Gig Seeker Pro


Boulder, Colorado, United States

Boulder, Colorado, United States
Band Pop Rock


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Bird on a Wing

One night after a show in Portland, Oregon, some lo-cals insisted on taking me and the rest of my band across town to the fabled Crystal Ballroom to experience firsthand the venue’s famous “floating” dance floor. But while the spring-loaded, bouncing hardwood beneath my feet was indeed a thrill, I was more impressed with the musician onstage who was causing the swells—an angel-voiced frontwoman with devilish guitar skills named Liza. Armed with an early-’70s Strat and captaining a Marshall half-stack, she looked as comfortable and dangerous with the weapon in her hands as Patty Hearst did in that infamous photo of her wielding a machine gun. Liza was refreshing because, at the time, the only estrogen on rock radio seemed to be the mass-marketed folk-pop of Jewel, Sarah McLachlan, and other café-friendly Lilith Fair fare.

Now, in 2006, when women are rocking and punking out more then ever, Liza again bucks the trend. After years melting faces with Zuba and guest-starring with countless bands (including String Cheese Incident), the Colorado songstress has released Bird on a Wing, an entrancing collection of songs that mostly eschews the harder rock/funk riff-rock approach that put Zuba on the indie-rock map, in favor of the soothing, smoky timbres of jazz piano, pedal steel, violin and viola, hushed horns, brushed snare drum, and, of course, Liza’s jangly acoustic and electric

guitars. As always, it’s the siren sound of Liza’s soothing voice—melodic to the last, and with a perfect, relaxed vibrato—that sells the music. There’s a certain zen in her phrasing. Like Joni Mitchell, Tom Petty, Norah Jones, and other great singer/musicians, Liza projects an inner calm that keeps the listener planted comfortably in the center of her captivating world, no matter how wild her musical surroundings. ( - By Jude Gold | Guitar Player Magazine | November 2006

"Savannah native Liza Oxnard finds true self with new record, Bird on a Wing"

Accent | Local News | John Stoehr | Saturday, June 17, 2006

By the time she was 12 years old, Liza Oxnard knew she would perform.

The singer-songwriter, who goes simply by Liza, was born in Atlanta, raised in Savannah and Hilton Head Island, S.C., and traveled the country with her mother and stepfather. Along the way, she discovered a gift for singing and song craft - and the desire to perform.

"I was like 'Wow! This is what I want to do with my life,'" Liza said.

Today, Liza is the former frontwoman of the funk band Zuba and the creator of songs that have been featured in indie films such as "Kingpin" and "There's Something About Mary." Now, she is heading in a new direction with a new record titled "Bird on a Wing," which will be released Tuesday, and a gig tonight at The Sentient Bean.

We caught up with Liza at her home in Boulder, Colo. We talked about her childhood infatuation with music, "solar-powered communities" and the story behind "Bird on a Wing."

Savannah Morning News: How did you learn you had a talent for singing?

Liza: I started playing music in bands when I was 14. I've always been singing. My uncle recorded me on the front stoop of my grandparents' house. I learned to play piano when I was 8 or 9. But then I learned guitar because I wanted an instrument I could travel with.

SMN: What drew you to music for a career?

Liza: I didn't have a choice. I struggled in school until I went to performing arts school in Cincinnati. I knew then when I was 12 that I would do performance. I danced and did drama, but music was always there. That's what I wanted to do with my time. I started doing recording, too, and crafting of songs on my own. I started writing songs, my own things, and that drove me to pursue it even further.

SMN: How did you pursue it?

Liza: After college, I traveled the country by myself to study solar-powered community and sustainable living. I was really interested in how people can live by making a smaller footprint on the earth. But I kept getting sucked into music so much that I started wondering if this is what I'm supposed to do. Then I moved to Telluride, Colo.

SMN: What happened there?

Liza: I met up with all these great musicians. I met Billy Nershi of the String Cheese Incident and then I went to Zuba. It's like No Doubt without the reggae. We toured for eight years all over the country and played 180 to 220 shows a year.

SMN: Why did you leave Zuba?

Liza: I was getting tired of touring. We were always on the road. And stylistically I was starting to shift and become more of a singer-songwriter. I wanted to do different subject matter, do different styles. During that time, I reconnected with Billy to do a record (titled "It's about Time"). Then Billy and I did a tour to promote the album.

SMN: Is that where "Bird on a Wing" comes in?

Liza: When I got home, I knew it was time to make my own album. It's really true to what I wanted to do. It has jazz influences, a little country and soul. It weaves a richer picture of my background.

SMN: What's the story behind the record?

