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MorleyView: Liz Larin

One of my favorite records recently has been Wake Up Start Dreaming by Detroit's Liz Larin. Her music is in the realm of say, Bonnie Raitt but much….much better. In fact one of the best things about this record is that there's no filler on here at all. Liz wrote everything on the record except for a Zeppelin cover and beside vocals, she plays guitars and keyboards. She also left her mark on the recent Detroit Music Awards, snagging 4 awards including Outstanding Rock Artist, Rock/Pop Recording, Rock/Pop Songwriter, and Rock/Pop Vocalist. I had the great fortune of being able to have Liz answer some questions by e-mail this week. Here's what she had to say:

antiMUSIC: The thing that is most striking about Wake Up, Start Dreaming is the very high quality of the songs. From beginning to end, each track really stands out from the previous and there's no filler like on a lot of records. Some people build around that ONE really great song. Do you spend a lot of time trying to come up with 10 or whatever tracks that rise above or are you just naturally lucky that your songs turn out as great as they do?

Liz: I love to play live and I play everything I write for live audiences before I put it on the list of songs that may make the CD. I play them solo and with the band to see how they feel. So, my audiences play a larger role than they know about what lands on a CD. 

antiMUSIC: The other most striking element of your record is that none of the songs sound similar, yet they all sort of fit within that framework so that it doesn't seem jarring. Do you discard a lot of songs that sound similar to others?

Liz: Though I write almost everyday to keep my 'wheel oiled,' I write thinking in terms of a complete show. You can take an audience so many places sonically, so why not? And since I don't have an A&R guy breathing down my neck, I get to take my audience places with the music that are fun and maybe even a little magical.

antiMUSIC: How long has this record been in the works? How did it all come together?

Liz: When people kept asking for the songs and bring their own recorders to the shows, I knew it was time to get back in the studio. And since, as I mentioned, I play the songs solo, I go into the studio and put the basic tracks (guitar, bass, drums and vocals) down. Then I invite some great musician friends into to play. Since I work live with these guys, they know what feels right and we just worked until we had pushed the limit. 

antiMUSIC: What is your favorite track on the record?

Liz: I think, as you have said, they all work together in a special way. They fit like puzzle pieces to form a strange world, some parallel universe I like to live in. 

antiMUSIC: Can you tell us something about a couple of cuts, either what they're about or something interesting that happened while either writing or recording them?

Liz: a) Alive (Conversation with an Angel)
This song was written when I had a conversation in my head with an angel. The angel was asking me what it was like to be alive and I was asking what it is like to be an angel. I was thinking about what I would miss if I had to leave the planet early.

b) Photograph
Have you every come upon a picture of you with another person that you used to love, and thought about how innocent you were before you went through the break up?

c) Our Silence Will Not Save Us Now
It just seems like there are things going on the world that are making me want to jump in and say, 'hey, this isn't right.' Things like, suffering. I just feel so close to putting everything aside for a few causes I feel very strongly about - that what this song is about. 

antiMUSIC: What made you cover "Going to California"?

Liz: Well, I worked it up one night before a show and found that I really identified with the lyrics, since I was out in California myself for a while. The dream of California seems to me to be so much greater than the reality…I love Detroit and am happy to be back home. 

antiMUSIC: You cleaned up at the Detroit Music Awards this year. How important is it to be recognized at home?

Liz: There is so much great music here, music for music's sake. I have a lot of respect for the musicians that I work with here and for all the ones that are known on a national level. To me, it's a great honor to be part of a music scene that has spawned everyone from Stevie Wonder to White Stripes. 

antiMUSIC: You play both solo shows and with your band. Do you prefer one over the other?

Liz: I like to play solo to see how the songs work in their starkest form, whether or not they have good bones. If they have good bones you can dress them up with all kinds of lovely sonic clothing and they hold up really well. Playing solo is a wonderful challenge because I have to be so very present and focused. Playing with the band is just a total blast!

antiMUSIC: What usually moves you to write a song; a lyric or a riff? Do you write on guitar or does the melody just appear in your head first?

Liz: It always comes from an idea that moves me; usually it starts with a line or several lines. Then I figure out the best way to express that idea in music. I write on guitar because it's the quickest way to capture the idea before it floats away, the way dreams do when you wake up. 

antiMUSIC: Who is in your band and how long have they been with you?

Liz: I have two drummers, two bass players and two guitar players to call on at any given time. The drummers are Dave Taylor and Rick Behman; bass is James Simonson and Nolan Mendenhall; on second guitar I have Roscoe and Robert Tye. 

antiMUSIC: You recorded your first record with Rupert Hine in England. What was that experience like?

Liz: Recording in England with Rupert was everything I had always dreamed it would be and it confirmed how magical recording a CD can be. He made the recording experience so great for us that I have continued with many of the ideas I learned from him. England has also spawned so many great artists that it was a pleasure to just be there to soak it all up!

antiMUSIC: Do you prefer the indie route to a major label life now?

Liz: Oh, yes! And it's interesting to see how many artists are choosing to go the indie-route. After being on a major label and feeling how much they don't care about the music, I'm happy to take my chances by making music the priority. Music, for me, is an amazing teacher. In my life, when I put music first, everything else just falls into place. 

antiMUSIC: What are your top 5 all-time records?

Liz: This is going back a ways, but I still get inspired when I hear U2's Unforgettable Fire; Alanis Morrisette Jagged Little Pill; anything by older Cocteau Twins, the soundtrack to The Matrix, and Underworld "A Hundred Days Off." Can I throw in anything by Stevie Wonder? 

antiMUSIC: Thanks a lot for this, Liz. All the best with your record.

Liz: Thank you, Morley, for your questions - best to you in your continuing adventures in music! Love and peace - LIZ 

antiMUSIC and Morley Seaver thank Liz Larin for doing this interview.


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