Earlier this month, we got to chat with a young artist making serious noise and on the verge of skyrocketing her career. At first glance, LIZ's music may not seem to quite fit the mold of her fellow Mad Decent signings, but dig a little deeper and you'll see why the team knighted her the "First Lady of Mad Decent." A lover of all things Y2K, LIZ combines the best pop sounds of Britney Spears and the R&B vibes of Destiny's Child with contemporary beats, that serves us a tasty dish of feel-good dance with a side of just the right amount of nostalgia.
It's no easy task to follow up Annie Mac on stage, but her performance at the DJ-dominated SXSW Mad Decent Showcase impressively displayed her luscious vocals and dance skills that acted as a nice breath of fresh air in the middle of the night. Her stage presence was prominent and elegant, and you couldn't help but keep your eyes on her as she worked through her club-pop repertoire.
We caught up with LIZ the day after at Austin's Hilton Hotel. Rocking a flashy Dolphin's jersey, LIZ hit a number of her favorite topics with us before she got ready for another long but stirring day of SXSW. Working with some of the most forward-thinking artists and producers in the game, and hot off the heels of her Just Like YouEP release and an upcoming debut album, we have no doubt that LIZ has a bright future ahead of her. Check out the interview in its entirety below, and find out a bit more about why this California girl has all the components of a superstar.
EARMILK: So to jump right into business, how pumped are you that the first season of Pokémon is now on Netflix?
LIZ: I know! I was talking to Ryan Hemsworth about it last night. And then there’s the new Sailor Moon coming out this year. I definitely love my Netflix.
EM: I caught your performance at Empire’s Garage last night – awesome show. How was it to play at a Mad Decent Showcase?
L: Of course, I was honored to be here and co-headline. Sometimes those shows are like, there’s a bunch of people rolling and they want to hear big bass drops and EDM, so it can be interesting. So, I think a lot of the time when I start playing after a DJ people are just kind of staring, and it’s not because they’re not enjoying themselves. They’re just like, “what is going on?” I’m just so different than all the other signings on Mad Decent, so I’m still kind of adjusting to playing Mad Decent shows. But it was a sick lineup last night, and it was really fun to be a part of it.
EM: How was it meeting Annie Mac?
L: Oh yeah, that was awesome! I was standing at the bottom of the stage getting ready to go on, and she came off the stage and was like, “are you Liz?! I’ve been playing your record “Say You Would,” I love it!” I was like, “that’s so cool!”
EM: Being so different from all the other signings, how did you end up on Mad Decent?
L: I had been doing a lot of writing, top-lining and singing on people’s records in this community, which is a pretty small community, so when there’s singers people like the word spreads, so Diplo became aware of me. And Paul Devro, who is one of the guys at Mad Decent, he told me he really wanted to put out a female R&B record, and that he loved my stuff, thought I was perfect, and wanted to know if we could please put it out. I was like, “of course, I am so down!” Mad Decent has always been a label that I’ve always wanted to be a part of. I’m such a dork – I used to put Mad Decent stickers on my computer way before I even met any of them. I always thought they were the “cool” crowd, the cool curators. They call me the “First Lady of Mad Decent” or whatever.
EM: Can you tell us a little about your journey growing up in music and how you got into all this?
L: I started working with writers and producers when I was about 13-years-old. Growing up in LA, there’s a lot of opportunities and you meet a lot of people. It’s about navigating it correctly and it takes a lot of years to find the right team, and I’ve gone through a lot of different incarnations of who I am now as an artist. It just took awhile to find the right support system and to hone my sound, my vibe, and you just have to grow up as a person to really know who you are as an artist. It’s really important. There were times when I thought I was ready to be signed and put out an album, and I was so close so many times. But looking back I’m glad it happened the way it did, because I know myself now and I’m mature enough to handle different situations that come my way. So I did a lot of shows, a lot of writing, wrote hundreds of songs with different people, and learned from a lot of great producers.
EM: Your show incorporates a lot of dancing and I almost felt like I was watching Destiny’s Child up there. Did you have a dancing background growing up?
L: Yeah! I was a ballerina for about 13 years and I did pop and jazz and stuff. My sound just lends itself to wanting to dance so I knew that I wanted to put on a show. I’m pretty ambitious with my live show. I’ve actually had to chill on the dancing a little bit just for myself so I can focus on singing. I love singing live, which is the reason I do everything, so I hate to be out of breath. But I dance as much as I can just because it makes me feel better, and it’s more fun for us and the audience.
EM: It’s exciting times for you, your Just Like You EP just came out just a couple weeks ago. How has that and the response been?
L: It’s been amazing! I wasn’t really expecting anything. I just knew I was really proud of the EP and I just wanted to get it out there and have as many people hear it as possible. The reaction has just been insane. It’s been so incredibly positive and it’s gotten a lot of support and support from other artists too. And there’s new people reaching out and wanting to work together. So it’s exciting! People from all parts of the world are listening!
EM: The cover art for the EP is like a Google image search montage of unicorns, rainbows, aliens, and Liz. How did you come up with that?
L: Haha, “Just Like You!” My manager and I have this inside joke where he says that I have unicorn blood. So that’s kind of how the whole unicorn thing came about, it’s just a little joke. And it’s between me and my listeners, because they know I love all things unicorn and extraterrestrial. I just thought it’d be kind of funny.
EM: So it’s your first time at SXSW – what’s your favorite thing so far?
L: Probably just running into so many people you know just walking on the street. Everyone is in this small 5-mile radius, if that, probably less! So it’s awesome running into all your friends you haven’t seen in awhile, and just being able to catch so many people’s shows makes it a really fun experience.
EM: What are some producers you’d die to work with?
L: I actually just did a song that Pharrell wrote and produced for the Spiderman 2 soundtrack, but I would love to do some more work with him. I think he’s incredible and I’ve always loved his stuff. I think it would be fun to work with Jimmy Jamand Terry Lewis. I don’t think they’re working anymore, I’m not sure what they’re doing, but everything they did with Janet is just heavenly. I’d love to write with Max Martin. I actually just met him last week, it was at Katy Perry’s house, haha. Dr. Luke or someone introduced us. I shook his hand and I didn’t want to wash it. I was just like, “oh my god, you’re a god.”
EM: Do you have any pre-show ritual before you get up there to perform?
L: You know, I really need to start doing that. I need some sort of pre-show ritual because I’m usually just a flustered mess, and just excited, nervous, and can’t control what’s going on in my brain. I usually just try and get a second alone backstage and just breath. I remind myself why I do this again, that it’s about entertaining people and living your dream, but sometimes it’s hard! Nerves can take over you! Last night was pretty scary, you know. Mad Decent shows – fans don’t fuck around.
EM: No doubt. What do you have in store for us in 2014?
L: Well, I’m working on my album. That’s #1. I think we’ve picked a couple singles that I’m really excited about. I did some work with Diplo for it, and we haven’t put out a song together yet so I’m excited for that. I just want to get the album out to as many people as possible, that’s what’s most important to me.
EM: If you were a Pokémon what would you be?
L: Oh, definitely Jigglypuff. I’m so sensitive to sodium and sugar, and I don’t know what it is, if it’s my Eastern European genes or the fact that I’m a Pisces, they say Pisces retain water super easily, but I get super puffy in my face. I look like a completely different person! I have like massive bloating problems, so I have to always watch what I eat and drink. I can’t have soup or anything.