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New York’s own Liz Menezes is an indie singer-songwriter whose music, even though she doesn’t like to categorize it, is best described as Latin pop/rock. This trilingual artist released her first album, Yo, in 2011 and will soon be releasing a video to her song “Veneno.” The interview with Spanglish Noise gives us a glimpse into her writing process, influences, and even a tale of a memorable open mic night in Brazil. It’s not often easy being an indie artist, but in Liz’s case, her passion for music doubles as motivation – tune in at SpanglishNoise.com or download the podcast on iTunes!
JM: This is an exclusive Spanglish Noise interview with Latin singer-songwriter Liz Menezes. Liz is an indie artist from New York and she released her first album, titled “Yo,” in 2011. Today we’ll introduce you to her life and explore her music. (Sound clip of the song “Sere“). Hi Liz, welcome to Spanglish Noise. I want to start by asking you a little bit about your background. Where did you grow up and what were some of your musical influences?
Liz: Well I grew up in the lower east side of Manhattan, beautiful area of New York..very creative and a lot of artists..so it was a good childhood. Around that time I heard a lot of Whitney Houston, Mariah Cary, Boyz II Men..so those were, I would say..along with Elvis and things like that..and merengue because of my Spanish background..were a lot of influences to me. The first artist that I really looked up to was Mariah Carey.
JM: And why was that?
Liz: To me she’s an amazing artist vocally. The things that she can do with her voice and just the influence that she had on pop culture itself, along with Whitney Houston..amazing voices and what they could do with that as artists and performers I think has had a great influence on the artists we have now.
JM: What is your favorite musical memory from the past?
Liz: When I started getting into music, I had to have a recording of everything from the radio stations, so I’d bring my cassette and be recording artists and music of all genres..and one of the things that I remember was that I saved up money to buy a Scooby Doo..I would say like radio (laughs)..and I loved this Scooby Doo radio, don’t ask me why.
JM: Do you still have it?
Liz: (laughs) Nooo…no no no..but it was like a Scooby Doo head – I loved it. From there I upgraded to a two-cassette radio and I was able to record stuff and have these incredible mixtapes. Friday nights I would just stay up all night recording. So I would say that’s my biggest (laughs) silly memory…and then when I actually sat in front of a piano. I used to play Classical piano. I don’t anymore, I would like to get back into that, but I used to play Classical piano and I’m in love with that instrument, as well as the guitar.
JM: Was there an “aha” moment where you knew that you wanted to pursue music as more than a hobby?
Liz: My “aha” moment – and again don’t laugh (laughs) – was around 9 years old..and I decided, “I want to write a song about rainbows.” I actually wrote a song with melody and everything else. That was my pride and joy and I was able to sing it on key and that I would say would be my “aha” moment. This is what I want to do for the rest of my life..I want to be involved in music, I want to perform, I want to sing, I want to write..so since that age I would say that I already knew.
JM: How would you describe your music today?
Liz: I would say it’s a mixture of genres, I don’t like categorizing it. I lived in Brazil two years and Brazilian music, I would say Bossa Nova Jazz, greatly influenced me in regards to melodies, the way I sing, and there’s elements of that..there’s elements of Bossa Nova, there’s elements of Jazz, there’s elements of Rock and Pop. So I would say it’s all-encompassing; I don’t put limits on what I write. If I sit down with pen and paper and I’m writing, I don’t say to myself, “Ok! This is going to be a pop song”..or whatever have you..”It’s going to be a rock song”..I just write and then I sit down and just figure out what feels best to me in terms of melody, and go from there.
JM: So do you have a band, or who’s playing the music on your tracks?
Liz: I don’t have my own band. I would say I have several musicians who play with me. They are incredible musicians which actually now play with other known artists. The first one that I would mention would be Eli Menezes, which is my husband..and he is the producer of my current CD. He is an incredible guitarist, bass player, producer/arranger. I have Jotan Afanador, who plays drums on my CD..and he’s playing with Romeo Santos, from Aventura…and I have Patrick Andy, who’s an incredible bass player from Africa. I speculate my musicians..when they’re in town and they’re not touring, they’ll play with me. (laughs). So that’s how it works.
JM: Do you feel there are any advantages or disadvantages to being a bilingual artist?
Liz: I actually sing in three languages. I feel that as an artist, I think all artists should really look into that, invest in that, and sing in different languages and try to do different types of music..because you never know who you’re going to hit, who you’re going to touch. Nowadays if you look at culture, we’re all mixed together. I think that singing in English to a crowd of Spanish individuals – and I’ve done so – they’ve actually received it well..and vice versa..and I’ve sang in Portuguese to both types of crowds and they like it as well. So I think that it has many advantages and you can reach more areas that way. You can touch Europe, you can touch South America, you can touch the United States, in many ways..to me music is limitless.
JM: Which of your songs has meant the most to you so far?
Liz: (Sound clip of the song “Alivio” plays in the background). There are two that I would say mean a lot to me. One of them is a slower song, which is called “Alivio,” which in English is “Relief,” and “Sigo Siendo Yo,” which means “I Will Always Be Me”..and those..both of those songs were based on personal experiences. When I sing them, it almost helps me release whatever it was that affected me. So it’s a liberating feeling when I sing those two songs.
JM: Are there any venues or audiences that have stood out as being particularly receptive to your music or most memorable in some way?
Liz: I will tell you a little story really quick..when I was in Brazil, I used to have Myspace, which a lot of artists have..and I was contacted by someone through Myspace, by the name of Marcos Luis, who has a one-mic night every Thursday in the city. He’s an actor, who actually appears in my upcoming music video, and he told me, “Hey, you know, I would love to have you. I heard your music, I really like it – why don’t you come in and sing?” And I said, “Is it OK if it’s Spanish?”.and he said “Yeah!” So I came and this was about..I would say..four or five years ago..and I’ve been doing his open mic, you know..on and off..throughout the years..and recently, in February, I went again..and I sang a lot of my Spanish songs, a lot of my Portuguese, and some of my new stuff. It was SO well received. People were SO into it. People were so participating, singing with me..I felt so comfortable and at home..and it was like people understood what I was trying to do as an artist, that people could relate to what I was trying to do. I think that to date, that’s my most memorable..
JM: That sounds like a fantastic experience.
Liz: Yeah, it was..it truly was.
JM: And what do you have planned for the foreseeable future? I know that you said you’re working on another album. Is there anything else?
Liz: Yeah no, I’m waiting for my music video to be completed..it’s due for release this month, for my song “Veneno” from this CD [Yo]..and I can’t wait for that to be done, for me to be able to show the public and for them to see..because right now all they hear is the music, but for everyone to see me in action (laughs) in the video..trying out my acting chops and stuff like that. I just can’t wait, that’s one of the big scenarios right now that’s happening. I’m in the process of writing my new material [for the second album] and starting to record probably in the fall. I’m aiming to do a pre-tour in Santo Domingo and Europe. It’s pretty busy, the schedule is pretty busy.
JM: And where can our listeners find you?
Liz: Well I have my website – it’s liz-menezes.com. You can find me on YouTube, under Liz Menezes Music. You can find me on Twitter under Liz Menezes Music..and on Facebook under Liz Menezes Music. My CD Yo is available on all digital downloads..CD Baby, iTunes, Napster..you name it, it’s on it (laughs).
JM: Do you have any last words you’d like to share with listeners out there?
Liz: I want to say thank you very much for supporting me thus far. Thank you for believing and coming out to the shows..and look forward to much, much more surprises..and look forward to a new release next year, because we’re going to keep on doing this. I’m going to the top, I’m going to try to go to the top. (laughs). So thank you everyone, I send you lots of kisses and hugs.
JM: Thank you.
Liz: Thank you!
JM: (Sound clip of the song “Veneno” plays in the background). Be sure to check out Liz Menezes on the websites she gave earlier..Facebook, Twitter, her official website. While Spanglish Noise certainly shares the latest music by some mainstream artists, we always seek to promote the new indie artists such as Liz. You can find Spanglish Noise online at www.SpanglishNoise.com, on twitter – @spanglishnoise – or on facebook, Spanglish Noise. Consider signing up on the website for the latest posts delivered straight to your email or on iTunes, where you can subscribe to have the latest podcast episodes and interviews delivered right to your device. Thank you for listening and stay tuned for more next week!