Hometown: Tallahassee, FLorida
Fave Dallas Hangout so far: Enjoying the view at White Rock Lake
Lizza Connor will release her first children’s album, Commander Salamander, this fall. The whimsical CD, inspired by Connor’s foray into parenthood, is comprised of 13 original songs promoting healthy lifestyle, positive self-esteem, nutrition and physical activity. Connor is the recipient of the prestigious Merlefest Songwriting Award, joining the ranks of Gillian Welch and Tift Merritt. She has spent the last decade as a singer/songwriter in Nashville. Acoustic Guitar Magazine called Connor’s country/roots-tinged debut CD, Runaway, a work of “singular magic.” She has performed at Nashville’s Bluebird Cafe, House of Blues Las Vegas, Florida’s premier folk festival Suwannee Springfest and more with artists including Vince Gill and Andrew Osenga (Caedmon's Call). Connor has been a contributing writer for American Songwriter Magazine, Performing Songwriter, CCM Magazine, Guideposts Magazine and Radio & Records. She spent several years as a publicist with Nashville-based Inpop Records, working with a roster of artists including Mat Kearney, the Newsboys and Superchick. She now runs her own independent label, Whoa Jesse Records. Connor is a graduate of Carson-Newman College, with additional studies at Oxford University in England.
AHD: Welcome to Dallas! What brought you down this way and what do you think of the creative community so far?
LC: My husband’s job moved us here from Nashville 8 weeks ago. The creative community has been so welcoming, and I’m excited to plug into such a vibrant group. Folks in Nashville always said my music had a red-dirt, rootsy feel, and that I should get down Texas way. I’m happy to be here and excited to write, sing and play with others.
AHD: Will you tell us about your latest project Commander Salamander?
LC: This is my first CD for kids. Thirteen original songs inspired by my own children, Bennett & Isabelle (2 year old and 7 month old) and their vivacious pals. This particular collection of songs promotes healthy lifestyle, from physical activity, nutrition, hygiene and self-esteem.
When I became a mother, my heart changed in a way that spurred my creativity in directions I wouldn’t have dreamed. Instead of the content from my first CD Runaway-- you know… mama, drinking and Jesus-- I found myself writing songs on the lighter side: slimy lizards (“Commander Salamander”), bubble-bath mohawks (“Hello, Bubbles”) and please stopterrorizing the neighbor’s cat (“Hands Are For”).
The CD encompasses a range of styles from Harry Nilsson-esque pop to rockabilly to vintage jazz. Never thought I’d say, “More tuba!” during a recording session. My closest musical friends played and sang harmony on the disc, so it has a lot of meaning to me, and it was a blast to make.
AHD: When and where can we pick up the album?
LC: Commander Salamander will release nationally in November through my label, Whoa Jesse Records. It’s available for pre-order now at www.lizzaconnor.com, and I’ve been overwhelmed by the response!
AHD: Your previous releases were certainly family-friendly, but this is your first foray into children’s music. What inspired the new direction?
LC: My friends heard some of the songs I was writing for my kids and they said, “You should make a record. We’ll buy one!” That got me thinking, “Yeah, I could do that.” By virtue of being a parent and a songwriter--my motto at present is No. 1. Strong Coffee. Numbers 2 and 3 are to entertain and educate in the things I create for kids.
AHD: You’ve said your songs for kids are meant to be both entertaining and educational. As a new parent, what do you think of the current entertainment market for youngsters?
LC: I’ve found there’s a real need for fresh, original songs that inspire kids, and at the same time don’t drive parents crazy when the CD is on repeat in the car pool. I wrote the “Safe-Ti Song” to teach my son the value of buckling his car seat, wearing a bike helmet, not petting strange dogs (Actually, my vet asked me to put that in the song. She’s a mom, too). Turns out there’s a big hospital that wants to use the song in its national safety programming. I’m not the only parent who wants their kid to look both ways before crossing the street.
AHD: Limited edition, pre-ordered copies of Commander Salamander will be “lovingly hand-wrapped and autographed.” Have you always had such a personal approach when distributing music to your fans? Why is it important to you?
LC: Before I got my first music publishing deal, I was working as a music journalist. I interviewed hundreds of artists. On one rare occasion, I got a handwritten thank-you note for covering this particular band. It was from Jon Foreman of Switchfoot, at the height of the band’s popularity. That really impressed me, and I’ve tried to stick with the same personal approach.
AHD: You penned “Alive Again”, a previous release, while on mission in Peru. Do you consider singing and songwriting for children here at home to be a similar mission?
LC: Absolutely. Kids deserve music that’s well written, creative and fun. Half the time it’s my 2-year old to whom I should credit the song ideas and lyrics. He provides inspiration on a daily basis.
AHD: Your tunes have been described as “fun and danceable”. It only took my three-year-old a second to get up and start moving to “Noodle Noodle”. How do you feel when you see little ones moving to your music?
LC: Since becoming a mother I’ve turned into a mush-ball, so, not surprisingly I’ll say that it warms my heart. To inspire the spontaneous dance party is to have made it in kids’ music. But seriously, a friend told me that you become more compassionate when you become a parent. I’ve found that to be so true.
AHD: How can we follow you to keep up with upcoming shows and releases?
LC: Soon I’ll be playing CD release shows for kids around town, so check out my website for the dates & times. And I’d love to explore a more collaborative band thing on the adult music side, so I’m looking forward to seeing what happens with folks here. Feel free to hit me up at my website. I’d love to grab coffee and get acquainted here.