Melbourne-based singer-songwriter Liz Stringer has taken to the road to celebrate the release of her new CD Warm in the Darkness. Mandy Nolan spoke with her on the eve of her performance at the Mullum Bowlo.
How did the music career-building grant assist your creative development? It helped in the sense that I could afford to decide which studio to do it at and make sure all the musicians were paid properly. To not be worrying and making decisions around money allowed me to focus completely on the creative needs of the project.
What were the kind of objectives that you set for yourself? I wanted to make a big-sounding album that would best put the songs across. I also wanted to do something very different from my last album (Tides of Time), which was a solo effort, and get back into using a full band sound.
How did you go about achieving them? Well I got the band back together! And hired Craig Pilkington to record and co-produce the album. He’s got a great pop sensibility and really understood what I was trying to achieve, so that made things very easy.
What do you think are the key elements for creating a successful music career? It depends on one’s definition of success. For me, though, being successful is feeling like I’m moving forward and learning in a creative and artistic sense. It’s hard work doing it for a living, particularly as an independent, but there are a lot of jobs that are a lot harder! As long as it’s a rewarding process it’s absolutely worth it.
Tell me a little about Warm in the Darkness? What was your original vision? As I touched on before, I wanted to make a big, warm-sounding album, which I’ve never really set out to do before. These songs were much poppier than the previous albums’ material from the outset, so I wanted to breathe the right kind of life into them with the recording.
How do you navigate that domain between vision and product… what were the things that you hadn’t planned that surprised you along the way? The saxophone solos! I didn’t see that coming but I love it! Like any creative process the end product is never exactly like the envisaged one. The ‘thing’ defines and reveals itself as you go. Sometimes it’s good to stick to your guns and try to best represent your original idea but other times it’s more fruitful to let it evolve its own way, even if you didn’t expect it.
What are the qualities that you most value in other musicians and their music? Sincerity and skill, I think. Skill in songwriting or playing or both. I like music that ‘moves’ me but I can’t define what it is about the music that does that necessarily – that’s the wonderful mystery.
What are the qualities, musically, that you value in yourself? I think I have a good ear for melody and harmony and I pick things up pretty fast.
When do you get your inspiration – are you disciplined, or do you work in a more stimulus/response kind of way? The latter definitely, although I have been a bit more disciplined over the last few years, trying to catch and write down the ideas before they’re lost.
For you what is the essence of good songwriting? Being able to tell a story well, I think. Simple but true.
What should we expect for your local show? Van Walker will be opening the show with a solo set of his songs and then the band (Adam May on drums, Tim Keegan on bass, Van Walker on electric guitar, and me) will play a set of songs mostly from the new album, but we’ll also dip into the back catalogue for a few as well. We can’t wait!
Presented by Mullum Music Festival, Friday at the Mullum Bowlo. Tix $15 @ www.mullummusic.com or at the door.