ARTIST INTERVIEW: Liz Stringer

Liz StringerThe release of Liz Stringer’s debut album Soon in late 2006 sees the culmination of all her musical experiences to that point. It seems that music has been in her life and in her blood since childhood, ‘I heard a lot of folk music growing up. I think the storytelling element of that folk music has influenced the way I write.’ Time spent overseas provided these musical seeds with fertile grounds in which to flourish and allow for experimentation with many different musical styles.

‘I reckon my musical tastes and my own style evolved overseas. I was playing in a punk/rock band in Germany. The longer we played together, the less punk it became, but at the start we were basically a really loud garage band playing through crap amps. It was a great feeling though, playing with a band. The other guys were great players, especially the bass player. He actually introduced me to a lot of music I hadn’t listened to before and I listened to a huge range of stuff while I lived in Germany, from punk to electronic to rock and death metal. It broadened my musical horizons.’

So with the passing of time these musical threads and influences were gradually woven together to create the rich tapestry of sounds which appear on her debut album. And what impact has the release had on Stringer’s life? ‘I have a lot more CDs sitting at my house now! It’s helped me get my music out to more people. It’s been really good to have a recording that I’m proud of to give to people as a representation of the music I write and perform.’

While life has lead Stringer down this musical path, this does not mean that the process of releasing her album has been an easy one. ‘There were so many factors that had to come together to release it. It was actually a fairly frustrating experience for me, partly because it was the first time I’d ever done it and I don’t think I approached it in a particularly organised way! We just managed to get it to the printers in time for the tour with Mia Dyson. So, I think next time I do it I’ll be a little bit wiser!!’ At least all the hard work that has gone into bringing the album to life has been rewarded with the receipt of high praise, but I wondered whether this praise adds any pressure to the creative process. ‘Nah, not really. I am just trying to write new stuff that I like, so it’s all about trusting my instincts and my own judgements about what’s good. I reckon I’d go insane if I thought too much about what other people think of the songs. Of course I think about it to a degree, but I try not to let it get anywhere near my writing. It’d just get in the way.’

Something that can be easily forgotten is that being a musician is so much more than the music which is heard on CDs or watched delivered on stage. Fundamentally songwriting comes back to words on a page, and the inspiration for these words can come from many sources. So where does Stringer find her inspiration? ‘People mostly. Sometimes people I know, sometimes people I’ve heard or read about or people that I just make up. Humans are complex beings, obviously, so there’s a never ending source of inspiration there.’

Stringer herself is more than a singer-songwriter she is a musical ensemble, displaying her talents with a wide range of instruments. But does she have a stronger affinity with one instrument over all the others? ‘Nah, I love them all. I love playing acoustic guitar and banjo, and I recently bought myself an old lapsteel which is awesome fun. It’s got a beautiful sound. I also recently played some electric guitar for a friend of mine in her band which I really enjoyed. I play piano and cello too but I don’t own either of those instruments so it’s all about the guitars now! (oh, and the blues harp, I’d really like to get good at playing that!).’

As a musician it can be a challenge to find enough time to split between the competing priorities like writing, promoting, touring and recording. Hopefully for Stringer the future will allow her to dedicate more time to simply practicing her craft. ‘The problem is that I still work in hospitality. I’m only doing a few days a week this year but last year I was working full time and touring, playing locally and writing as well. It was pretty exhausting. It’s really nice to have a bit of time during the day to just play.’ The career of any musician is generally built on two critical factors; the recording of albums and performing live to an audience. Is there a preference between the two? ‘I love performing live. I like recording too in some respects but the spontaneity of live performance is a real rush and the energy generated in a room between the performers and the punters can be extremely intense sometimes. Recording is a much more meticulous process. My patience threshold is much better suited to live stuff!’

So the album is out there spreading music to the masses, a series of live performances including an appearance at the St.Kilda Festival are scheduled and it’s a brand new year, what else does the future hold for Liz Stringer? ‘We just had a bit of a rest over Christmas, so this year I want to tour as much as possible and just play, play, play. Adam and I are getting to know eachother as musicians better every time we play so I just wanna work really hard this year and get better at what we do. And I hope that we’ll record the second album in the middle of the year. The writing process is constantly going on for me. I’ve got lots of new songs, its just a matter of choosing the ones that go best together to put on the new album.’

With introspective lyrics that speak intimately of life, it is fortunate for us indeed that Stringer opens the door on her thoughts from time to time and allows us to share in the experience. The pleasure is truly all ours.

I originally wrote this article for ‘The Dwarf‘.