Lizz Fields began her musical journey as a student at one of the most famous high schools in the country. Although decidedly unsure about her talents when stacked against the competition—classmates with thick, gospel-tinged voices—she quickly abandoned all negative thoughts and set out to make her mark on the music world. Her debut album, By Day By Night (ABB Soul), is a smart blend of jazz laden tracks with noticeable hip hop influences, perfect for a Saturday night of kicking it with friends or simply chilling solo.
Clutch: You went to a pretty famous high school, The Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts, with alumni such as Bilal, Boyz II Men, and ?uestlove. How was that experience? Was it around this time that you developed your unique sound?
Interestingly enough, my school intimidated me to the point that I wanted to become a drama major. The music program was run like to a mini conservatory. We spent several class periods a day learning music, music theory and sight reading. Our choir conductor, David King, sharpened our chops as he raised our expectations of arrangement and harmony. We performed classical music and old spirituals in 4-8 part harmony. Many of my classmates gravitated to power singers like Whitney & Mariah and I just couldn’t sing like that. That’s when I discovered the ease and melancholy of Jazz. I auditioned to sing lead for a rendition of “Mood Indigo” by Duke Ellington. “You ain’t been blue. No, no, nooo. You ain’t been blue till you’ve got that mood indigo…” I fell in love with that song and practiced, practiced, practiced. I overcame my intense fear of auditioning and auditioned. Unfortunately, somebody else auditioned better. I didn’t get the lead, but I DID get the first song of my repertoire. I sang “Mood Indigo” to every audition for years, all the while developing my sound.
Clutch: Your sound is definitely one reminiscent of Ella Fitzgerald, and comparable to that of Dianne Reeves. How does it feel to be placed next to the great ladies of jazz?
It feels nice, but I KNOW that I KNOW that I have many more years of experiences to live through to leave the marks that they have left and continue to leave. I thoroughly respect the fun they seem to have with their voices. I found them so much fun to listen to that I began learning them and they soon became a part of my practice routine. “The Grandmother Song” by Diane Reeves was one of the first songs that I listened to over and over again, rewinding and pausing to capture the lyrics in my notebook. “SuperSonic” by JJ Fad was the second. LOL!
Clutch: Your album, By Day By Night, was a collaborative effort between you and your production partner Damon Bennett. How did your meeting come about? Was it sort of like s kismet thing?
Funny, I have a lot of kismets going on in my life. Damon is definitely one of them. We were introduced through two separate sources and then we began working together in a variety of ways. I sang background for a couple people, he played in the band. I acted in a live stage version of “Sparkle” and Damon played keys. The music came very easy to us. I loved the sounds of Portishead, Bjork, Morcheeba, Fiona Apple, etc. Damon found a way to infuse those sounds with his musical abilities and my voice. We just played. We played in the studio not really intending to make an album. That thought came a bit later when I realized that I had enough songs to make an album.
Clutch: You were constantly traveling/working between NYC and Philly while working on the album. Were there ever times when you felt like it was too much, or that you lost focus for a bit due to your demanding schedule?
I traveled a lot between Philly, NYC and Los Angeles. It was actually one of the more focused times in my life. Everything seemed to be moving forward at a really nice pace. One step led to a new need and then to another step. I was rolling with it. I had never done it before. These days, PleasureVille demands much of my focused energy. As expected with a sophomore project, more has to been done. I don’t feel like it’s too much, but it is a lot! Fortunately, I have a lot of good people around me.
Clutch: You’re currently signed to an overseas label. Do you think you’ve had to sacrifice a certain level of success that more mainstream artists get at major labels, for a little more creative and artistic control?
I decided to license ByDayByNight to a few overseas companies, Unisex Records and P-Vine Records. It was the next natural step after mailing out cds myself. I didn’t sacrifice success. In fact, I am a success. I did something that I had no clue that I could do. I followed every step needed as if I were on the yellow brick road picking up friends along the way. I am approaching PleasureVille in the same manner. If ByDayByNight was The Wizard of Oz, then PleasureVille is definitely The Wiz.
Clutch: You have a huge international following. How would you compare the music scene across the water to the scene here at home?
The internet allows music to be global these days. The average American is inundated with the same everything, same music, same news, same routine, etc, however we do have a growing population of music lovers who seek out good music. Music lovers are international and the scene here and there continue to grow.
Clutch: Your music is very relatable, like things you would overhear women talking about on the train, or at dinner with friends. Where do you find inspiration for your songs?
Life inspires me. Conversations with the homegirls. Having crushes. Being sick of everything. Being re-inspired by an unexpected phone call. Spending time with the fam. Waxing my car. Life stuff. My music is just my end of the conversation about life.
Clutch: You’ve collaborated with some really impressive names: 4Hero, DJ Jazzy Jeff, DJ Spinna. Anyone you’re hoping to work with in the future?
Kanye West, John Mayer, Citizen Cope, M.I.A.
Clutch: Who are some artists you’re listening to right now?
Ingrid Michaelson, Kanye, M.I.A, Marvin Sewell, Jill, Janel Monae, Talib Kweli.
Clutch: Lots of artists take on different personas when they perform live. Is there another dimension of Lizz Fields that comes out once you hit the stage?
From what I hear, yes. The music, the beat seem to rule my body on stage. The audience inspires the storytelling. I move. I joke. I preach. I go somewhere else.
Clutch: Both your parents were singers. Were they always supportive of your dreams as an artist or did they try to steer you away from “the business?”
My parents have always had a passion for singing however neither pursued a career in music. They did, however, surrounded us with music and learning. Our education has always been important to my parents. I’m so glad they pushed me. All of that to say they absolutely support me. My family just recently came to see me perform at BAM Cafe, babies and all.
Clutch: You actually have a background in theater/acting as well as music. Will we be seeing you on stage or the big screen any time soon?
I don’t have any projects in the immediate future.
Clutch: Is Philly still hombase for you? How often do you get a chance to go home?
Philly is my hometown, but homebase is wherever my parents are. These days, they spend much of their time in North Carolina.
Clutch: Where can we see you next (performance dates)?
PleasureVille is being released this month and with the live shows to follow. See me on www.myspace.com/misslizzfields for release and performance updates.
Credits: Alzo Slade (Photographer), Deulon Lesure (Wardrobe Stylist), JoJo Rodriguez (Make-Up) and Anika Thompson (Hair).