Songstress Liz Cass Talks New Music, Origins, Songwriting, and More

All images courtesy of Wilful Publicity

Indie synth’s latest darling talks about her approach to recording her debut and her musical origins in this revealing, early-career chat.



By Andrew Daly
andrew@vinylwriter.com

Confessional words set a dreamy song scape is what comes to mind as Liz Cass’s The Words washes over listeners. Spurred on by the elasticity of her music, Cass’s drive to succeed as a full-time musician is only matched by the unbridled passion apparent in her ground-swelling music.

Truth be told, this newcomer is bringing the heat, delivering sensory overload through washes of textural overloads. Gobs of gorgeous instrumentation are bookended by serene production and slick licks, but it’s the lyrics that are The Words’ true selling point. If you’re the ethereal sort or prone to bouts of contemplation while listening, to be sure, Liz Cass’s The Words is for you.

As she prepares to support her debut, Liz Cass checked in with VWMusic to run through her origins, process, new music, and more.

What was the moment which first sparked your interest in music?

I remember my step mum telling me I could sing when I was around 7 or 8. She put “Castle on a Cloud” from Les Mis on the record player and got me to sing along, and I was hooked. I was given The Sound of Music on VHS for my birthday and watched it over and over again. The rest is history.

Who were some of your earliest influences that first shaped your style?

I’m not sure what my first style was, really. I listened to all sorts growing up and became a choral scholar when I was 11. Then in my early 20s, I decided I wanted to be a jazz singer. I loved Sarah Vaughan and Blossom Dearie. I think I felt the need to try all the different genres of music. I sort of fell into doing dance music features after that, which was quite a jump from jazz.

How would you say that style has evolved as you’ve moved through your career?

I’d actually say it’s come full circle. Growing up, I loved artists like Kate Bush, ’80s pop, and power ballads. Now my jazz days are over, and I’m making alternative synth-pop with an ’80s vibe!

What were some of your earliest gigs where you first cut your teeth?

My first ever professional gig was at an event in Leicester Square to celebrate D-Day. I performed songs from the ’30s and ’40s with a 40-piece jazz orchestra in front of a huge crowd. Straight in at the deep end! I was 18 years old then, and it was an amazing experience. I went on to play jazz gigs around London for nearly ten years, and it was great for building my confidence as a live performer.

All images courtesy of Wilful Publicity

Let’s dig into your newest project, The Words. Tell me about its inception.

When I started writing with Ed Graves, it was a bit of an experiment. But we completely clicked in the studio, and the songs were flowing so quickly and freely. I hadn’t even thought about making an album at that point. As I found my feet with my songwriting, I went off on a real journey with it and felt the end of that journey should finally be my first album.

From a songwriting perspective, how have your collective experiences affected the music?

They have become the music, and the music I’ve written wouldn’t exist without them. Making this album was a very therapeutic process for me and signified my reaching a point where I feel I’ve found my voice and an outlet for things I struggle with or need to process.

“Near Miss” represents an incredible debut single. What’s the track’s backstory?

“Near Miss” is about not giving up on someone even when they aren’t sure if they’re in or out. I was in a confusing romantic situation and, by this point, felt like I was in no man’s land. But not ready to let go without being able to say you gave it everything you had. Writing about things I’m confused about often brings me some clarity.

What are some of the themes of this record, and why are those important to you?

Well, The Words is really about finding your voice. It’s important to me partly because t took me years to have the confidence to write a solo album. I feel that’s a personal achievement in itself, but also because I feel I’ve been honest and allowed myself to be vulnerable through the songs. I think a lot of the themes will be relatable, and I hope people feel they can connect with them.

How about the production mixing side of things? Take me through that process and how the final sounds were honed in.

The album was co-written and produced by Ed Graves at his studio Rainbow Wood near Bath. Ed works in Pro Tools, and we generally finished most of the songs in a day, later going back to refine them. He has a gorgeous studio with amazing synths, and he’s so tuned in to what kind of sound and direction I want for a particular song. So, realizing my vision and direction for the album was made easy.

A lot of the earlier songs we wrote were mixed by Bruno Ellingham (UNKLE/Goldfrapp). Some of the more upbeat pop tracks were mixed by Oli Jacobs (Harry Styles/The 1975) and Keiron Scott (Ed Sheeran/Charli XCX). The album single was co-written with Louis Eliot, and we brought David Wrench (Arlo Parks/Sampha) on board to co-produce and mix. He really took the song up several notches!

Where do you see yourself in five, ten, or twenty years?

I have all kinds of crazy life goals when it comes to my music. But ultimately, it feels like a huge privilege to be able to do this full-time, and my biggest hope is that I’ll be able to carry on making music for all the years to come.

All images courtesy of Wilful Publicity

Andrew Daly (@vwmusicrocks) is the Editor-in-Chief for www.vwmusicrocks.com and may be reached at andrew@vinylwriter.com

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