PART ONE – How Does It Feel – Lizzie Weber
GOLDMINE: Your EP How Does It Feel is so beautiful, the songs, the strings, wow!
LIZZIE WEBER: Oh, thank you so much. You are so kind. I am glad that you enjoyed it.
GM: You moved from the arch to the space needle.
LW: Ha ha, and now back to the arch. We moved from St. Louis to Seattle and enjoyed that music scene. Now my husband just got a new job and we have moved back to St. Louis. I got my start here when I recorded my first album and cut a couple singles. St. Louis really gave me an audience and a voice. The local press championed my first album while I was completing my degree in journalism at Washington University in St. Louis and interning at KDHX radio. The promotion gave me my start to headline a few venues around town and I fortunately gained a good following, so here is where it all began. I am grateful to return to where my roots are and look forward to performing here post-pandemic and regionally, like I did before in Chicago and Kansas City, where I would frequent, plus Nashville.
GM: You’ll have new songs to share, too. Your song “How Does it Feel” is gentle, relaxing and is in 3/4 time, reminding me a bit of Jewel.
LW: Thank you for those kind words. I am happy it resonated with you. I started writing it when the shutdown began, with a gentle strum on my guitar and the words just flowing out. I felt that the chorus needed energy and that is where I brought in the rhythm section. I worked on the string arrangements from home, sending parts back and forth with my producer. It was a collaborative effort, working remotely. The song “How Does It Feel” stood out for me as the message of the EP with hope, love, empathy, and gratitude in the face of adversity. You mentioned Jewel. I grew up loving to listen to her and her work is a perfect example, as far as my writing goes. I love her Pieces of You album, with “You Were Meant for Me” and “Foolish Games” on it, where you can hear the breathiness and how she brought an interesting dynamic to her words, sounds that you don’t hear in the folk or singer/songwriter world today. I am drawn to the sound of the 1990s that those women were bringing forward, like Alanis Morissette, Sarah McLachlan, Fiona Apple, and Jewel, who was such an inspiration to me. I think of her when I try to bring as much authenticity as possible to my songs, and not overproduce but choose sounds that will help to convey the emotions more clearly. “Foolish Games” is one of the first songs that I learned on piano. Jewel could completely crush that ballad but still have a folk or folk-rock element in her other songs on that album, where she was able to easily traverse those lanes and experiment with different genres. I love doing that myself. I have a hard time sticking to one lane. Jewel’s album was so important to me when I was a young girl beginning to compose and experiment on my own. Jewel is so skilled at painting a scene, taking you there with her during these deep heartfelt emotive moments in her compositions. I find that to be the most striking music still, where vulnerability comes through.
Flip side: Foolish Games
A side: You Were Meant for Me
Top 100 debut: November 30, 1996
Peak Position: No. 2 A-side / No. 7 flip side in 1997
GM: You mentioned piano, so let’s move on to the piano on your new song “Blue Wave Bloom.” It reminds me of John Lennon’s playing on “Jealous Guy” from his Imagine album, which I bought when I was barely a teenager, when it was released. You deliver such a beautiful backdrop for your emotional vocals.
LW: Thank you so much. I am very excited for folks to hear this song. Even though I play piano, I brought in an outside pianist, Aaron Guest, sending him a basic track, and what he came back with was so wonderful and improvisational. While I did my own arrangements for the other two songs on the EP, for this one I went to my violinist, Bill Panks, and asked what could be done to bring out what Aaron is doing with the piano line, and we came up with an arrangement where the strings and piano would do a melodic dance with each other.
GM: “Lay Down Your Love” has a nice steady tempo and the background vocals add power to its beauty.
LW: I had a friend of mine, Kaeley Pruitt-Hamm, who is a great songwriter, too, join me with her gorgeous, angelic, ethereal voice. I knew that she would help me bring out this dreamlike breathy backing vocal that I wanted. She and I sang the backing vocals separately in our respective studios and layered them to create lush harmonies in the choruses. In addition to this three song EP, released now, I am working on a full length album, with other songs, to be released later this year.
