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Canadian Transplant Liz Labelle

Updated: Sep 10, 2019

A stop in Nashville at the end of the 2014 Vans Warped Tour was life-changing for Canadian pop singer-songwriter Liz Labelle. After traveling the United States as a solo act on the tour, Liz says “this city just stayed with me.” Even though it would mean leaving her home and family, Liz felt like there was more potential for her to grow if she left Montreal.

She had found some success in Canada writing an album for a local band and getting a couple of her original songs placed in movies. Another song got radio airplay and made it to #6 on the French charts. But, says Liz, “I write music in English, and back home it’s French pop.” With the encouragement of a producer she met (who happened to work with Paramore, a band she idolizes), Liz set the wheels in motion to relocate to Music city.

“I spent nine months as a tourist here, and made sure I did everything by the book.” With a strong work ethic that she learned from her dad and grandfather, Liz networked with other musicians and writers. She accepted a job offer from a cover band just two weeks before her travel VISA was set to expire. “I didn’t have time to process the fact that I was going from an office job in Montreal to making music full time in Nashville.”

After finalizing the paperwork that was necessary for her stay in America, Liz hit the ground running on her first day back in Nashville last month. She drove 1,200 miles in 30 hours and arrived at noon on a Saturday. She dropped off stuff at her rented house, showered, and did a 2:30 PM sound check for a 7 PM show that night with her new band.

Liz currently plays with a five-piece cover band known as January Noise at the downtown venues FGL House and Jason Aldean’s Rooftop Bar. For corporate and private events, the band adds a horn section along with additional vocalists and choreography and goes by the name Universal Crush. Liz plays with the band three to four days each week, “and the rest of the time I write songs.” In the coming months, Liz will be traveling with the band for shows in Texas, California, and the Dominican Republic.

Liz knew she wanted to be a singer ever since the first time she was on stage -- wearing a red wig and red dress and singing It’s A Hard Knock Life from the musical Annie. Soon after, she took drum lessons and then taught herself to play piano and guitar. Her musical style was influenced by the bands she grew up listening to. Her dad played Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and AC/DC; her mom was a Rod Stewart fan.

That background led Liz to develop a style of music that she describes as “a mix of catchy pop melodies, rock, and some jazz elements.” She has several recording projects in the works, including an EDM album she is creating with another musician and a five-track solo EP titled Road Worn that she will be recording this fall.

Liz will co-produce the EP, and plans to have about 70 percent actual instruments and 30 percent programmed sounds. “I want to keep most of it as organic instruments because Road Worn is about being stripped down, honest, your raw self.” Liz adds, “it’s also about life’s hardships and lessons wearing you down, but at the same time making you stronger.”

Although Liz co-writes with other artists, she wrote most of the Road Worn songs on her own to make sure all the lyrics were true to the messages she wants to convey. “I need to think every element through. Every word, every line, every feeling needs to be well placed.” Leaving home is a theme in some of the songs. Family is very important to Liz, and she plans to go back to Canada to visit as often as she can, including a trip next month for her older sister’s wedding.

What is it like for a Canadian pop songstress to live in a city where country is king? “It’s been a lot of adjusting, and a lot of finding the right people to work with, but there is a good pop scene here.” She adds that a song stands on its own merit, no matter what the language or genre is. “However you sing it, however you perform it, however you produce it or arrange it -- that’s up to the artist.” When it comes to songwriting, it is the words and melody that are important. “That’s really what I came here for, to become a better songwriter, and to learn from the ones that have been successful.”

Liz has two tattoos on her right arm that are reminders of her heritage and the values that got her where she is today. Right before she left Montreal, she got a tattoo of a wine bottle with symbols from her home, including her father’s eyeglasses and her street address. An inked screw is a reminder of her Polish grandfather’s affectionate nickname for her as a little girl with curly hair. She credits both men for being role models in her life. “Hard work doesn’t scare me. I’ll roll up my sleeves and do whatever it takes.”

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Favorite artists: Brendon Urie (lead vocalist of Panic! At the Disco) and Lady Gaga.

Hobby: Cooking (especially vegetarian dishes). Her secret ingredient for making French toast is cashew milk.

Favorite restaurant: Milk & Honey

Favorite movie: Star Wars

Liz has a German Shepherd mix named Maple.

Watch the official music video for Liz Labelle's original song Painless below.

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