LADY LIBERTY

It is with extreme pride that I present the song LADY LIBERTY, released on October 8, 2020, by KZZ Music.

All of the following questions come from a Q&A with SRO PR:

Given all that we’ve seen in 2020, your song “Lady Liberty” resonates even
more. What was your inspiration for the song?

While we have seen an explosion of issues in this year, what we really have
is an explosion of voices, tired of what they have witnessed and experienced
for much, much longer. I have been lucky to see progress made for womxn,
the LGBTQ+ community, and many others in my lifetime, but I’ve also seen
a lot of back sliding, along with things that are shocking for a country that
prides itself on freedom and equality (and in this day and age). I don’t know
how to not be outraged by the children in cages at the boarder. Or that amid
this global pandemic, there are so many without access to housing or proper
medical care.
Back in June, we not only saw a renewed outcry for justice for the Black
community, we also saw a resurgence of hateful, racist actions, that have
been creeping out into the open steadily these past few years, and it all just
came to a boiling point for me. I wondered if it were too many topics for one
song, but how could I not cover as much of it as possible? Each subject
tumbled into the next. Each of these things, and more, are important to the
health, soul, and growth of our country. As Gloria Steinem said, “It is not
possible to have women’s liberation without racial liberation, and vice versa.”
Everything is tied together.
We are meant to uphold the promise of Liberty for each other, and this song
is written to be a reminder of that.

The song begins with the memorable words at the Statute and based on the
words of The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus and builds from there. When
and where was “Lady Liberty” written?
I was at home, in Los Angeles – my lyric journal tells me it was June 23,
2020. I couldn’t get the images of protests out of my head, the pictures of
children in cages on the boarder, the feeling of being in the crowd holding
signs and calling out for equality, equity, and justice, remembering where I
was when marriage equality passed…and I started thinking about Lady
Liberty, holding her hand up to light the way for immigrants and people from
all places. I recalled a fragment of the message, but I wanted to know
exactly what was inscribed there at the statue, what exactly she was meant
to represent…and I was so moved by the words, I picked up my guitar,
started playing, and began singing them.

 

While most songs are written from the perspective of a narrator, or as a first
person account, on this song, you’ve written it from the perspective of one
of the most iconic American images. Why did you take that approach?

I kept thinking to myself, “what would Lady Liberty have to say about the
state of things here? What did she have to say in the first place?” Reading
the words again, after all of these years, being reminded that it was a call-
in…her opening her arms to those in need, those tired and weary souls,
hopeful for a better life…well the rest of the song just flowed from there. I
was so inspired by Emma Lazarus’ words, her own ideas of what Lady
Liberty might say, that I began a continuation of them, beginning with “Give
them rest, and give them more.”
Each verse ends with a version of that statement, recognition that each of
these groups of people have been fighting for a long time, and almost like a
prayer, calling for reprieve and relief, before they pick up the fight for
another day.
I was needing to write a piece of this nature, on theses topics, and part of
me was held back by “who am I to say all of these things?”
At first, writing from her point of view gave me permission, and a platform
from which to explore a greater overview of the people that live on this
land…the original poem expressed what I so deeply wish that I could do –
gather people into my arms and promise them a better future.
And as I went on, I recognized that we are, each of us, extensions of this
iconic image – she holds the lamp, she stands as a beacon of hope, but WE
are the hope, we are the action that makes those things a reality. We are the
ones to welcome and make a place for those seeking a better life, we are the
ones standing up and speaking out, voting, creating legislation. That is part
of the privilege and responsibility of living in the United States.

