TS10

TS10: Humbling

A long time ago, I experienced a little five-year chapter in my life, beginning on August 14, 1993 and ending on August 14, 1998. In ’93, I left home and headed to India for an internship. I was supposed to be there for nine months, but only lasted about three. From the moment I arrived, I was ready to get back on the plane and head home. It wasn’t because of India, per se. No, I was consumed with homesickness and culture shock.

Now, if I’d have paid attention during my training, I would have known to expected to feel that way. But I didn’t pay attention. In fact, I did very little to prepare for this nine-month experience. Why? Well, because, in my arrogance, I had everything under control. Yeah, I mean, I knew it would be hard at times, but I just knew I could handle it.

But then I landed in Mumbai. And then I traveled from the international airport to the domestic airport, passing by a profoundly large slum area on the way. As I observed the extreme poverty there from the safety of my bus, I sunk down in my seat and was ready to jump right back on the plane.

I lived with a beautiful family when I was there, but I sorely missed my family back in the States. I was a sorry mess. Within the first month, I already had decided to come back home early. My pride had taken an important, deep, and necessary blow.

As the years have passed, and as I get older and hopefully a little wiser, I’m seeing more and more how there is no room for pride. I am seeing more and more how incredibly limited and broken I am. And this is not a bad thing. It’s an important self-awareness that I sorely need. My guess is I’m not the only one.

Oh by the way, in 1998, I had the opportunity to go back. I went with a better sense of my own limitations and my need to lean on my Creator if the trip was going to be a success. And, it was a beautiful experience… restorative… redemptive.

I’ve been thinking about these realities as I was putting together this week’s TS10 and especially while listening to the last four songs. There is a definite heaviness here. I invite you to engage in that heaviness as you listen. Maybe consider your own limitations and brokenness over the next hour or so. And remember, while you are limited and broken, just like me, there is hope and you are not alone.

-Ed

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Artist Focus

2015 Tomme Suab Artist of the Year: Lizzy Diane

 

One of the characteristics of so many artists I admire is malleability. Specifically, I love witnessing or listening to musicians evolve. They allow themselves to be influenced, pushed, challenged… in other words, they embrace growth personally and musically. It has been my honor to see this dynamic in play with the 2015 Tomme Suab Artist of the Year, Lizzy Diane.

If you listen to Lizzy Diane’s first two records, Encompass Rose and Otherkin, you can certainly hear the evolution between those two albums. However, the evolution has continued since Otherkin was released in late 2014. She continues to experiment vocally and musically. She continues to work through and process life, art, and their intermingling. And these dynamics produce compelling and poignant songs and performances.

Along with all of this creative development, Lizzy’s commitment to performing live is evident. From headlining WHYS’s Girrrls with Guitars event in October to playing multiple shows in various venues around Eau Claire, she stayed busy in 2015. And, personally, I’m glad, because Lizzy Diane’s music should be heard.

While I wholeheartedly believe the best is yet to come for this young performer, I am pleased to name Lizzy Diane the initial recipient of the Tomme Suab Artist of the Year title.

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Album Releases, Artist Focus, Music and Healing, TS10

The Unassuming Authenticity of Lizzy Diane

 

My relationship with Lizzy Diane’s music has been an interesting one. If you have been listening to the TS10 playlist on weekly basis, you know we have featured several songs off her new album, Otherkin. If you are connected with Tomme Suab or me personally on Facebook or Twitter, I have been actively promoting her for a while now. However, when I first listened to her, specifically her debut EP, Encompass Rose, I’m not sure I could have envisioned myself becoming a big Lizzy Diane fan. Thankfully, first impressions do not always tell the whole tale.

Here’s the thing… Lizzy has a very distinct vocal style. When I first listened to her, I honestly couldn’t tell if this was her natural voice, if it was an authentic outgrowth of what’s in her, or if he she was just trying to sound unique. That threw me off and I really wasn’t all that interested in hearing more. When I sense any possible lack of authenticity, it is easy for me to get all judgy and just walk away. That’s what I did with Lizzy Diane’s music.

And then, something happened. I started getting to know Lizzy. We connected via social media and as I would read her updates and posts, I was drawn to her. There was something about her that I couldn’t define. All I know is that it is evident she has something very special and unique living in her. As she began to mention the imminent release of her first full-length album, I was all in. When the album was released in early December and accompanied by a release show at Stone’s Throw here in Eau Claire, I promoted it actively and was incredibly disappointed that I couldn’t be there myself. In fact, there had been several opportunities to see her perform that I had missed out on. The only way I had experienced her music (and whatever that special thing that lives in her is) was through listening to Otherkin and through our social media connection.

