Singer/songwriter Liz Graham can’t stop feeling good about her new album and for good reason. On Damaged – (released on September 29), we find the beautiful songstress taking us on a musical journey into the human experience. With topics that run the gambit of such things as hubris, revelation and deep internal struggle. All the while, Graham softly reminds us that in the end, everything is going to be alright.
While staying true to her own musical roots, Graham weaves melody and lyric into an eclectic mix of thought and sound on Damaged and immediately conjures up images of a young Joni Mitchell, Sheryl Crow and The Cranberries. For fans of adult contemporary, this is a must have on your new music list.
I recently spoke with Liz Graham about her new album and more in this exclusive interview.
James Wood: How has the reaction been to the new album, “Damaged”?
Liz Graham: It’s been great. It’s an indie release so there’s hasn’t been a big label to push it but it’s definitely catching on. It’s on the Top 100 Singer/Songwriters chart on Amazon. I’ve also recently licensed a few songs and we’re working on film and TV placements. It’s a very exciting time!
JW: How would you describe the album in terms of its sound?
LG: It’s a mixture of jangle-pop, grunge and folk-rock with a little bit of country. It’s everything that I like and a natural progression of my songwriting capabilities.
JW: Who are some of your musical influences?
LG: I love everyone from James Taylor to Led Zeppelin, but my first really passionate relationship with a songwriter was Joni Mitchell. She expressed her feelings and emotions in such an honest way. I totally connected to that. People weren’t really like that back then. Even when I was growing up, I felt a little alienated because people didn’t really notice just how intense the world was.
JW: What’s your writing process like? Does it start with a lyric or with singing an idea into a phone voice memo recorder?
LG: When I first started writing, I did sing ideas into the phone memo but I don’t really do that anymore. I came to the conclusion that if I can’t remember it, no one else is going to either! [laughs]. What I do now is just start playing guitar and writing and things just come out. I see songs as a puzzle that I piece together.
JW: What inspires you when you write?
LG: I can be inspired by a chord that I play on the guitar or maybe just a line that’s running in my head. Sometimes if I’m writing poetry something from what I write will become a song. I can really relate to a song that has a beginning, middle and end. Something that can tell it all in 2 1/2 – 3 minutes. I don’t consciously try to do that. I like to widdle it down and get rid of the excess.
JW: I’d like to ask you about a few songs from Damaged and get your thoughts on them – “Stripmined”.
LG: For that song, I used the analogy of strip-mining and taking away things that make people beautiful and turning them into things that are just bare and raw. I put it towards a relationship. It’s about being the best person you can be but you’re with someone who’s just never satisfied and they kind of take everything away from you.
JW: “Charcoal On A Canvas”.
LG: That’s a song about meeting someone and thinking they’re one thing but they turn out to not be the person you thought they were. I used the analogy of sketching the outline of the person in charcoal and wanting to fill it in but I’m not able to because the person is just not cooperating. Then as it moves on and progresses I start to become fed up and get over it.
JW: “Lived In Eden”.
LG: I wrote that song at home and remembering crying when I played it for the first time because I thought it was so sad. But it was also hubris in a way because here was this person who had everything and then destroyed it. Then they came to the conclusion that maybe they could have given more or done something else. I think we all have had situations where we’ve ruined something that was wonderful.
LG: It sounds like its a bummer but it’s really a helpful song. When you get to the point to where you can acknowledge your mistakes, that’s when you really start to grow. This person has realized they’ve made a lot of mistakes but they know they have today and going forward, and that’s where they’re going to focus themselves. They acknowledge that they’re damaged inside but they’re admitting and working on it and in the end, they’ll turn out just fine.
JW: As an indie artist, you’ve had a lot of success being dedicated to self-promotion. Was that something that was always important to you?
LG: I’ve been doing it from the get go. I’ve put together bands, got club dates and even booked my own gigs in the city and showcases. It’s something that I’ve always done. For me, I needed a commitment that I was going into this 100%. There was a time when I was a teenager that I had picked up smoking. I knew that if I was going to be a singer then I had to quit, so I did. I’m also very shy but knew that these songs weren’t going to sing themselves. I knew that I had to go on stage, so I committed myself to going out and getting used to it. I like to tell the universe that every single thing I need to do I’m going to do – and I’ll never stop!