Lizzie Weber
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Lizzie Weber

St. Louis, Missouri, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2014

St. Louis, Missouri, United States
Established on Jan, 2014
Solo Folk Singer/Songwriter




"Lizzie Weber Review"

Lizzie Weber's debut self-titled album demonstrates the strength and passion of both her songwriting and her voice. Lizzie hails from St Louis, a city with strong musical roots, and Lizzie's own background in folk and acoustic music has influenced her own transition into a professional musician.

Whilst it may be easy to find touching points (Beth Orton, Norah Jones), Lizzie's style and delivery is very much her own, and her influences are felt, but not too heavily relied upon. The rasping guitar intro of California drops straight into the lilting arrangement, and Lizzie's voice comes front and centre, never really leaving your attention throughout the whole record. For the entire course of the album, her vocals are concentrated at the centre of often lush arrangements, often flowing in and out of the music which accompanies them.

Both Lighthouse, and the entire album, is more beguiling than is perhaps immediately obvious – sure, the voice is what stands out, but the songs on the record creep up on you, with their sympathetic arrangements and accompaniments. Safe Distance is set back, sweeping and removed, revealing the intimacy in the isolated and simple vocals. The feeling is one of loneliness mixed with hope, on a song which is soft and deliberately put together, but shows a strength which unites the entire collection.

This Time Around has an understatedly epic intro, with lifting strings drawing you into the song and the story. The performer is faithful to the songs on Lizzie Weber, putting effort in and getting good results out, with a serious tone, but one which is not overdone. The beautiful and slightly more rootsy Catastrophe revolves around an effective saxophone line and shuffling drums, which Lizzie's voice effortlessly floats over.

The album is full of intimate settings, which allow not only the singer, but also the songs themselves to communicate directly with the listener. Weber's voice brings to mind Kate Bush and Taylor Swift (although not at the same time), and the work is emotional, gutsy, direct, and effecting, if slightly one-dimensional in that it does tend to stick at one tempo a lot of the time (an exception being the pacier, Latin twist of Sorry Days), but as a collection it hangs together, and works together well.

Lizzie Weber is a confessional record, but one that is very well-handled, never straying into the over-dramatic, but instead homing in on a sound which is personal, powerful, and, at times, perfect. - No Depression

"Meet Lizzie Weber: Your Favorite New Artist of 2014; We're falling like fools for the siren of St. Louis"

Making her way to the back table of a narrow, deserted wine bar, Lizzie Weber began sharing her remarkable story before her coat and scarf were even off. Warming her hands around a steaming cup of tea, she recalled how her passions for writing, acting, and performing were all born at Once in the Chicago Theatre. Five years later, still clearly affected, she conjured memories of that staged adaptation of the Swell Season opus: “Over a thousand people sitting quietly in their seats,” she said, ”watching these two artists, completely entranced by their passion.”

That auspicious night changed the St. Louis native’s life. It opened Ms. Weber’s eyes to the possibilities of the stage. Yet blocking her ambitions stood misogynists and chauvinists threatening to send her dreams up in smoke. Instead of wilting in the heat, though, she blazed herself a new path, re-sculpting her molten ambition in new ways, into music.

I didn’t know any of this when I discovered Lizzie Weber, her debut album released in January, so I was floored hearing its hard-earned wisdom offered boldly through breathtaking vocals. The record rises and falls through vibrant landscapes: lushly orchestral here, acoustically raw there. It’s like listening to Idina Menzel in Laurel Canyon – or, less whimsically, like sitting quietly in a plush red seat, completely entranced by an artist’s passion.

With an inviting energy just shy of being eager, Ms. Weber revealed the roots of her strikingly graceful debut, from its commandingly poignant voice to its magical, sweeping arrangements. Stirring tea and memories, she began wistfully, reminiscing on how she had followed her heart, quit college, and, at the age of twenty, moved to LA to be an actress.

