Lizzo: All I knew was mainstream and 'hood

Categories: Q&A
Photo by Anna Gulbrandsen

Back in October, Gimme Noise spoke to the explosive Lizzo ahead of her Picked to Click win, and the release of one of 2013's most-heralded local albums, Lizzobangers. Her collaboration with Doomtree's Lazerbeak and Marijuana Deathsquads' Ryan Olson is the Chalice rapper's growth and raw potential captured in deft, bold strokes.

Ahead of Saturday's release show at the Triple Rock Social Club, here's more from our in-depth, laughter-filled conversation about her birthday bond with Caroline Smith, her journey to Minneapolis, and how she became just Lizzo.

Gimme Noise: How are you doing these days?

Lizzo: I cannot complain. I've learned a lot about my body and my mind and my spirit. I used to have this thing where I was lonely, but no, you need alone time. I started valuing that over any other time spent, aside from time onstage. Just learning how to run your business and finally being able to execute all of the lessons I picked up along the way from people like Caroline Smith and Har Mar Superstar. Watching my peers and friends kill it and being able to take that and apply it to my own life.

It seems like you have a special creative bond with Caroline Smith. How did you end up performing with her?

We have the exact same birthday. Same day, same year. She asked me, "Do you want to sing with me?" This was at a time when I didn't know what I was doing. Before Lizzobangers. I told her by this time next year, I'm not sure if I'm going to have time to be a backup singer. Right now, I'm totally down. I was like, "When's your birthday?" And she was like, "April 27, 1988" Yeah. All right, let's just do it.

How did your friendship enhance your artistic growth?

For some reason, we get each other. If you understand my situation, I'll understand yours. We're just learning from each other. We sit and practice vocal runs. I learned how to be a better singer working with her because when you're not in the front having to belt and do all this stuff on your own, you learn nuances and you learn control. I learned that so hard. I'm really happy about where I've come and I have a long way to go. I'm happy to see progress. It's good to be like, it's not over. I can still get better and better and better.

When Caroline asked me to sing with her, I just saw it as another opportunity to express myself musically. I'm never probably going to come out with a folk album, but if I can be a part of it, and work my voice into it, it's a challenge and a victory to me. She started coming to the R&B side. I was like, "Girl, I want you to re-record your album in a sweaty room with just the musicians and one microphone." Her voice over the duration of that three-week tour got so much more gritty and raw.

So Lizzobangers came together in a sweaty room?

Lizzobangers was a sweaty, smoky room. I don't smoke, but Ryan Olson is a cigarette. We were sitting in there. Me, him and Lazerbeak. We were just grinding it out. It feels like it. It wasn't a punched record. I didn't punch anything in. Everything is like full take, and then he would chop it up and do what he did. After that we went into the details.

How did you start getting into wearing different wigs for performing?

A lot of performance is visual. Vocal is a huge part as well, but when the people are seeing me, I gotta get that extra oomph. Hair is a lot. I learned that from watching Beyonce and Tina Turner. Tina Turner wore wigs because when she did this, it was more impressive than just a little up 'do going back and forth. I bought a lot of wigs for the sake of showmanship. Some of 'em got names. My purple one... is named GRRRL PRTY. There's the "Lady You Shot Me" wig, which I wear for Har Mar. They're not actual names like Clarissa.

The first wig I got that I was like "I'm gonna wear this wiiiig" was when I bought [Sophia Eris] a wig. Last year, we got a big Chalice check. One of our first ones. I bought her a wig. From me to you, girl, here you go. She was rocking it so well, I thought, "I want one too." Before, it was just like Halloween. When we first started rockin' rockin' them was about a year and a half ago.

How did you hook up with your hype man Cliff Rhymes?

He's from St. Paul. He's a mystery. He's on Marijuana Deathsquads' Tamper.Disable.Destroy. He has a great voice. Ryan Olson loves him for that. It was cool to have this calm voice amidst all the chaos, and we balanced off each other really well. It goes back to Ryan. When he meets you, he can immediately assign you to some score he's writing in his mind.

He met me in October when I did the Marijuana Deathsquads thing, and he'd already known. He saw it. When he saw the tweets between me and 'beak, he was like I already know what it's gonna be. [He said,] "Cliff's gonna sound great." I was like, "Cliff's gonna sound great? Let me know how that goes." I'd known Cliff in passing a little bit, but when I heard it, it was awesome. He enhances the track, but doesn't overshadow. He complements me really well. He's like a voice in my head that I'm talking to.

How have things changed in your career since the summer of 2012?

Last summer, to make a metaphor, was going off into the woods. Walking into the forest. This year, I've got a knapsack and a compass. I'm prepared. It's more organization and everything's very planned. there's a huge team of people around this. For the Chalice, all we had was us three. That was probably the best thing, but in the end, was the biggest issue. We couldn't be artists. We got so much attention, thanks to you guys, thanks to the Current. But we didn't have anyone to take it all and compress it, and give it to us in a way that was easy to digest.

We had to be our own manager. When you're your own tour manager, you take on all these hats, it's overwhelming. It can deteriorate any sanity or any will that you have. You don't know when to be the tour manager and when to be an artist. I'll be tired, but the tour manager in me is like, "Now we gotta get up and be in the car."

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