Nashville-based indie-folk singer/songwriter Liz Longley’s loyal fans refer to themselves as “Lizards.” The Berklee College of Music graduate has seven albums under her belt, along with numerous singles.
Longley’s holiday EP A Little Magic was a collection of five original songs and a cover of “Let There Be Peace on Earth,” where she worked with the five-time GRAMMY-nominated producer Paul Moak (Mat Kearney, The Weeks, Caitlyn Smith). On the inspiration for the EP, she tells us, “With five original Christmas songs, I drew a lot of inspiration from holidays past and the realization that this year will be different. Some of these songs started years ago, and I finally had the time to sit down and finish them.” When asked about a favorite off the EP, Longley said, “’It’s not a silent night, but it’s a beautiful sight, sitting around the fire with family.’ “Feels Like Christmas” touches on the messiness of the holidays. There is often a little ruckus and a lot of chaos, but in all the imperfections of a large family gathering, togetherness is all that matters. This year, that song hits in a different way.”
A Little Magic follows her studio LP Funeral For My Past, which Moak also produced. After a break from her record label, Longley turned to Patreon for the release of Funeral For My Past. This proved to be a successful move—she raised over $150,000 to help with purchasing the rights to the music and independently releasing the album.
Longley fills us in on her background in music and how she has kept in touch with fans during the pandemic.
You worked with producer Paul Moak who produced Funeral For My Past. What does Paul bring to the table?
Paul was willing to wear a Santa hat for a week in September as we made this holiday album together! He’s dedicated. But seriously, Paul is a calming force in the studio that allows each contributing creative force to be their best selves and bring their own personality to the songs. He’s got a gift of knowing how to serve a song. It was a joy to work with him again!
I felt a little bit of creative freedom, so I wrote songs like crazy while they were gone.
How did you first get started in music?
With my dad playing music at a professional level for most of his life, music was always a part of my life. One day, when I was about fourteen years old, my parents left for vacation. My grandmother was watching me and my brother. I felt a little bit of creative freedom, so I wrote songs like crazy while they were gone. I think my grandmother reported back to my parents that I wouldn’t stop singing this one song over and over again. But that’s how it all started.
When did you start playing guitar, and what was your learning process?
One of my first gigs was my Spanish teacher’s wedding, where she asked me to play acoustic guitar and sing. I wanted the gig but didn’t know how to play guitar! I grew up a piano player. I asked a girl who sat near me in band class if she would accompany me. Sarah Zimmermann was her name. She was absolutely incredible. We ended up playing music together for five years! I learned how to do the basic things on guitar, thanks to her help. When we graduated high school and went different ways, I had to start taking guitar a lot more seriously so I could hold my own. I had great professors at Berklee College of Music. I’m still learning, and Sarah still inspires me. She’s one half of the electric guitar-slinging duo, Striking Matches.
What is your go-to instrument for songwriting?
I go back and forth between guitar and piano constantly. If I ever get stuck on a part of a song, I’ll switch instruments.
Who are some of your musical influences?
Joni Mitchell is who inspired me to be an artist. Her record Blue was my constant companion in my most formative years. These days, I’m still moved by the females of the Americana music scene.
I hope to be able to give that comfort to people who listen to my music.
What does music mean to you, and what do you hope your music conveys to your fans?
Music has always made me feel understood. When someone can so beautifully express something you’ve felt, there is a sense of comfort and peace that comes with it. I hope to be able to give that comfort to people who listen to my music. If you’re listening, you’re not alone.
Life for musicians changed dramatically during the pandemic. What have you been doing to stay connected with your fans?
This year, I released two albums. That’s a first for me. Staying busy was the key to staying sane. I also launched a Patreon (patreon.com/lizlongley), where I now share all the behind-the-scenes of my music, as well as unreleased songs, with my most passionate of fans. They call themselves Lizards, and I love them for supporting my music in the most challenging of times.
I see you’re going to performing virtually in the Songwriters in the Round. Tell us more about that venture?
Yes! With so many online shows this year, I got really tired of only hearing and seeing myself. My new favorite way to do an online show is to invite my friends to share stories and songs in the round on Zoom! It feels like we’re all together again. Seeing the faces of everyone in “the audience” is good for the soul. I did a Zoom show in the round on December 16th with Maggie Rose and Barnaby Bright. It was magical to get in the holiday spirit with two of my favorite female vocalists!
What’s next for Liz Longley?
This year, I finally get to marry my fiancé! We pushed back our 10/10/20 wedding date in hopes that the world would be a safer place by 2021. I’m very much looking forward to that day.
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