Lizzie Weber: I was told that I wasn’t unique-looking enough. I was told to dye my hair, to cut it, to lose weight. I was told to change everything about myself under the sun. After a while, it left me feeling just empty.

That was when I really started writing intensely. I started listening to a ton of Joni Mitchell. I remember listening to “Cactus Tree” like a hundred times over, trying to figure out how she started finger-picking. I didn’t take any lessons. That’s how I learned. You can probably hear some of those influences, especially in my piano pieces, even in my guitar[‘s] open tuning.

I had friends who were musicians who kept encouraging me and said, “You have a knack for this. Maybe you should record some of these tracks.” I continued to scoff at that. What I was writing was so bare and emotional. I was so afraid of sharing that.

Eleven: So your music is autobiographical?

LW: Yes. Yes. I found myself constantly writing about human connection. Relationships, not necessarily romantic ones, but familial [ones], friendships, and your relationship with yourself. I think that’s the most intense connection there is, what we have with people.

11: How did you come to be such an empathetic person?

LW: My parents. My mother in particular is probably the most empathetic woman. [She’s] affectionate, very sensitive, and very intuitive with her own emotions.

I always felt slightly ashamed that I was such an emotional girl, so open with what I was thinking and feeling. Too forward. One thing I’ve learned from peers [is] we don’t necessarily realize that there’s so much shame involved with expressing pain.

Writing helps me confront that. Listening to Joni so much, and Joan Baez, Mazzy Star, those types of artists, I was so heavily influenced and inspired to be okay with being honest and not worrying about whether or not somebody is going to listen to one of my songs and say, “Where’s the chorus? Where’s the commercial, radio-friendly track?” That was why I wanted to record without the influence of a label or somebody telling me how to arrange the accompaniment.

11: Speaking of which, your arrangements are gorgeously intricate and so unique from one another. How does one’s debut record come to include styles ranging from piano balladry to Beirut-sounding strings?

LW: I initially went in [to Sherpa Studios] to record a few demo tracks, just raw and live. Brian Ryback is the owner of Sherpa, and after a few months of working with him, he said, “Let’s experiment with adding more instrumentation. Why don’t you release a full-length album and I’ll co-produce it?” And I was like, “Hell yes, let’s do it.” So we got a cellist, a violinist, and a percussionist, and Brian himself plays sax, bass, organ, [and] mandolin. He was instrumental, and he’s musically trained. He went to Berklee.

I’ll usually compose the lyrics and music simultaneously. I think that’s why the connection between the music and the lyrics sounds so deliberate. This word corresponds with that note. Or maybe this note should be sharp or flat. That’s what’s impulsively going on in my mind, and sometimes those impulsive pieces turn out okay and sometimes they don’t.

There was a lot of improvisation. For a long time, we didn’t have anything actually written out, which was maybe not the smartest but certainly leaves the most room for experimentation.

Lizzie Weber RoadWhat you’re hearing, what ended up feeling improvised, was actually very deliberate. Every inflection that makes your ears perk up was intentional. Like in the beginning of “Lighthouse,” I wanted the slow, staccato string part to be like the waves in the ocean, to put people in that place.

Listening to all ten tracks, [the album] turned out dynamic, which was unexpected. “California” is more folk-pop. “Catastrophe” is folk-jazz. “Sorry Days” has this Mediterranean Americana feel to it. Not much of that was pre-planned. Being completely open and everybody getting their input was what made it so special. Those musicians were so important.

11: Did you sense your theatre background coming out when you were constructing the songs?

LW: You paint a picture for an audience onstage with your movement and your words and your facial expression. It’s a very intimate experience. I wanted that same thing on this album. I wanted the listener to feel connected to the music regardless of whether the story was their own. For example, “California” is a song for those idealists in the world. Originally, the lyrics were much more melodramatic. After recording the vocals for the first verse, I realized I wanted it to be more hopeful.

11: Why?

LW: I wrote those lyrics when I was still in California. After leaving, I realized how I wouldn’t be what I am today without that experience, without all of that rejection. California is sort of that land of opportunity. The grass is always greener.

We left the studio after that first verse. We went down to the Panera to grab some food with the notepad, and then, in thirty minutes, we wrote new lyrics. It was so impulsive, and that was it. We went right back up to the studio and recorded the song.

11: But many of your songs let the darkness in, especially “A Broken Bond” and “This Time Around.”

LW: It’s amazing how often all of us, at least at one point in our lives, think, “If I had done one thing different in that one moment, would my entire life be different? Would that person’s entire life be different? If I had done more to try and control our fates, where would I be now? Where would they be now?”

[“This Time Around”] is sort of a reflection of that. And “A Broken Bond” is probably…some people have listened to that song and said it reminds them of Donnie Darko’s “Mad World,” which I would say is much darker. It’s about one person reaching out and the other person rejecting that attempt. How heartbreaking that can feel. Those two songs in particular I’d say are definitely the most exposed; or at least completely raw, truthful, no-hiding; not too much lyrical ambiguity or metaphorical language; just this is what’s happening right now.

11: Do they make the stage show?

LW: Yes, occasionally. It’s interesting. There’s still that big challenge of fearing whether an audience will think it’s too dark. Whether they will shut off or tune you out if you start to go to a place that’s uncomfortable.

People don’t always want to hear that. They don’t want to hear what makes them uncomfortable. They want to get up and dance. They want to shake their shoulders. They want to get in the groove. Depending on the genre of music, you know what you’re going into when you’re going out to see an artist perform.

But even then, it’s still this underlying fear I have when I play a song of mine that will maybe touch too tender a nerve in somebody. When maybe my attitude should be [that] maybe somebody will find great comfort in this or very strongly relate to this. Sometimes it’s hard to get the guts to share those nitty-gritty pieces that push the boundary of everybody’s comfort zone.

I think that that’s one of the beauties of recording an album. You record it, and you put your heart into it, and you make it as good as you can, or as true to yourself as you can as the artist that you are, and then you just hope. If even one person connects to it, you’ve succeeded.

I don’t give a shit about money or fame. I don’t make music with the hope of ever being on Top 40. That’s never really been my goal. My goal as far as my career goes is just to be able to keep making music, in whatever capacity that may be.

Obviously, it’s a nice feeling when you sell a record, when somebody wants to purchase your music. It’s something you’ve created and put your heart and soul into, but it’s not at the forefront of my mind. I would be content playing in venues that are small enough that I can look into the face of every audience member. (laughs) Obviously, the Chicago Theatre would be cool, too.

11: Were you seeking fame when you went to LA?

LW: That’s a good question. My answer is no. I was so driven by the love of performing. My motivation for going to LA wasn’t necessarily to make it as an actress in those big blockbuster films. It was to hopefully be a part of those incredible independent films like Winter’s Bone or Little Miss Sunshine, the films that again deal with human connection or loss and love and hope.

That’s such a large part of what I love about performing, those elements. Of course, you want to be able to make a living doing what you’re doing, but I don’t think I ever really had stars in my eyes. I think that if I had, I probably would have lost a little bit of myself out there. Luckily, I don’t think I did.

11: Do you hold a grudge against those who objectified you in LA?

LW: There was a time…I was in LA between the ages of twenty and twenty-two, which is still so young. I’m twenty-four now, and I look back at the time, and I think about how hard it was for me to continually hear that something about my exterior wasn’t enough. I think had I not had this musical outlet, I would have a very big chip on my shoulder.

It just made me realize that I would rather do something that I had more control over. I could control when I wanted to be creative. I could control when I wanted to perform out – play a show. I didn’t have to wait for somebody to tell me when I could or couldn’t perform, and that was what was so appealing.

And maybe I’ll act again if the opportunity presents itself. I certainly love it just as much. It’s still a very big passion of mine. But for now, what I feel is right for me is following this path with my music.

A version of this interview appeared in the February 2014 issue of Eleven Magazine. - Eleven Magazine


Full-length debut album released January 10th, 2014