Lizzy Greif Emerges with More Sensual Experimental Folk By Jordannah Elizabeth
20ooo (“Twenty Thousand”)—also known as Lizzy Greif—plays sensual experimental folk songs that are emotively intriguing and softly off kilter. The Baltimore based singer/songwriter has released a new collection of songs entitled Emotional Lady. Lizzy spoke about her new album, the inspiration behind it, and the story behind her travels and experiences as a musician living and writing in Baltimore.
On your BandCamp, there looks like a three year jump from your last album to your 2016 release, do you know this lady? Why the pause in releasing music?
When I moved back to the states from China in 2013, I bought a small blue acoustic guitar and wrote “it seems like”. When I started booking my own shows and playing out regularly as 20ooo (“Twenty Thousand”), my focus shifted from writing new songs, to performing the ones I had live. After a while, people started asking me to play and I stopped booking as many of my own shows.
Because people saw a woman with an acoustic guitar, many automatically thought “folk singer.” As a result, I found myself being asked to play alongside conventional male folk-singers – as the only woman on the bill. I don’t think my music appealed to their audiences, and for the most part, their music and audiences didn’t appeal to me. Playing out stopped being fun, so I stopped doing it. Time passed; I accumulated more songs and I wanted people to hear them. There are many uncollected tracks on SoundCloud representing that period. Now, here we are!
Tell me about emotions. Did they play a huge part in the theme of your latest record, Emotional Lady?
I was talking with a friend about Chan Marshall and thinking about constructs like women with mental illness in film/TV, the manic pixie dream girl, celebrity as woman, and trying to wrap my head around what it means for people to like an unpredictable artist who is also a woman.
Does the unpredictable, emotional, “out-of-control” woman reaffirm core beliefs about women in a way that is comforting to people? Do people seek out women who are “out-of-control” and put them on pedestals as warning/affirmation?
I don’t consider myself to be exceptionally emotional, or emotional to a fault. What clatters around in my brain is a sour feeling that what people, in the abstract, really want to consume is the emotional lady.
Do you think coining someone as emotional holds a stigma or social construct, particularly against women?
Absolutely, it can. The cultural fascination with emotional women in the arts functions by cyclically, and sometimes simultaneously, elevating and condemning them. Also, the question of who gets to be emotional comes to mind.
Whenever emotion is placed in opposition to logic or objectivity by a person who believes both that they are capable of objectivity and that this objectivity bests all, an emotional person will be seen as incapable of producing statements that are of any value. Calm down! The emotional state is terrifying to the self-proclaimed objective bystander. Could it be catching? Will I lose track of the facts and become like that babbling, leaking thing? The emotional person is invalidated. It’s no use talking to you when you’re like that, etc.
Are you a multi-instrumentalist and producer? Who have you collaborated with on this record?
I record and produce all of my music with the exception of Emotional Lady which was produced in collaboration with Jeff Schaller over an 8 month period. Jeff played bass and all of the synths as well as managing the recording process.
Most of my instruments rarely leave the house. I first played piano, clarinet, oboe, and English horn. Now I mostly play guitar, Casio keyboards, and of course sing.
Does being an artist based in Baltimore influence the lyrical and musical aesthetic of the album?
Space always influences my songwriting. In the most literal sense, my earlier electronic pieces include samples of ambient noises and speech that reflect my experience of Baltimore at the time. More recent songs are less explicitly shaped by my time in practice spaces where I could play loudly. Getting out of the bedroom and playing loudly can really change the dynamics of songwriting. Tube amps seem to love being turned up. Writing and practicing away from my recording tools lengthened the time that I spent on songs before recording them. It also got me away from some of the more distracting ambient noises that shaped and infected earlier songs.
Where do you see yourself going from here? Playing shows, writing future albums?
I hope to collaborate again and again. I have collaborated in the past with other Baltimore artists including Jack Pinder (Manners Manners, Guided by Wire), Chrissy Howland as Soft Girls, Jeff Brunell, Television Hill, and Russell Burton. I also play guitar in a four-piece called Wishing Rock. Playing with a drummer or electric guitar player would be fun. I hope to continue finding songs in me to play. I hope to tour.
If you had any advice for singer/songwriters who are just starting in 2017, what would it be?
Hi, hello! Do you want to play a show with me? Also, put your stuff out there so we can hear it. Try not to worry about play counts, likes, or how many people are in the audience. In the words of voice actor, Marisha Ray: “Releasing it to the public is a massive success. […] Don’t take that for granted. Seriously. […] If you release something, and five people look at it, that’s massive – congratulations! You should be proud of that.”
Author Jordannah Elizabeth is an author, music and arts critic, editor and folk soul musician. She is the founder and director of the literary nonprofit organization, Publikprivate.org and the author of a “Don’t Lose Track Vol 1: 40 Articles, Essays and Q&As” published by Zero Books. Follow her @lovejordannah.