While you’re Los Angeles-based now, you hail from Philadelphia, one of
America’s most historic cities–how did that influence your viewpoint on the
country?
I definitely grew up with a strong sense of connection to this country’s early
days. It was so easy to go walk around historic Olde City and see the places
that you read about in books. I think it’s easy to get lost in the start of this
country as a story…the Founding Fathers, Betsy Ross and the flag, as if they
are fabricated characters. But I was lucky enough to be surrounded by it
(and always intrigued by it), and to see them as real people. People with
flaws, just like you and I. People who were trailblazers and full of hope, and
determination, but still stuck in the time that they were in. Women,
relegated to the home, men, fighting for freedom, but not granting it to
those they raised families with, and even more awful, those that they
deemed fit to own.
I can’t say that my eyes were always open to all of it, but growing up around
the US’ “birthplace” gave me an understanding that this country was and is
an ever-expanding, ever-evolving thing. It was never meant to stay as it
was in 1776.
It also gave me pride in the lofty and difficult goal of “Freedom and Justice
for All.” Striving for that means having the courage to look at where you’re
failing, so that you can course correct. Declaring that we stand for freedom
does not mean that we actively do. Standing for freedom means that we
stand, and we make changes and move forward, together.

You ask for “Justice For All” and “Empty The Prisons of modern day slaves”
in the song. How did growing up in such a culturally diverse city impact
you?
I spent my early years in a town just outside of the city lines, filled with
working class families, and moved into the city proper when I was a
teenager. What I learned at a very young age is that the world does not
revolve around people who look just like me, or who come from a similar
type of family, or upbringing. I learned about the immigrant life from the
Italian side of my family, and like anyone, the more diverse my surroundings
became, the more aware my world view was. I definitely believed in
“Freedom and Justice for All” since being taught the principles of this
country, but I didn’t come to an understanding about the prison system and
the continued effects of segregation and red lining, etc, until much more
recently. I will always be learning, because while I came from a family that
encouraged educating myself on the experiences of others, I still grew up a
white girl in America. I know for some, that line will be heard as a call to
empty the prisons of violent criminals, but that is not at all what I mean.

With the video for “Lady Liberty,” what did you visualize?
(VIDEO COMING OCTOBER 15TH)

For some reason, I kept imagining a golden field. Lucky for me, California is
covered with them this late into the year. I didn’t want to inundate listeners
with more visuals of the harsh realities we’ve been witnessing, I wanted to
create something that would give people hope. To make them feel connected
to one another, and the greater goal of equality. To recognize that we are, all
of us, extensions of this beacon of Liberty.
At some point, I started imagining the story being told primarily through
American Sign Language interpreters. It’s so important to elevate
accessibility to the handi-capable communities, and in this case to make
sure that the message could be received by the deaf community. They must
be included in this fight for our country and our people.
They are, just like everyone, vital pieces.

 

Where was the song recorded?
What you’re hearing is as true a representation of the times as the lyrics are
– a quarantined production.
Each musician recorded in their individual home studios, beginning with my
guide guitar and vocal tracks. Some home studios were already up and
running, pre-Covid, and some were results of making it work during this
pandemic.
Before we mixed, I re-recorded my guitar and lead vocal at ElectroSound
Studios, where they have a great Covid-Safe setup. The song was also
mixed there, by Jason Hiller, and mastered overseas by Lazerus – Voice of
the Silences.
Which musicians played on the track?

You’ll hear me on acoustic guitar, lead vocal, and some background vocals.
Matt Musty (Train, Grace Potter) is on drums and percussion, Zachary Ross
(Heather Anne Lomax, Janiva Magness), who co-produced the track and played electric guitar, Chris Joyner (Jason Mraz, Heart) on organ, Ed Maxwell (Shelby Lynn, Meiko) on upright
bass, Malynda Hale and Sarah Ault (front women themselves) on vocals. It
was then mixed by Jason Hiller (Maesa, Kyle McNeil), and mastered by
Lazerus – Voice of the Silences (Donald Fagen, Stevie Wonder).

What was the process of recording a song while in quarantine?
It was a lot trickier, approaching recording in fully virtual setups, on a brand
new song that had never been performed, and felt so weighted. It was a
longer process, start to finish, for that very reason and was definitely an
exercise in creative communication, for me.
First thing I did was have a backyard, masked-and-far-away rehearsal with
Ed Maxwell, who has played upright bass on my music for the past few years
(and on my last record). It was a relief to play music together again. We
talked about a Joni-and-Joco feeling, meeting folk with a bit of jazz, and an
improvisational expression from him. It was really lovely to work through the
song that way, but it still left me wondering about the overall instrumental
composition.
After I recorded a guide guitar and vocal track at home, it was sent out to
Matt Musty, who is a brilliant drummer and lovely human (as are all of the
musicians on this recording. I am so lucky to work with such genuine and
lovely people). My partner, Zachary Ross, co-produced this track, so we
chatted with Matt about what we were looking for, the feeling I hoped to
express, and went back and forth to create the percussive landscape for the
song. We ended up using three separate tracks that Matt sent us, two full
drum kit passes and extra cymbals and percussion, because the song has a
bit of an odd form, and has various important peaks, as opposed to maybe
your typical single song peak. It was interesting to find our way through that
challenge, and so exciting to put those artistic percussive pieces all together
to create such a huge heartbeat to the song. (Especially considering that
Matt had to work during hours that didn’t disturb his neighbors. We were all
adjusting and finding our way through this new process, and he really hit a
home run with these parts.)
Once the drums were set, we sent it off to Ed Maxwell to work his magic,
and bring the beautiful voice of the upright bass to the song, giving it some
additional tension-and-release.
Chris Joyner got ahold of it next. We originally asked him to play piano,
figuring organ would be more of a background layer, piano stepping out into
the spotlight. But as it turned out, his organ parts were what spoke the most
to us, and gave us the feeling of sacred mission that we needed – the piano,
while beautiful, sadly made it’s way to the cutting room floor!

At that point, I went in person to Jason Hiller’s studio, ElectroSound, to re-
record my guitar and lead vocal. He has a great Covid-Safe setup there,

being able to enter and exit the vocal booth from the outdoors, and it was a
pleasure to get up and go to work that day, and let myself pour out my heart
onto the mic.

After that, I put together a preliminary vocal arrangement, which went out
to to the wonderful Malynda Hale and Sarah Ault – both front women in their
own rights, whom I am so pleased to have on this song. We had to do a bit
of tweaking and back-and-forth, as again, working through tight harmonies
and adding additional without the luxury of each other’s presence is a
challenge. But it really came together so beautifully, and I am so moved to
hear their voices rise through this song with mine.
While I was caught up in a concentration fog of harmonies and vocal parts,
Zachary quietly was working to bring his own voice to the table, requesting I
wait to hear it until he felt he had properly spoken (on electric guitar).
Having witnessed him pour his heart and soul into songs of my own, as well
as the beautiful creations of others, I know how personally he takes his
work, and how specific he wanted to be in adding to a message of this
nature.
What we ended up with is such a thoughtful and passionate piece of the
puzzle, a counterpoint to my own voice, and hearing it all come together
leaves me in awe of everyone’s ability to rise to the occasion and bring their
individual emotions, in addition to their creative expressions, to this piece.
Once everything was put together, it was sent off to Jason Hiller, over at
ElectroSound Studios, for mixing. I absolutely love working with Jason, and
this time was no exception. He did an initial pass which was sent back to us,
and after notes and tweaking, we went and made the final listen and
adjustments in the studio.
That left one part to be completed, which was mastering, by the extremely
talented Lazerus – Voice of the Silences. This involved a little more in the
way of tricky communication, as he is working in Norway, but we had the
luck of catching each other almost every time one reached out, which was so
helpful. He does extremely artistic, spectral sounding work, and the end
result gives me goosebumps.
The process of putting this particular song together, in this way, during this
time, really gave me hope – something that seems to easily slip out of our
hands right now – for the future. Not just of music, but of this country, and
the changes that need to be made, the challenges that are being faced, and
the people that are rising to the occasion. We each play a part in what will
eventually be the story of this time…but it is very much real life, and so
much is at stake. Every voice is necessary, and every voice counts.