As harpists are not particularly common, Lizzie No is often known for her talents on that instrument. With the release of her debut album, Hard Won, back in 2017, she established herself as an all-around talent. In fact, she is a winner of the American Songwriter Lyrics Contest and a finalist in the New England Indie Rock Competition. No and her band paid a visit to the DittyTV studio in Memphis for a Concert Series performance that debuts June 5 at 8 p.m. CDT. And you can get to know her a bit better right now with her answers to these 5 Questions:
1) You’re a multi-instrumentalist but it’s definitely not everyone who comes through the DittyTV doors who can play the harp. How did you get started on that instrument and what first interested you about the harp?
I was a baby violinist (I started taking lessons when I was 3 years old!) so by age 10 I was totally burned out and ready to quit. My parents told me I could change instruments, and I decided to go with the biggest, strangest one I could think of. If I remember correctly, I saw someone wheel a harp into an elevator on the TV show Diff’rent Strokes and thought it was amazing. Anyway, I immediately liked playing the harp and was much more willing to practice than I had been with the violin. So it was destiny I guess.
2) Did winning the American Songwriter Lyrics Contest give you added confidence as a songwriter, and what has it done for your career in general?
The American Songwriter prize changed my life in two ways. First, it gave me a public encouragement to keep writing and focusing on my storytelling at a time when I really needed that push. Second, the prize came with a Gibson SJ-100 acoustic guitar. When I won the Lyrics Contest I was a harpist through and through, and did not play the guitar at all, but once I had this gorgeous instrument I knew I had to start learning. Because it’s so rhythmic, the guitar changed the way I sang and the way I wrote. I would not have been able to finish writing the songs on my first album, Hard Won, if I hadn’t had that push.
3) You’re often categorized as a folk singer. Some people, though, think folk music ended in the era of Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Arlo Guthrie, and Joan Baez. Tell us about the contemporary folk scene and where you fit into that landscape.
I was not around to experience the folk scene of the 1960s and ’70s, but in my own experience the contemporary folk scene is more alive than ever. Folk music, to me, comprises simple song structures, acoustic instruments (though as a community we have allowed electric guitars and keys in, thank goodness) and heartfelt storytelling. There are songwriters all over the country who are keeping that tradition alive.
I find it inspiring to be a touring folk musician right now and hear bands performing songs in protest of police brutality and anti-immigrant prejudice. I feel that my role in the current folk scene is to share my own worldview as creatively as I can, and to give voice to causes I care about when I feel inspired to do so.
4) Obviously we know about Hard Won, do you have another album and tour in the works? If so, what can you tell us about that?
Yes! My second album, Vanity, drops on August 2. This new batch of songs is focused on ego. It’s very navel-gazey but I hope it’s relatable, too. I’m trying to become more conscious every day, separating my ego from my true self. This album contains a lot of reflections on that inner work. It also has a fun song about highways in New Jersey, and a couple of spicy breakup songs.
5) If you were not a professional musician, what career do you think you’d be pursuing right now?
In my wildest dreams I would be a bridge engineer. I am cynical about a lot of things but I still find bridges miraculous. Building them, maintaining them … wow!! Humans really crushed it when we invented bridges.