Liza: It's more emotional material about relationships and life, and not about partying and dancing. I wanted to tell more human and personal stories. I lost family members, and when I ended my relationship with Zuba, I also ended a relationship with a boyfriend and ended up losing my house. It was a really painful time. The album is about change and letting go when it's time, about staying strong in the face of adversity.
- Savannah Morning News

"The Lovely Liza"

Liza, formerly of Zuba, entices from her honest storytelling to her raging rock 'n' roll.

One minute she's speaking softly and slowly about the time she almost quit singing after developing vocal nodules. The next she's breaking out in full-on laughter - which she does often - explaining that she couldn't make so much as a peep for two weeks her freshman year in college.

Like her conversations, Liza's music extends from personal storytelling with her pretty, heartfelt ballads (you could hear a pin drop) to lusty, raging rock 'n' roll. She plans to give people a taste of her versatility as a singer/songwriter and guitarist this weekend at State Bridge Lodge in Bond at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

"As long as I feel good about anything I do on stage, people will feel that too. Well maybe not anything!” the musician said laughing.

The last time she played State Bridge in 1999 was with rock band Zuba. This time around she's bringing her own band, Brian McRae on drums, Aaron Snyder on bass, Glenn Taylor on pedal steel, and Mark Donavon on guitar who will be filling in for her regular keyboard player Erik Deutsch. The band tours nationally, opening for such acts as Ben Harper, The String Cheese Incident, Spearhead, The Samples, Patty Griffin and the Neville Brothers.

"I love playing the mountains. I have many supportive fans there," she said.

Having recently finished her first solo album, "Bird on a Wing," buying a home in Boulder and being in a sparkling marriage for two years, Liza says she feels more grounded than ever. And it shines through on her new record. When she wrote the songs, Zuba was coming to a halt and when she got off tour for the last time, she found out her boyfriend whom she had just moved in with was cheating on her.

"The album’s a lot about change!" the singer said. "My love life, my home life and my work life were all ending. I was 32, going through a painful transition where I realized, 'OK, I'm not in my 20’s anymore, what’s next.'"

It was the first time Liza had her heart badly broken, and the first time in eight years she wasn't on the road, but she put it all back together by writing those songs and realizing she could get back up to face the world even stronger on her own.

"It gave me such a sense of myself. Now I know I can handle what life throws me. I think that's why my music is so rockin' right now," she said.

Liza started to sing when she was barely able to talk. She always knew she wanted to perform, she just didn't believe that she could.

Growing up, Liza's mother got married three times and had a profession that kept the family on the move. Liza lived in Savannah, Ga., Puerto Rico, Cincinnati, Washington, D.C., New Jersey, New York and finally Florida, changing schools every two years. She struggled with her schoolwork and couldn't fulfill her need to connect with the world around her. Her true passion was music and a certain emptiness in her life fueled her to pursue it. She attended the Cincinnati School for the Creative and Performing Arts for two years when her family was to pick up again. Liza decided to enroll herself in a boarding school in New Jersey that focused on the performing arts and alternative schooling.

"It was OK that you were an artist there. You were encouraged to pursue that. It was this allowance to be you", the 38-year-old said. "I don't think I would have followed the arts that strongly and confidently if I hadn’t gone to Purnell."

From there she went on to explore an education in music at Rollins College, a liberal arts school in Florida. But when she arrived, a classical singing teacher at the college told her she would “never be a singer”. She had vocal nodules, likened to calluses from using her voice improperly. She was so freaked out she almost gave up music entirely.

"That comment affected me for years. It was such intense feedback right when I was at the most vulnerable time of my life. I think that he was very misguided in saying that to me. But now I totally laugh about it because that's how I make my living - with my voice."

In order to heal the doctor told her she couldn't talk for two weeks. She wore a pad of paper around her neck so that she could communicate, like the girl from "The Piano," Liza joked. Making light of the situation, a friend wrote on it, 'I don't hate you, I just can't talk.' She majored in environmental studies, but would eventually turn back to music.

After college, Liza moved to Telluride in 1989 where she met up with Billy Nershi, now of The String Cheese Incident. The two combined their talents and gained a spot at the 1990 Telluride Bluegrass Festival. The following year, Liza founded Zuba. The rockers became a regional favorite and were getting gigs all over the country. They appeared in various newspapers and magazines including "High Times” and landed several songs in 2 major Hollywood movies. But eight years into it, they were still struggling financially. Liza was investing all her money into the band.

"We loved it, and we loved being in a band together, but I think our finances were having a profound affect on the group's dynamic, and we were just exhausted from touring constantly for 8 years" Liza said. "It got to that point where I realized there was a path of less resistance. I thought personally that maybe I could find something more along the line of who I was becoming and focusing more on my voice. I wanted to speak more from my own experience.”

