There are so many professional musicians out there, working hard touring, recording, writing, performing in different projects, many of them relatively unknown, many of them you SHOULD know. One of them is the amazing Liza Carbé who has had a long illustrious career in quite a few different genres from rock to R&B to world, and continues to make music joyfully! She is a MUST KNOW in the music industry!
Singing and then learning piano as a child in Connecticut, Liza’s lessons were cut short by a move to Los Angeles at age seven where she then became interested in guitar and started lessons at age nine. Liza says, “I loved the sound of the guitar and I wanted to accompany myself singing. The Beatles and folk music were my initial inspiration. My parents insisted that I take lessons and learn to read, so my teachers introduced me to Classical, Flamenco, Surf music and finger style arrangements of popular music. I really fell in love with Flamenco and many of the Spanish composers like Federico Torroba. I also loved Joni Mitchell and Led Zeppelin. Led Zeppelin had the Moorish influence mixed with the rock so they immediately got my attention. Joni was playing all these incredible guitar parts and writing these lyrics with such incredible and sophisticated imagery. So I was getting inspiration from many different places.”
“There was always opera playing in the house. My father was from Sicily
and my parents met singing in a choir, so all the beautiful melodies
from the operas were a constant in the house.”
What inspires her now? “Life in general is inspiring. There is a lot of sadness and joy and all of it makes its way into what I write. I find that my yoga practice and my dogs help to keep me centered. I read a lot about Quantum Physics and that reminds me that life is not what it seems. Every time I watch a TED talk on entanglement or string theory I’m in awe and I’m inspired.”
Liza spoke of her first “gig!” “The first gig I had was singing in a Christmas musical when I was 5. My dad was an artist and so my parents had an eclectic group of friends. One wrote a musical and it had a scene where four girls stood in a circle near a Christmas tree singing a number called “One Little Tree.” I was the smallest so I stood in front with my back to the audience. We lived in Connecticut and it was cold so all the little girls wore tights. Mine were always falling down so during the show I lifted my skirt and pulled them up. I was a hit. The audience laughed and the writer loved me. I was oblivious to the event and was happy to be singing.”
Some other questions and answers from our interview:
Ché: How difficult was it as a girl/woman when you first started? What is it like now for you? Have things changed for the better or worse?
Liza: There are always pros and cons about being different. I would say that there were certain opportunities that I had as a woman that I wouldn’t have had as a man. For instance, being in female bands, of which I was in several. Or when someone was looking specifically for a female. Then there were the situations I was excluded from because I was a female. It didn’t matter how I played, they didn’t want to consider me based on the fact that I was a woman. I was courted by a well-known drummer to be in his rock band once. He and his band came to many shows, I learned all the material for the audition – we even decided what I should wear. Then I got a brief call from him that the audition was off and he’d be in touch. I never heard from him again but ran into the band at the union. They told me his manager told him he was crazy to consider having a female bass player. Too bad he was so easily swayed! He would have been ahead of the curve. Not long after that female bass players became all the rage. I have several funny stories like that and it’s healthier to view them as funny. If you focus on the negatives you get stuck there and miss all the cool things life is offering you.
I can’t say if it is better or worse. I still get people coming up after shows and saying, “Don’t take this wrong, but you are really good for a woman” or “I’ve never seen a woman bass player.” I’ve even had other male musicians say that. I look at it philosophically. That’s life! We all suffer prejudice in some way. I focus on my art and all the opportunities that I’ve had and wonderful musicians and fans that I’ve had the honor to work with and to know.
Ché: Who have you played with, toured with, recorded with, or opened for that you feel helped with your success?
Liza: I graduated from CSUN with my music degree with emphasis on classical guitar. Right after that my first touring gig was playing bass with the female metal band Vixen. I recorded an EP with them that was later used in the movie Hard Bodies. That was my real education into the music business!
Then I toured and recorded with Leon Patillo. He had been the lead singer with Santana and after that he became a solo Christian artist. He put together a female band while trying to move into the secular market. We toured all over the U.S., Canada and Australia. The music was an R&B pop thing. We were all featured during the show and I sang a duet with him.
One of the coolest gigs was the two years I played guitar and sang with Lindsey Buckingham in one of his solo ventures. Playing some of those classic songs with the man that wrote them was incredible. We opened for Tina Turner, playing in stadiums. It was crazy! I recorded with Sara Hickman, opened and auditioned for Alanis Morrisette, and opened for Oasis. I’ve had some wonderful experiences and they have all helped to shape my career in different ways.
Ché: Tell us about your present musical project, band, solo career, etc.
Liza: My latin/world group Incendio is and has been my main focus for sixteen years. Jean-Pierre Durand, Jim Stubblefield and I have written, produced, recorded and promoted nine CD’s and performed around 150 shows annually. It’s a rocking instrumental group with lots of fiery guitar lines with exciting rhythms. Some of our CD’s mix trance and electronica elements with the more organic instruments and some CD’s are just acoustic instruments but we try to always push the boundaries and challenge ourselves. It’s fun for us and our fans.
I also have a duo with my husband JP called Carbe and Durand. It’s two acoustic guitars and we play a variety of Latin music and our own arrangements or rock and pop songs. We just put out a new CD called “A Bridge Between” that’s been getting some great reviews and lots of radio play. Last year we went to China and played the Beijing World Music Festival. We also perform quite a few shows here in the states.
“Wait for the Spring” is my New Age vocal CD. Writing songs is a constant in my life and I had quite a few mellow songs sitting around. After my mother died I wrote a couple more that fit into that group, one which I called “Wait for the Spring.” I was going to release it on New World Music, which is more of a New Age label so we produced the songs with that in mind. After it was done I decided to release it on my own.
We are starting to work on the next Incendio CD and that will be coming out sometime next year. We all have new songs and as always want to push the boundaries from our last CD so it will be exciting! JP and I are starting to write for the next Carbe and Durand CD as well. It’s going to be primarily originals as opposed to the last one that was mainly our arrangements of other people’s material.
I am also writing a more orchestral piece to accompany a slide show of my father’s illustrations that he did for Mary Shelly’s book, Frankenstein.
My husband JP and I have written a lot of production music for tv and film. We have also scored-to-picture for quite a few shows. I’d like to score some cutting edge indie films. I love orchestration and marrying music to picture. It’s very powerful and I want to work with someone whose film is making a meaningful artistic statement.
Ché: What do you listen to now?
Liza: Now there is so much that influences me and it’s always changing. The music and musicians I previously mentioned are a constant influence. Over the years the guitarists Bireli Lagrene and Tommy Emmanuel always leave me inspired and amazed. There are so many bass players that are so fantastic like John Paul Jones, Jaco, and Flea, but the bassist that has always moved and inspired me more than any other is Abraham Laboriel. Besides having an incredible feel and pocket, the light that shines through him when he plays is a constant joy. He always reminds me that music is to inspire and heal. I love the Foo Fighters and XTC, and Pugwash is a new favorite. The deep Latin American artists are incredible. They have so many beautiful melodies and unusual rhythms.
Please check out Liza and her various projects here: