Rognes began writing and performing songs in coffee shops during college. Since moving to Spokane, she has played at open mic nights, coffee shops and as a part of the Revolving Music Project, an event similar to open-mic performances with collaborating musicians.
She has also performed for Bike to Work Week and Pride Week.
"Being a female in the music business is not always easy," according to Rognes.
"I think sometimes women are less likely to be taken seriously as musicians and more likely to be seen for their body or how they look onstage rather than what they can create," Rognes told The Inlander. "I don't think that's always the case, but it's a special challenge for women."
Alongside her music career, Rognes has also worked as a preschool Spanish teacher, a nanny and a piano teacher.
In 2009, Rognes released her first full-length album, "Red Flags," on Deep Sea Productions (DSP). The album was produced by Dan Zamzow, founder of DSP, and features Rognes' signature soprano voice and folk acoustic sound.
Though Rognes' future is looking bright, her past was not always so positive.
In 2004, Rognes spent time in an eating disorder treatment center. Before that, she was in an intensive care unit recovering from a suicide attempt. She also dealt with alcohol and drug dependency before achieving six years of sobriety.
Rognes says she uses writing to help her deal with her past.
"I think writing for me has been healing … Having a creative outlet of some kind is what's necessary," said Rognes. "It's what energizes me. I've been through some stuff and gotten out of it. All of it all plays into the way I feel about art."
Rognes hopes that people can relate to her songs, though they are very personal.
"I try to take something intimate, take something personal and turn it into something that people can relate to, to make a personal story, publicly resonant."
For more information about Liz Rognes, visit lizrognes.com or myspace.com/lizrognes.
Iowa Roads, Lovely Things, Falling, Solid Ground, Sunset, You Were Gonna, What I Can't Have, Uh-Oh, Timing, Ticket, Red Flags. A typical set is 45 minutes to an hour, but I am happy to play a shorter set and I have plenty of material for a longer set.
There are no upcoming dates at this time.