1883 Magazine

If Liza Owen hasn’t made it on to your musical radar yet her stunning voice and soulful lyrics guarantee she will be soon. The LA and London based singer’s style of raw R&B combines beats that’ll make you want to dance with lyrics you’ll want to listen to again and again.

To celebrate the release of her latest single ‘Fallin’, we had a chat with Liza about how she’s been singing since the moment she was born, why she misses the rain in London and the importance of trusting your gut.

Your new track ‘Fallin’ feels like the perfect soundtrack for warm summer nights, can you tell me about the inspiration behind the song?

‘Fallin’ is inspired by a past relationship, I finally got to a place where I had enough distance from it to be able to look at it from the outside and analyse it in a really nostalgic way. Then I just started thinking isn’t it so crazy how one minute you can feel so high and in love and then suddenly it’s just gone. For a second, it’s the best feeling in the world, but then it comes to an end.

I’ve read that you’ve previously worked with Kanye West, Diddy and Tyga, what was it like working with them?

It’s all just kind of happened by chance, the Diddy thing came about through my friend Parker who’s a great producer/artist and he was taking part in a writing camp for Diddy and he invited me along for the day. It was great to dip into that world, as the urban writing scene is pretty different. Diddy came in and briefed us, and it was just an incredible opportunity – I’ve been listening to his music for years. And then Kayne was just a crazy chance encounter, I’d been out in LA working with an amazing producer Jess Jackson who’s also from London. We were at the studio one night, he’d been working on some of Tyga’s record and him and Kayne came through to do a playback. We we’re listening and then everyone just started vibing on this track, Kanye jumped in the booth and just started freestyling. It was so inspiring, I then went in and just went in the booth after and laid down a couple of rounds of melodies. And then we just got to hang out later, chat and play each other music. It just always felt like I was in the presence of a musical genius.

Which other artists influence your music?

I’ve always been inspired so many different artists and genres so when it comes to my own music there’s always a massive combination of all those influencing it – and that’s why I’ve always wanted my music to sound special and unique so it’s a blend of everything that’s affected me and made me want to listen to music all these years. I really have such an eclectic taste and I think probably a lot of my melody ideas are influenced by the kind of music my mum would listen to growing up, like the Beegees, The Beatles, Whitney Houston, The Beachboys & Nina Simone – those were the records that were played heavily when I was growing up. As for current artists, I love the lyrics and the feelings you get from Frank Ocean’s music, Marc E Bassey, The Weekend, Anderson Paak, Khalid. I just love artists with really deep lyrics that feel very honest. That’s really something I’m trying to do in my music.

I really love your track ‘Don’t Call Me Baby’, is it ever emotionally tough releasing songs with such vulnerable lyrics?

Yea it is, because you know the person you’ve written it about is probably going to hear it and know it’s about them, so that’s always interesting one. It is tough if your trying to write an honest song if you’re in a room with people you don’t know that well, but in this case I wrote it with my good friend and mentor Ali Tamposi. She knew exactly what was going on in my life at the time so it was easy to just tell her about it… I was seeing this guy and he’d called me baby and I just didn’t feel ready for it, so that’s where that idea came from. But I also think it’s really therapeutic to just grab all the thoughts that are swirling around your head and put them on paper. It definitely helps we deal with things and understand my feelings better.

When did you first become interested in pursuing music professionally?

Fresh out the womb my mum tells me, apparently I came out screaming and the nurses said “she’s going to be a singer”. That’s totally true, but seriously it’s the only thing I can remember wanting to do when I grew up. I think I was about 8 when I was started singing around the house all the time, putting on shows for my family in the living room and charging them for tickets. And then at 13 was when I worked with my first producer, and actually started writing songs. So it’s been a long journey since then, building and growing and finding my own path. But it’s really been the dream my whole life.

There must be positives and negatives about splitting you time between London and LA, what are your some of your favourite things about each city?

Strangely, the weather is a positive for both cities. Obviously the sunshine and relaxed vibes in LA are to die for, but when I’m out here for a long time I actually miss the sound and smell of rain. LA is such a great place to be making music, some of the best producers & writers are based out here and it’s new so I have wanderlust and I always feel so inspired when I travel. And then London is just home and such a cool city. I have all my friends there and there’s just something about being from London that gives the music I make a certain edge. London will always be home to me, but LA is a great place to be creating.

Does your Cambodian heritage inspire you creatively? Do you ever feel a pressure to have to represent both sides of your heritage?

I don’t feel pressure at all, but I just do naturally represent both sides as it’s engrained in me. My mum grew up in Cambodia until she was 21, but she had to leave due to the awful genocide during the Khmer Rouge. She raised us believing in everything she believes in. She’s a Buddhist and although I don’t actively practice I think a lot of the principles I definitely live by. And although the music in Cambodia is so different from any contemporary music you’d hear, it’s still really cool. Cambodia had a crazy rock and roll scene in the 60’s which I love, there’s so much you can take from it. I’ve sampled some Khmer music in the past as there’s definitely something special about the sounds they use. I reference Cambodia a lot in my visuals for sure, for my live show I dress the stage like a jungle. And then as I was brought up in the UK that culture has just always been around me, so it’s a natural affiliation. I feel so lucky to be mixed race and to have been exposed to two completely different cultures that are both really rich and I’m then able to channel that into my music.

Many of the songs you’ve covered are wonderfully, unashamedly pop, do you think there’s unnecessary stigma about making pop music?

Yea I do, because pop music just means ‘popular music’ and right now artists like Drake, The Weeknd, Kanye West are pop – as they’re all over the radio and everyone listens to them. To me pop music is just a hit song, something that everyone wants to listen to – and that’s not a bad thing at all.

If you could go back and talk to yourself when you started your music career, what advice would you give your younger self?

I think overall I’ve stayed on a path I’m happy with, but I think the main thing would be to always trust your gut. There have been times throughout my journey where other people’s visions for me have been different to my own, and in those situations, you always have to stay true to yourself.

Finally, what are you most excited for this summer?

I’m excited to release a ton of new music, I’ve been working on it for a while and then suddenly everything just clicked and all the music on my new EP came together in a short space of time. I’ve been working with this truly special human/writer Paul Phamous, we clicked right away and now we’ve been doing the entire project together. I can’t wait for all that to come out, there’s an amazing song I’ve done with Bipolar Sunshine on there that I can’t wait for people to hear. And then getting out and doing live shows, nothing makes me happier than performing.

Liza’s track ’Fallin’ is out now, for her latest info head to www.lizaowen.com

Interview Sam Stone

Photography Joupin Ghamsari

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