Interview: Eliza Shaddad

Eliza Shaddad

Words: Elena Katrina

Photos: Sam Rowlands

ElizaShaddad-SamRowlandsThe last time I saw Eliza Shaddad was in the Summer of 2015, on stage in Liverpool’s Arts Club for I Love Live Event’s X&Y festival where she was simply spell-bounding. Since then there’s been some Twitter chatter between us and several fantastic new releases all leading toward us finally meeting for the first time. Eliza is no stranger to Liverpool’s Parr Street Studios having spend sometime in their booths before, although it is the first time her and her band have played their live room – Studio 2.

For all who don’t know her, I sat down with the very unassuming and lovely lady of elfin stature, to find out exactly who is Eliza Shaddad and how did she arrive at this place on a grizzly Saturday afternoon, all wrapped up in a cosy cardi ?

” I was born in the UK to Sudanese and Scottish parents and I grew up all over the world really. Always loved music and started learning piano quite early and got a guitar for my 16th birthday then um just started writing songs really. Went to a lot of festivals, listened to a lot of folk musicians fell in love with storytelling via music.”

Eliza’s being modest here, she’s not only a stunning performer and an exquisite writer she’s softly spoken and incredibly intelligent. As well as having turned her passion into her craft she’s also studied both philosophy and Jazz – a very interesting combination which perhaps gives a very small insight into her masterful, thoughtful compositions and stories.

We’re tucked up in a corner of the cold stone-clad side room at Studio 2 and the conversation is friendly and free flowing. Despite our stark surroundings, the room comes alive when Eliza talks and her eyes twinkle whenever she thinks of where she’s at and I can’t help but feel as enthused and extremely comfortable in her presence.

“I now play electric guitar and sing and write songs and perform with some amazing musicians as part of a band project now I guess and yeah we’re on tour at the minute supporting our latest release Run and we are currently in Liverpool about to play Studio 2!”

ElizaShaddad-SamRowlandsEliza Shaddad is now on her third EP release and I was interested to hear her thoughts on how she felt they worked together and how they’d progressed or changed.

“The EPs …. are all quite separate in terms of direction in some ways because they’re quite spaced out and I think I’ve developed between each release but I think the common thread running through them is my style of song writing – it’s very blunt and I really like telling stories so often the songs are quite long and there’s a lot of information in them and yeah it’s getting more experimental. Weirdly there’s a lot more going on and a more expansive sound and yet it feels like it’s getting rawer in some senses. I think emotionally it’s getting rawer and bits of the production are backing that up but I think there’s a common thread running through it all…. I think.”

While I’m pleased to find, now that I’ve met Eliza in person, that her music really does appear to reflect her personality; passionate but not obnoxiously so, excited but softly spoken, her live set requires something with a little more bite so how does her live set and her recorded sound correlate does she think?

“Our live set is a lot harder I guess and louder than our recorded stuff. Especially because the longer that we perform together the kind of… I mean it’s not thrash metal.. but the thrashier and crashier it gets and it means that we’re… I mean at the minute on this tour we’re playing an hour’s set, and for that we’re using material from this EP Run, material from Waters, material from the EP I self released before that, January March, and stuff that I’ve been writing over the last few months. And it’s all wildly different in terms of the way it was written and the direction that it originally had but it’s all being changed so that it fits one cohesive setlist and so the songs from Run are already quite over-driven so it’s not that big a change where as the songs from Waters are not very over-driven at all and now they are and the songs from January March were just with an acoustic guitar and now they’re very different beasts.

She speaks excitedly about it but how does she feel about the evolution of her tracks from quiet introspective pieces into …  very different beats?

“It’s amazing, so much fun and I think people react to it really well like this tour has been amazing, we’re so early into it and people seem to be having so much fun.”

I was keen to understand more about this absurdly talented and eloquent young woman and what makes her tick,  where she thrived the most in the journey from idea to stage. Is it the solitude of writing? The excitement of the recording studio or the exhilaration of the stage where she felt she thrived the most?

ElizaShaddad-SamRowlands“Oh I don’t know” She pauses for a more considered response before deciding. “When you’re writing it feels incredible because you know that everything you’re creating then has the potential to fuel all of those other aspects of it like if you write material that you’re happy with you’re going to get to take it into the studio to record it, hopefully, and then hopefully you’re going to get to tour it and hopefully that means that you’re going to get to be on stage performing it and people are gong to connect to it. So that’s really special because it’s the first step to all of that happening. But all of it’s incredible – studio is amazing, I have the best fun in the studio, and this tour is amazing and being on stage is – that actually often the moment where you think… OK… all of the stresses that come alongside all of the good stuff, like all of the stresses, especially with touring – there’s a lot of organisation, a lot of boring stuff to do, and yeah when you’re having a good show, that’s all worth it for this. This is what it’s all about.”

But where does Eliza Shaddad want this all to go? What’s her idea of success in this, now very different world and very different music industry?

“Hmmm. I guess when I started, and kind of still, I was hoping to have just enough to have a comfortable life. Not a … nothing crazy, because I’m not sure about the intense … I dunno, pressure, the media scrutinisation, and the effect that has on song writing. I’ve never been quite sure how much success would be…. too much. But at the same time I’m ambitious and I’d like to support myself and not worry about money and grow old and not worry about money – that would be really nice, and that’s really hard to achieve in music so it is pretty ambitious just to even strive for that I think. I’d love to tour America, I’d love to play big festivals. I’d love to tour the world to be honest and you know… I’d like to sell a lot of records. All of that I’d like to do but ultimately I’d be happy if I was just selling music.”

I was itching to know if there was an album in the plans for the future and  if so would it be new or incorporate reimagined versions of the older tracks to hint more at their live re-incarnations?

“Album. I’ve been writing a lot over the last few months and hopefully when we get off tour we’ll go pretty much straight into the studio and start recording. I’m not planning to [include old tracks]. I’d really like it to be new. It’s really fun re-interpreting a lot of that older material but I think it’s going to remain just like a special live thing.”

So if you want to hear these changes you can’t rest on your laurels, you’re going to have to get up and do something about it. Liverpool was the sixth date of a decent sized UK tour so get on out there and see Eliza and her (hilarious) band sooner rather than later.

Aside from the current tour you can expect the rest of 2016 to look a little like this:

“Well we’re playing some festivals.  We’re playing some in Scotland, some in England and I think if all goes to plan we’ll have some new music again. Fairly soon, definitely this year so I’m sure we’ll play some dates in support of that. I guess come Autumn.”

Find Eliza Shaddad on Facebook.




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