Regarding the album, I enjoyed it from first listen. There is an otherworldly, ethereal feel to the whole record. This feel is created by a cohesive blend of sober melodies, gentle but poignant vocals, somber lyrical content, and an almost mystical-sounding combination of instrumentation. And yet, while the album certainly leads the listener to that otherworldliness, the power in the album is its thoroughly humanizing effect. I wrote about that dynamic in my short review of the album for Volume One. Ironically, I was a little concerned when I wrote about that humanizing dynamic in the V1 piece. After all, Lizzy called the album “Otherkin.” This is a mystical, metaphysical reference. I wasn’t sure if she would appreciate the fact that I am saying her supernaturally-themed album was essentially not supernatural. Regardless, that’s where the record took me personally, so I stood by that thought.

One of the humanizing elements of the album is the lyrical content itself. The themes are pretty dark, and they cover all kinds of relational woes. These are not typical heartbreak songs. These are deeply-felt personal experiences painted in creative ways on a melodic canvas. They not only speak honestly about how Lizzy has been hurt by others, but how she has hurt them too. It is profoundly honest and raw, and there is little that will draw me to an artist more than that.

In her song, Monster’s Lullaby, she shares a couple of lines that illustrate the depth, emotion, and honesty that can be found throughout the album. The song woefully describes an interaction between Lizzy and someone she cares deeply about. The relational backdrop seems to include a history of mutually-destructive behavior, including abusing alcohol. In this context, the listener finds what I consider the most poignant lines on the album:

I’ll drink it all, so you won’t

I’ll be the monster, so you won’t

At first glance, it would be easy to gloss over these lines. But, spend a moment in them. Think about what she is offering to this person. Think about the history that is indicated here. Think about how she is willing to engage in self-destructive behavior to save the other person from the same. There so much relational history and deep emotion, so much brokenness, in these two simple lines. This is the kind of poignancy that can be found throughout Otherkin.

While I really like what I hear in Otherkin, I know there is more and bigger stuff in Lizzy Diane. I’m listening to the album as I write this, and, yes, I am drawn in. Yet, what I hear is just a glimpse of the significant art and self-expression that is yet to come. That idea was confirmed when I finally had the opportunity to hear Lizzy play live and meet her in person. When I found out that Lizzy would be playing live at House of Rock at the end of January, I made sure that I could attend. I am indeed glad that I made being there a priority.

When she took the stage,  it was just her and her guitar. And, honestly, it was enchanting. There was a purity to her vocals and guitar-playing that struck me immediately. Otherkin has a really full feel to it. Lots of instrumentation with lots going on in each song. While I like that, I have to confess that the special something that lives in this artist seemed much freer to come out in this live and stripped-down setting. Her performance was really beautiful.

We were able to chat a little bit that night, but I felt like we needed to finish our conversation. So, I invited her to meet with me last week, and she graciously accepted. The short time helped me better, more clearly, see the significance of what lives in her. Now, I’m still not in a position to put actual words to it, but I can say that she is as genuine and unassuming as any artist I have met. It was clear to me that her music is an organic outgrowth of who she is and her experiences. Of anything I would personally ask of an artist, there would be nothing more important than this kind of authenticity.

Eventually, over the course of conversation, she made reference to the Volume One piece. Thankfully, she appreciated the comment about the “humanizing” effect of the album. For her, the idea of “otherkin” itself is a thoroughly humanizing thing. The legend of otherkin is that there are supernatural beings, often taking the form of animals, that humans identify themselves with (more on that here). When Lizzy was talking about this, she likened it to our fascination with superheroes. While we may like the flashy costumes, big muscles, and superhuman powers they possess, ultimately, it is their human ways of relating, their flaws, and their frailties that draw us in. In other words, it’s what we have in common with such supernatural or superhuman beings that really resonates with us. So, for her, the connection between the mystical and human is organic and about as connected as it gets.

For me, it is not at all unlike how God is creative, and has built us to be creative as well. These are both spiritual and natural realities that mesh together seamlessly. Lizzy’s self-expression and creativity contain both of these realities. So, yes, Otherkin is a significant expression of what it is to be human, while feeling otherworldly at the same time.

Lizzy Diane is the real deal. After our meeting, I walked away even more certain that the best is yet to come for her. Yeah, there may be some commercial success. More to the point, however, I believe she has even more significant art sitting on the tip of her heart, the kind of art and self-expression that not only helps her to feel more whole, more fully who she was built to be, but can have the very same effect on her listeners.

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