GM: These three songs will delight many listeners. Now, let’s talk about a pair of songs from a couple of years ago, “River” and “Free Floating,” which you recorded with Marketa Irglova, who I know from the duo The Swell Season, which my wife Donna and daughter Brianna introduced me to through the musical and movie Once.
LW: Marketa was preparing to go on tour in the U.S. to support Muna in 2014, her second solo album since departing The Swell Season. I decided to send her a message on Facebook to see if she was looking for an opening act and I included a link to a music video of mine from my first album. To my greatest delight she sent me a message back, being so kind, gracious and complimentary of me and my music. While she had already selected an artist for her tour support, she invited me to join her on stage and sit in with her and her band and perform a song of my own. I was so surprised. She is another musical heroine of mine. The first time I saw her perform was in the nosebleed section of the Chicago Theater with The Swell Season when they were playing four sold out shows in a row. I had long admired her, so I was giddy with delight when she invited me to join her. We stayed in touch via email. In 2017, I was working on my song “River” and wanted a soprano harmony and I thought of Marketa. I saw on Facebook that she and husband were building a recording studio in Reykjavik and I reached out to her. She said that she wanted to sing on the track, so I flew to Iceland and stayed with her and her wonderful family in their home in Reykjavik and we worked on “River” for a week in their studio and when we had time, we also recorded most of “Free Floating” there too. It was one of the best weeks of my life because I got to work with one of my musical heroes and her husband, who engineered and mixed the songs for us.
GM: You and Marketa hit every note together on “Free Floating” which is an interesting and rare style. There is an early 1970s duo named Heaven and Earth who have a rare single called “Home for Christmas” plus an album on Chicago’s Ovation Records, which was a label to capture the brief quadrophonic recording trend, and that is what I am reminded of with your beautifully blended sound.
LW: I will have to check that out. Thank you so much for inviting me to chat with you, doing this interview and for your kind words.
PART TWO – Spark - LoveDust
GM: We are days away from the third anniversary of our meeting, when you two were starting out together and I saw you on my final night at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Cincinnati. I told Donna and Brianna how I went upstairs to pack after that, while watching The Voice, and said how much better you were than any contestant. Donna encouraged me to give new acts a chance and you, Melissa, were the first in a long series of acts now at Goldmine where we look back at a flip side from the past, as you and I did with Sheena Easton in early 2019, and then discuss new music as we did with your EP Imperfect Timing, and thank you for posting it at your mclairemusic.com website. Well, it is EP day again today again at Goldmine with Lizzie Weber and you and Tim. Lizzie and I just discussed her music and Jewel.
MELISSA CLAIRE: We are so glad to be part of this. Thank you for having us. I think Lizzie’s “Lay Down Your Love” is a beautiful song. I really love how the strings at the beginning compliment the warmth of her voice, bringing such a nice touch to the recording. I definitely hear the influence of Jewel and I think Jewel is a fantastic artist. I have loved her music over the years. I also was reminded of Patty Griffin when listening to Lizzie’s music.
GM: Like Lizzie’s EP, your Spark EP also contains three nice songs with such a full sounding production.
MC: Thank you. The EP’s title of Spark reflects both on the lyrics and music with a spark of inspiration. Tim engineered the whole thing. I sing and play piano.
TIM SYLVESTER: I play all the guitar parts, bass, and we have one of my big band’s bass players with us as well. I did all the arrangements, producing, mixing and mastering and I programmed the strings, too. Steven Williams plays drums, who is a drummer in my big band, and another producer friend of mine, Toby Donohue, plays drums on another song.
GM: When I listen to “Play by the Moon,” I hear a bit of Natalie Merchant in your voice, Melissa, but with your LoveDust sound, it more like the full 10,000 Maniacs sound than Natalie’s solo work. So, let’s talk about “Circle Dream,” the flip side of “These Are Days.”
