P3 Jewel Lizh: Own It!

By Angela Harper

 

Starbucks has become my office and my rent is paid in the form of a White Chocolate Mocha, hot chocolate or Vanilla Latte; depending on my mood. I was eager to interview our second P3 Jewel. I found a table, whipped out my notepad, took a few sips of  hot chocolate, and waited for her to arrive. Clad in sweats with her hair pulled back, she strolled through the door. It was my first time seeing her outside of her usual arena; the stage. I’m used to seeing her behind a keyboard, a guitar cradled in her arms, or dancing around with a microphone. Our dialogue was invigorating and by the end I had 5 pages worth of notes! She is a talented artist and it is my pleasure to introduce her to our P3 community!

A native of Queens, New York, 26 year old Elizabeth Herrera; better known as Lizh, is no stranger to music. As a toddler she called music, “fala,” as in “fa la la” from the Christmas tune, “Deck the Halls,” and loved the sounds playing from her dad’s record player. “Is that fala for Pipece?” she would ask. She was exposed to various genres; including the music of her Dominican heritage. By the time she was 8, Lizh, showed a strong interest in music. On her walks to the local market with her father, they’d pass a music store on Steinway St.  Lizh remembers, “I would press my hands and face against the glass and stare at the keyboards! One day we were walking as usual, but this time my dad took me inside and bought piano books and one of the keyboards for me; a Casio CTK100.” Lizh now calls this keyboard, Eddie.

Lizh (might I add the ‘h’ is silent) taught herself how to play the piano and was inspired by the late singer, Selena. “She [Selena] was magical; her stage presence was just magical. I wanted to emulate her.” Though she wanted to be a meteorologist, her natural passion of music could not be stifled. In high school she tried to take as many chorus and music classes as she could, but was only able to take the classes her schedule would allow. Lizh played Anita in front of an audience of almost 800 in her school’s production of, “West Side Story.” Her vocal solo of, “Someone to Watch Over Me,” during a chorus performance resulted in a roar from the audience as she paused for dramatic effects and belted out the notes. “I belonged there [on the stage],” Lizh recalls how she felt performing that number.

She studied music at Five Towns College, but with much encouragement to take a chance and pursue her passion she put college on hold. Lizh signed with a manager to jump start her music career, but due to creative differences on various issues, she felt it wasn’t the right direction for her. Though she was told that the age of 22 was too old to be a “star,” she continued on her journey. After several visits with friends in North Carolina she decided a change of scenery was due. Lizh left the hustle and bustle of New York and made the Old North State her new home.

Her passion and drive only grew stronger as she continued to study piano, sing, and write songs. “Olga was my first acoustic guitar,” Lizh says and she taught herself how to play. She later linked with drummer Eric Kelly, “We’d play anywhere,” Lizh explained, “gigs aren’t just to gain fans; they’re for networking.”  Along the way she’s also picked up an audio engineer, Scott Volthause of Black Rabbit Recording, a videographer, Dan Andrews, of Trickle Down Productions, and a host of fans; all have given her a sense of community. I first heard Lizh sing at Mansion 642 after a Words of Wisdom poetry open mic. Her voice and music was a sound I had never heard before. Throughout her songs any listener can tell that Lizh fuses together R&B, Jazz, Reggae, Reggaeton, and Salsa to create a rhythmic sound that hooks an audience. She transitions from singing in English to Spanish so smoothly the languages seem to become one.

Playing the late gigs and working as a tax preparer have paid off for Lizh. She was able to purchase an electric acoustic guitar (Tameeka), an electric guitar (Mary; after the Jimmie Hendrix song, “The Wind Cries Mary”), and an 88 weighted key electric piano (Venny). With her instruments in tow she has entertained and awed many audiences!

There’s a saying that luck favors the prepared and being prepared is how Lizh met her current manager, O. She was buying tickets to attend the Carolina Music Awards when she met O, who is also the producer. Casual conversation led to him asking if she had a CD. “I always have CDs on me,” she laughed, “so I handed him one and he says, ‘Hopefully this doesn’t suck!’” O was impressed with Lizh and wanted to sign her to his label, O Records. Definitely someone who walks her own path and is a unique individual she wanted to make sure O Records didn’t want to change her, “I’ll do it on my own if I can’t find a label that accepts me or wants to change me. I don’t want to be used as an avatar to further someone else’s ideas.” O Records was the label that wanted Lizh just as she is.

