Laura Lizcano’s debut, full-length album, Heart, is the soothing album we’ve all been needing in 2020. Weaving folk and pop sounds into her existing jazz repertoire, Lizcano provides us a relaxing, beautiful and interesting blanket of music to wrap ourselves up in, just in time for just in time for Fall, the start of cold weather (theoretically) and what I can only assume could be somewhat of a lonely hibernation for a lot of us. I am actually looking forward to spending cozy nights alone in the living room with a cup of tea, reading a book and listening to this album. Laura spoke to us about her background in music, the “in between” place that she inhabits being an immigrant from Colombia, and the themes she explores, including tinder dates, emotional grounding and workplace burnout. Enjoy!
When did you start playing music? What inspired you to start playing and writing your own music?
I've always wanted to play music! When I was little, my brother was going to college, and he was studying classical bass performance. I was always surrounded by music thanks to him, and I think it just permeated me and it's been a life-long dream to just be surrounded by music all the time.
My earliest music-making spaces were in school-- I loved singing in the choir. And in middle school and high school I was the type of kid that was in all of the after-school music related things. There are some really embarrassing pictures of me as the drum major in marching band with a gigantic orange, black, and white plume. But It loved it!
I started writing songs in high school, and I discovered that I just wanted to do it for the rest of my life.
How do you describe your sound? Who or what influences your sound?
I describe my sound as Norah Jones mixed with Natalia Lafourcade. I don't really mess with electronic sounds that much because I love the sound of acoustic instruments. And there's a lot of jazz and contemporary Latin American songwriting running through the album.
What themes did you explore in these songs?
There's a lot of love throughout the record, but not just the gooey love. I write a lot about friendship and family, and I think there's a lot of things in here about how love is often complicated. While I was writing "Corazón," I was thinking about vulnerability and how difficult it can be. We can leave things unsaid or say things that are very hurtful. And I think that is kind of the unifying thread of this whole album-- I was just trying to be really vulnerable and honest.
What is your songwriting process?
I'm a very lyric-drive person, so the lyrics almost always come first. I'm a big fan of free-writing. So, I have this system where I set a timer for 20 minutes and I free write. Then, I read it back and underline the words or phrases that I really like. Then, I set the timer for another 20 minutes and do it again with the new phrases or ideas in mind. I read that new piece to myself, underline and circle the things that I love, and then I do the whole 20 minute thing one last time. From there, I start to build out verses or choruses. Sometimes, I give myself syllable structures. And that's how most of my songs get started. Once I have like a bone-structure of the song, I start to add the music.
What do you hope people get out of listening to the new album? What did you get out of writing this album?
I hope people can identify and feel seen with some of these things. I don't think I'm the only one who feels the work place burn out, or the only one who has been on tinder dates and hooked up and done that whole thing. I close out the album with "Song of Gratitude," because there are so many emotions running through the record, and I also felt like it needed one grounding piece. And don't we all need that right now? This is such a difficult time! It's not just the pandemic or the current political crisis. I think we forget that everything that has exploded now was boiling under the surface pre-pandemic. The problems are just hard to ignore now.
This album was all about me learning to love my musical identity. I went to school for jazz voice, but I don't think it completely fits me. I had to kind of break myself free from that and embrace all the different things that I love putting into my music. This made the whole process a very personal one, because it has always been a struggle for me to truly be myself. Especially as an immigrant, I often feel like I'm not completely part of the U.S., but I've also been here for so long that I'm not completely a part of Colombia, either. So, I describe it as this "in between" place that I inhabit-- and my music is very much like that. It's in English and it's in Spanish, and there's jazz and folk and pop, and it's influenced by Latin American songwriters and jazz traditions. So, It's a reflection of the melting pot that is my brain and my identity. I'm not interested in fitting into any box, really. I find it really freeing that my music his hard to pin down into genre, because I'm a complex human, and I want to celebrate that!
I guess I want other people who are like me, which is all people really, to feel free to be who they are even if they don't necessarily fit into a predetermined identity.
Which Philly bands or artists do you think we should check out?
Hailey Brinnel, Dariel Peniazek and Kalectiv, ThebandIvory, and Daniel de Jesus! Omg have you heard Daniel's album of cello/voice covers? There's an incredible cover of Joga by Björk in there that I super highly recommend!
by Kristen Levine
original photo by Allis Chang