MC: I think that “Circle Dream” almost has the same repetition of our song “Liza.” When Natalie’s lyrics repeat, it seemed that this is what she wanted to get into listeners’ heads, which is what we envisioned for “Liza,” making it an easy form to hum or sing along.
TS: With 10,000 Maniacs, I love the sound of great musicians, and we were very familiar with and also enjoy the A side, “These Are Days.”
Flip side: Circle Dream
A side: These Are Days
Top 100 debut: November 28, 1992
Peak Position: 66
GM: Now, let’s move on to “Play by the Moon,” which opens your EP. Vocally, it sounded to me like where you left off, Melissa, with your Imperfect Timing EP. I love your line, “It’s the ups and downs of life that help you win the fight.”
TS: Life has its ups and downs, which was so true in 2020, so this serves as a reminder to never give up and fight through it, project by project. Steven comes through on drums on this recording. He is very well known in gospel music circles.
MC: “Play by the Moon” is about musician life, living by the sun and playing by the moon, working in your daily and personal life and going out, performing, being out late, and figuring out how you are going to fit everything in. Gosh, it is like the first EP, Imperfect Timing, as it focuses on timing and making everything work in your life.
GM: Tim, with “Liza,” there is a lot going on musically. Each time I play the song, the beginning reminds me of Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got to Do with It,” and then the underlying funky backdrop recalls Climax Blues Band’s “Couldn’t Get It Right,” a personal favorite of mine.
TS: I have a funk, soul and R&B upbringing here in Cincinnati. I have been able to play guitar on some of Bootsy Collins’ projects. His engineer is one of my mentors. I have played with George Clinton. I try to have a soulful blend in what I play and record. Any kind of funk or dance is very much at home with me. With “Liza” I was pleased to have a funky bass line and have the drums give a rock and roll feel, very similar to Aerosmith’s “Rag Doll.” Rock and roll is always my go to place with a bit of funk. Prince was one of my favorite guitar players and the inspiration for me to learn to play guitar, beginning in third grade, listening to Prince and Jimi Hendrix.
GM: I love the line “Sparks fly around, leaving no trace,” which fits nicely with the EP’s title. The vocal surprise is in the high notes, delivered so creatively, reminding me of Sonja Kristina from the progressive rock band Curved Air. You just don’t expect that in a funky song.
TS: I think we will be doing more of that. I will continuously encourage Melissa to bring out that higher range in her vocal performances. We want to have as much range as we can find.
MC: We had a vision of “Flashdance” meets David Bowie. My nickname has always been Lissa. I have never been Missy or any other common nicknames for a Melissa. I always thought Liza would be the name for a future child of mine, or now ours. It is a combination of my how I felt in my childhood to keep on pushing on, today, and tomorrow, so it is a past me, a present me, and a future me.
GM: Then let’s go to the past you. In 2019, Brianna and I were leaving a concert in Jacksonville, driving south to the Daytona Beach area, and we had tuned into Los Angeles via the internet to radiomalibu.net to hear “Little Lights,” because we knew that Laura Espinoza was going to play it on her KBU radio show. What a thrill it was to hear the two of you blend together on the radio.
TS: The recording on the new EP is the same as what you heard that night with just a new radio edit and slight remaster. I may tweak the mix a bit when we do a full length release later this year, but for the EP it is essentially the same. The remastering brought more clarity to the high end of the sound. When we recorded “Little Lights,” we were just getting started. In 2020 I had to move my studio twice, so we didn’t get the songs done that we had hoped to create. I am happy to finally get these songs done now. We have a handful of additional songs to work on next but wanted to get these out now under our new name of LoveDust.
MC: There were a lot of ups and downs in 2020, ha ha. Now in 2021, people can purchase these new songs at our LoveDust Music website. Thank you so much for having me again in Goldmine. You have been so supportive over these years and I can’t thank you enough.
TS: And thank you for my Goldmine debut. This was so much fun. Thank you for sharing the music that we create.