Hi Elizabeth, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
I’m great! Thanks so much for talking to me!
Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Not Today”?
Absolutely! I’m super excited about this single – it features the amazing Tiger Darrow singing lead vocals and me on trombone.
Did any event in particular inspired you to write this song?
Yes, this song was inspired by a very specific event but its message became more broad as I wrote it. In 2017 Trump and his family skipped the Whitehouse Passover Seder, a tradition that previous administrations always made time for. It felt for me, as a Jew, like the beginning of a much bigger trend the Trump administration has adopted of attempting to erase cultures and minority groups from not only the government but from the fabric of our nation. It feels to me like not only does this administration seek to remove protections and equal liberties for groups that look or love or pray differently, but it seeks to remove the groups themselves from history and the present. I asked myself what do we do and the song popped into my head, we have to protect ourselves by being the keeper of our own narratives, we will not let ourselves be erased. Not Today.
Any plans to release a video for the single?
Not yet but you never know!
The single comes off your new album Haven’t Found It – what’s the story behind the title?
I started writing this album right after I graduated college. I think there’s an inherent anxiety that accompanies that life stage, especially while working in the arts. There is so much talk about “making it” and this immense pressure to do that. I really felt that pressure strongly and also felt something much more philosophical – like not only had I not “made it” I hadn’t even found “it” and I started to feel like maybe there was nothing to find. We do so much searching externally for purpose, peace, happiness, maybe everything we’re searching for is in us already and nothing external could ever touch upon that. I still haven’t found it but that definitely feels ok now.
How was the recording and writing process?
The writing process was very sporadic and took place over several years. When I first started writing songs, I didn’t have it in my mind to record them. The first 2 songs I wrote I played at a friend’s showcase called Art Buffet at the Irondale in Brooklyn. Audience members came up to me after and asked where they could listen to my music and I didn’t have an answer for them – that’s when I first started thinking I should record some songs! The recording process was super fun and a little DIY. I worked with an amazing producer, Dylan McKinstry to bring these songs to life. I really wanted to record an EP but didn’t have a huge budget so Dylan and I recorded the whole EP at his house in Brooklyn. Dylan is a virtuosic multi-instrumentalist and also shares a house with 10 other musicians. We recorded the whole thing with his roomates. It gave us a ton of time to play around and experiment to find the perfect sound and it was really fun!
What role does Brooklyn play in your music?
Although I moved to Brooklyn from Manhattan only about 18 months ago, my parents are both from Brooklyn and I spent my whole childhood visiting my grandfather in Gerritsen Beach, BK. My grandfather was the person who sparked my passion for music as a kid. He was completely untrained but had an encyclopedic mind for music and lyrics. We used to say about him “you give him a word, he’ll give you a song”. Although I resisted it for a long time, my move here feels almost inevitable. Brooklyn is really cool in that there are a lot of people very apparently living unique lives. In Manhattan when I would have an unusual work schedule I was the odd person out. Now in Brooklyn, anywhere I go throughout my day – a recording session, work at a coffee shop, rehearsal – there are people just like me observing their own schedules and doing creative work. The creativity is palpable in Brooklyn and that inspires me.
Do you tend to take a different approach when you are scoring a film or working with someone else rather than working on your own original content?
Yes and no. I’m always trying to tell a story but the approach differs in that when writing for film and collaborating with a director, I’m trying to interpret and synthesize a character or story arc into a musical idea. I’m conveying an emotion, telling a story through music. When I’m working on my own content, I am the narrator. It’s almost like writing a story in the first person vs. the third person perspective. It’s also different because when writing for film, the story and characters are king. All the crew members are working in service of the narrative. When it comes to my own work, I have more freedom and it’s a much more vulnerable process to tell my own story rather than someone else’s.
How has The Eagles and Jackson Browne influenced your writing?
I think the biggest way The Eagles have influenced me is through their harmonies. I’m a sucker for those thick 1970s harmonies where there’s almost no lead vocalist and nobody does that better than The Eagles. I’m definitely more influenced by their country stuff than by their rock stuff. I love the storytelling in country music and it’s something I try to draw upon in my songs. “Lyin’ Eyes” is a huge storytelling inspiration to me – it tells a story so incredibly well and is so simple and yet never loses the listener. My mom is a huge Jackson Browne fan so I definitely inherited that. I love, of course, his big rock hits like “Running On Empty” and “Doctor My Eyes”. I love the instrumentation, specifically his use of piano and harmonies as well. I also love his much smaller more folksy stuff. He is so good at conveying emotion through music, lyrics, and instrumentation – the song “These Days” is a big inspiration to me at how to perfectly capture a feeling through song.
What aspect of your own personal life did you get to explore on this record?
Oh boy, this record is highly personal! Every song you hear tells a completely true story. A lot of the songs work through really painful life events and deal with tough topics like chronic illness and sexual assault. For me, writing these songs was a form of therapy. For some reason when I’m writing, a wise-minded version of myself takes over. A version of me that can see the ends of these story threads and point me in the direction of healing.
Where else did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?
I find inspiration everywhere. Songs usually start with a strong feeling for me and that can come from anywhere. A recent song I wrote was inspired by “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story”. That show scared me so much and I went with it.
Any plans to hit the road?
Not anything concrete but I would love to!
What else is happening next in Elizabeth P.W.’s world?
I just got married to my high school sweetheart! I’m scoring a film this summer that I’m really excited about. This fall I’ll be going back to NYU to get my Master’s degree in Film Scoring.
Hi Harry, welcome to VENTS! How have you been? Great! Thanks for having me! Can …