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Student Spotlight: Lizzey Ross on the Fluid Permanence of Water

lizzey ross

In the below conversation, with singer, producer, and Soundfly community member, Lizzey Ross, she talks about some of the growing pains of learning how to write and produce your own music with a DAW. Specifically, there’s often a feeling of not knowing whether or how to change a track once you’ve laid it down.

In this sentiment there’s a fear of change, and yet also of overwhelming permanence.

To overcome these burdens, Lizzey draws on her time spent at a Buddhist centre, where she internalized the beautiful metaphor of water as something which always changes and yet always remains the same. Between that and four weeks of mixing lessons with her Soundfly mentor, now I guess you could say Lizzey is much more readily able to go “with the flow!”

In describing her current songwriting process, she says “I will sometimes just sing to a beat I have created electronically or start by playing something badly on the guitar. But my favourite thing is to just have a loop, and sing with a glass of wine!”

Read our full conversation below, and take a listen to Ross’ beautiful, new single, “No Fixed Shape” via the lyric video here:

Q: You recently released your latest single, “No Fixed Shape” — an ethereal, ambient pop track that features multiple layers of vocals and a powerful cycling of chords. It’s a stunning achievement, congrats! How would you describe this song personally? 

A: I would describe this song as a feel good, maybe meditative nature song. Quite simply, my aim was that I just wanted to be able to enjoy listening to it and relax!

I knew that I wanted it to be vocal strong with lots of harmonies or free-flowing vocal backing. Life is so fast and busy, and so I guess I ended up creating a song which makes me feel like I am in the moment and touching base with the outside world.

I hear this track as being reminiscent of a vocalist and songwriter who I absolutely adore, Juliana Barwick. I am wondering who your influences were in producing this track, and what you gleaned from different artists in order to fulfill your vision?

The verse melody of this song was plotted years ago, and now I remember the feel and tempo was inspired by Hozier’s “Work Song” (which I had forgotten about until now!). My first singing interlude in “No Fixed Shape” was inspired by his vocal introduction, however, each round of mine I decided to sing a little higher each time.

But, I have just listened to Juliana Barwick for the first time now, and I love her style — definitely on the playlist! At the time of melody creating — I was also inspired by The Wailin’ Jennys, as their songs make me feel quite content and calm.

lizzey ross

Lyrically, where does this watery theme come from for you? What’s the message you’re trying to send to the world with these words?

Water is life! My favourite holidays were snorkelling with tropical fish, my childhood stories were always set under the sea… magic happens in water. Water feels and sounds good!

I used to live in a Buddhist centre and I’d take my friend out who is a Buddhist nun. She would always say to me “it’s good for your body to be around water. Good for your lymph nodes!” We would both just feel calm there and she would point out newts and tadpoles; things moving, growing, and evolving slowly.

My message, more to myself and so perhaps the world; chill out! There is no need to hang onto life with a tight grip and so let yourself grow and allow yourself longer periods of contentment. You are what you think about, and your mind is a fluid place, like the water.

“I start with needing to pour out some emotion or feeling to get it off my chest. Then I will whip my phone out and try to get as much recorded as I can remember.”

What is your songwriting or production process like exactly? What elements do you start with and how do you build your tracks?

I start with needing to pour out some emotion or feeling to get it off my chest. Then I will whip my phone out and try to get as much recorded as I can remember.

Most of my songs form as a melody with a few words in my mind; they usually come hand in hand. I will then have a bash on the piano to find the next idea or to encourage more lyrics, or to perhaps change up the rhythm and flow. I sometimes go on a walk to finish off lyric ideas and to hone an idea.

I am trying to get out of this similar way of working — I will sometimes just sing to a beat I have created electronically or start by playing something badly on the guitar. But my favourite thing is to just have a loop, and sing with a glass of wine!

I struggle to change things once they are recorded, I think I struggle with object permanence. But again, I am resisting this at the moment and letting myself be fluid with allowing things to be different to what was originally intended. Ableton sounds and production with MIDI is my last protocol; experimenting with other subtle sounds to enhance the song.

You worked heavily on your production in a Soundfly mentorship session with Andrea De Carlo. What kinds of things did you address and uncover during your time together? 

We addressed a way of working which would maximize my productivity; I can spend months mixing in a very illogical way, and so it was great to get the basics of gain staging, automation and organization down so I could do things much quicker and not have a melting overwhelmed brain with my DAW whilst trying to be creative.

We also spent half the time learning how to play with Ableton Live since I have started experimenting in a duo called RoRo; music and word performance recently becoming electro!

We literally fulfilled everything I wanted to get out of the four-week session, including a booklet with everything concisely written out for me to have and use after the time was up — as my brain can feel like a sieve once I have been through a great creative experience.

How did Andrea’s advice and tutorials help push you beyond the scope of the session afterwards?

I feel so confident trying out new ways of working whilst also keeping track of my mixes and not losing my head, ha! I hadn’t realized how much I have control over, how much I can automate and how much things can change throughout a song! I also feel confident in trying out new ways of working with the live stuff.

+ Learn about Soundfly’s goal-oriented custom mentorship program here, and fill out a quick form if you’d like to get paired with a mentor to improve your skills!

learning on soundfly

And what brought you initially to Soundfly?

A Google search! Soundfly’s beginner-level course on Ableton Live was the initial move.

What’s next for you in 2021 or ’22?

I am currently recording a little five-song EP which is looking to be more acoustic at the moment but who knows. I might get over excited. I am hoping to have this to listen to by the 10th of December, when I have my first gig singing my own stuff at Norther Quarter, in Huddersfield.

I am also currently recording two songs for the electro song and word performance stuff RoRo. I will be co-producing this with friend Rob Sharp, who is a great mixer and guitarist for my songs.

These days, I am mainly found on Instagram, and have just started collecting songs on Soundcloud.

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Jeremy Young

Jeremy is a Montreal-based musician, sound artist and improviser who loves giving advice to emerging artists on how to make their tours more effective. He writes, records and performs electroacoustic "concrète" music for tape, oscillators and amplified objects and surfaces, as well as solo guitar. He has performed and released material throughout Europe and the UK, Asia, the US and Canada, mostly with his trio Sontag Shogun.