But it was with Zuba where Liza realized not that she wanted to perform but that she could. She began to believe in herself and decided to go it alone. Her hopes for her future speak for newly found courage.

"I'd like to see myself in a couple of years out rockin' some bigger shows," she said quietly of her loud dreams. "I'd like to be playing a sane 100 shows a year."

By Laura A. Ball
Vail Daily, May 12, 2005
- Vail Daily


Zuba - Zuba (1993)
Zuba - Soundboard Live '95 (1995)
Zuba - The New Cruelty (1996)
Zuba - South Of Eden (1998)

Liza - Demo (2000)
Liza - Live (2001)

Billy & Liza - This Time (2002)

Liza - Bird On A Wing (2006)



Bird On A Wing, Liza’s first solo release, marks a new beginning for one of Boulder, Colorado’s most admired talents. “This is the first time in my eighteen year career as a singer songwriter,” says Liza, “where I made every choice for the production from start to finish. I am so happy with how it turned out!”

Liza first gained national attention in 1991 as the singer, lead guitarist and songwriter for the band Zuba. Liza’s fierce lead guitar work, seductive vocals, and passionate songwriting helped Zuba sell more than 30,000 units of their four self-produced albums and land singles on the soundtracks of several motion pictures, most notably Kingpin and There’s Something About Mary.

But the Zuba years came to an end in 1999 when Liza and the other members of the band began to desire different musical directions. “I was ready to make an album that was less about getting a crowd to dance, and more about speaking, in an intimate way, to the human heart.”

Bird On A Wing is that album. Filled with the same compelling intensity that led Zuba to have a cult fan base all over the US, Liza’s songs now have an artistic maturity and a deep emotional resonance. The songs speak about love, loss and what composes a rewarding existence. “I went through many changes all at once, from losing my home, friendships I had spent many years building, and ending the band, which had been my identity for so long. That is when I began to write more about self-reflection, family connections, and the wide range of relationships that enrich and sustain our lives.”

As she wrote the songs, Liza began to search for the musicians who could help her realize her new sound. She interviewed and auditioned some of Colorado’s finest, then put together a team that includes keyboard player and co-producer Erik Deutsch from the Charlie Hunter Trio, drummer/percussionist Brian McRae from the Freddy Jones Band, bass player Aaron Snyder, Glenn Taylor on pedal steel and backing vocalist Ryan Tracy. “It was amazing to hear the evolution of the songs when I put all these accomplished musicians together. This is by far my most rewarding experience as a songwriter and a co-writer.”

The Album is a stylistically and emotionally diverse collection that shows off Liza’s ability to capture life in all its complicated and contradictory guises. “I Gave It Away” is a bluesy country song accented by Deutsch’s dramatic Gospel-influenced Grand Piano and the inventive pedal steel work of Taylor. Liza’s vocals here are achingly vulnerable. “The song is about having to let go of love before you’re ready.” “Gone Tomorrow” is a swinging, cool jazz number, with a relaxed groove, and Liza’s smooth voice. While the song examines mortality, the music gives the tune a bright, breezy feeling. “My grandfather on my mom’s side loved jazz. When he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, I started thinking about impermanence. I wanted to write about loss, but I wanted to honor his playful spirit, too, so the song balances these light and dark feelings.”

The title track, “Bird On A Wing,” is a striking pop melody that deals with rebirth and renewal. It offers some of the album’s most vivid images, and highlights dramatic ensemble work from the band that builds to a hopeful conclusion. “Boys On Parade,” another standout, has a complex, meandering folk-rock arrangement, with Liza’s strong acoustic guitar work. Liza’s vocals are graceful, but there’s an implied cynicism in her delivery. “It is a metaphorical look at men who go out to strip clubs, or more, before they get married. I don’t judge it, but I want to understand what’s behind it. Guys say: ‘I can go do this, but I still love you too’. I just wonder if they think about how this affects their much more meaningful bond.”

Other unforgettable tracks include: “So Easy,” a soothing torch song with a modified hip hop beat, “Home For My Heart” a ballad with bright piano work and cascading backing vocals, and “This Time” a rock song with dazzling guitar work from Liza and Deutsch.

Listening to Bird on a Wing, one really hears the years of craft and dedication Liza has put into her music. With it, Liza shows that, on her own, she is a skillful and tempered songwriter with a commanding presence, yet a tender voice. Her powerful vignettes of love, loss and joy come to sparkling life. “So many artists spend their lives evading projects that really matter to them,” she says, “I feel fortunate to have figured out that for me, so far, it was this album, that I have had the amazing chance to make it, and that most importantly, I feel proud of how far i have come.”