Though it seems like a dream come true and a walk in the park, the music industry is littered with tempting offers. These offers of money, fame, and larger gigs often come with the price of self-sacrifice. The vision O Records has for Lizh and the one she has for herself doesn’t align with the mainstream ideal that in order for a woman to be successful in the mainstream music arena she must be scantily-clad, dimwitted, and spouting out lyrical garbage. Lizh feels, “If I can show my parents, I can show the world. My parents accept me for who I am.” She admits to experimenting with a sexier mainstream look, but quickly returned to her style, “You have to own yourself and be comfortable. Own your womanhood; it’s not about being anti-men. It’s about highlighting what makes you as a woman beautiful.” This ownership of self is what makes Lizh standout amongst others. She puts her true self into her songs and performances, “The more of yourself you put into anything the more beautiful it is. Beauty is not what the industry says.” It is not shocking to see Lizh barefoot on stage or coming into the audience to talk with a fan. Lizh has created a magnetic force with her unique style and self confidence.

Her lyrics reflect her experiences, intelligence, and outlook on life. The sensual rhythm of “Succubus,” laced with lyrics mocking the double standard that a woman can’t be intelligent and sexy is one example of how Lizh crafts each of her songs. “Music is the universal language; watch what you say and be ready to stand up for yourself. Lyrics should have continuity and a storyline,” she states. Lizh’s other songs stimulate audiences musically and intellectually. “Alone Together,” is a tale of how two lovers can be together yet still be alone; her voice cries the pain that this situation would cause anyone. One of Lizh’s new songs, “Bent,” has swiftly become a favorite of mine. The lyrics reflect a friendship that is not yet broken, it’s as the title suggests…bent.

A talented singer, songwriter, producer, and musician Lizh made quite a name for herself through her performances in North Carolina and New York. The hard work of this young woman has not gone unnoticed. Long gone are the days of sending fan mail or having to wait for a live performance to reach out to fans. Lizh uses Facebook, YouTube, and Reverb Nation as platforms to connect with her fans and network. “It’s amazing and humbling to be tagged in a post on Facebook by a fan who is quoting one of my song lyrics!” With the anticipated release of her CD, Lizh admits she has some reservations of the immense exposure she will receive. “I’m most afraid of losing my privacy; being the CENTER of attention. I don’t mind if the paparazzi are taking my picture, it’s the intrusion of privacy that bothers me. We are in a time in which people with any type of celebrity status are being hounded and every media outlet is hunting them. Why be so worried about what others are doing? What do you truly value? Every minute is so precious, why spend your life prying into someone else’s? I don’t want to be a tabloid meal. I don’t want people to be hungry for me in the tabloids, no, be hungry for me on the stage.”

Artists live in two worlds; a prime example of W.E.B. Dubois’ Theory of Double Consciousness. Lizh has found balance between having to work a mainstream job and be a, “weekend warrior.” She also knows firsthand that the notion of chasing musical career dream isn’t a fantasy. Her uncle on her mother’s side took care of his siblings and mother from the money he made as a musician. “Though my family is full of professionals, they were taken care of by a musician; there is validity in the art of music!” Because of her hard work, dedication, and aligning herself with true supporters, she was offered a marketing and distribution deal from Concrete Publishing; distributors for Pink, Kanye West, and others. The deal compliments the vision she and O Records have for her. “My dad says to me, ‘You kidding’ when I told him about the deal with Concrete Publishing. My mom, my biggest cheerleader, was also very excited and happy for me.”

All her work prior to signing with O Records and sealing the deal with Concrete Publishing was the construction of her roller coaster ride. Now she is ready to take it for a spin. It’s not going to be easy and Lizh is aware of that, however, “there is no Plan B; this is it. This is who I am. I can’t imagine not being a performer. If I don’t do it I feel like something is wrong.” Everyday Lizh does something artistic. She spoke of her joy of painting, writing songs, writing poetry, performing, and playing instruments. Not only does she write songs for herself, she writes for others. Currently she is working on a song for Oceania.org .

The journey to being a successful singer is not traveled on a direct path. Anyone traveling this road must own themselves. As Lizh told me, “You decided who you want to give yourself to and what aspects of yourself they will get.” This self ownership puts you in the control seat and allows you to direct your journey. There will be hardships and temptations. There will be those days of physical and artistic fatigue, but, “If your creative well is drained refill it; watch a good movie, read a book, go dancing, attend another artists’ show. It’s okay to step away from your project to replenish yourself. Don’t let your creative spirit die. Your spirit will get tired, but don’t let it die.”

 

 

Listen to Lizh on ReverbNation.com CLICK HERE

 

Photos by Sed Miles and Black Poetry Theater

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