by Alex Teitz
Elizabeth Ziman is a Berklee graduate who first came to prominence with the release of the Elizabeth and the Catapult EP in 2006. She was signed to Verve Records in 2008. She has worked with Esperanza Spalding and Ben Folds. Her songs include “Race You”, “Taller Children”, and “Underwater.” She released her 5th studio album Keepsake in October. FEMMUSIC was honored to speak her about her songwriting and process. For info visit https://www.elizabethandthecatapult.com/
FEMMUSIC: Can you describe your songwriting technique? How has it changed over time?
EZ: My songwriting process has always been an idea first, whether it be lyrics on a napkin or whatever I can write on at the moment, followed by rushing to a piano to flesh it out. I learned guitar in recent years, specifically so that I didn’t have to find to find myself a piano everytime I was exploding with an idea.
FEMMUSIC: What were your visions and goals when you started on Keepsake?
EZ: I wanted to make something that showcased all the stylistic sides of what I do– from classical piano to folk to indie rock — and then somehow unite it all with an underlying theme.
FEMMUSIC: What was the biggest challenge making Keepsake?
EZ: The biggest challenge is always choosing which songs to record. I think I started recording about 30 songs for this album – maybe more? I ended up choosing mostly the songs that had a “forgotten” or “nostalgic” quality to them, as they most genuinely tied in to the way I was feeling while recording the album. They’re all a little dreamy, a little contemplative, and always searching for meaning.
FEMMUSIC: How did you choose Dan Molad to produce the album? How was it working with him again?
EZ: I love working with Dan. We have a long history of working together – almost 10 years now. We’ve worked together on all of my albums. He’s incredibly talented and just released a wonderful album of his own music, his self titled “Chimney” – check it out!
FEMMUSIC: Both Like It Never Happened and Keepsake you used crowdfunding. What do you like about crowdfunding? What benefits and downsides have you encountered with it?
EZ: There are no downsides to crowd funding, except that you don’t want to keep supporters waiting too long! Otherwise, it’s a miracle that artists can find a way to fund their own music through their fans instead of searching for labels or investors—its a huge luxury, actually. I don’t take it for granted for even a minute.
FEMMUSIC: I’ve recently started research on a possible larger story involving Gender Neutral Booking. It based upon the experience of some friends who changed their band name from something feminine (including a woman’s name in the band name) to something gender neutral. They saw their bookings increase because of it. Have you seen other artists who have different bookings because their band name is gender neutral? Do you think your own bookings would change if Elizabeth and the Catapult was Catapult? Do you have an opinion on whether this might be a bigger issue in the industry?
Sidenote – This is something that I’m researching as a bigger story. If you have any recommendations of whom I might want to speak to, I’m seeking any help I can get.
EZ: I haven’t experienced discrimination too much in terms of my band name, but I’m not surprised to hear. Sometimes I encounter sexism in my composition career — I’ve noticed there’s a lot less recognition for female-identifying composers and film scorers although it’s getting better. So, people just expect composers to be older and male. Its frustrating for sure, but there’s something much larger than myself at play there.
FEMMUSIC: As a woman in the music industry have you been discriminated against?
EZ: Have I had unwelcome attention and/or made to feel small because I’m a woman? Have people told me to lose weight? Have I found myself in situations where it feels like a boys club? Sadly, yes. That said, I’ve also had the good fortune of working with many female PR agents and managers at many points in my career. That’s been rad! I always make sure to surround myself with strong smart feminist humans, of all genders, whenever possible.
FEMMUSIC: Whom would you most like to tour with or collaborate with and why?
EZ: Ah! This is such a hard question. There are so many artists I’d love to tour with and collaborate with on any level. A couple off the top of my head: David Byrne, St Vincent, Tom Waits, and Danny Elfman to name a few…they are all beautiful, wildly imaginative artists who have somehow carved out a world that transcends music and exists in its own unique plane.
FEMMUSIC: What one thing would you change about the music industry?
EZ: I would make recording equipment less expensive so everyone can learn to record themselves in their home recording studios at an earlier age! Here’s to home recording — yeah!