You’ve got a few dates up in our neck of the woods – the Drouthy Cobbler this Friday and Carnegie Hall the Friday after that! I understand that you are (or at least were) based in Aberdeen – do you travel west/north often? What have been your standout gigs in the north of Scotland?
I used to live in Aberdeen for five years. I went to university over there and then I moved to Glasgow and then Edinburgh. I played some great gigs at the Woodend Barn in Banchory, I really love that venue. And also the Newbold House in Forres is a good place. Kind of spiritual and unique.
So I’d love to get a bit of background about yourself – what first drew you to music? How did you bring your sound together? What would you describe as your influences?
I always used music as a therapy. When I moved to Scotland on my own I faced a lot of difficulties and I needed a way of release. I am quite introverted and my only way of release was buying a cheap guitar and start writing my own song to express what I felt. I remember the satisfaction of paying for myself. And then slowly I began to share it with other as well through open mics and gigs. I remember there was a particular time when my own sound was shaped. I took a gap year after my second year of uni and moved to London to do music. I knew nobody and the whole experience was actually alienating and tough. I was played lots of open mics and eating boiled potatoes mainly. I think something in me happened and I have managed to find my true voice and style during those times.
As for my influences, I listen to a lot of traditional music from different cultures: Armenian, Bulgarian, Japanese, Korean, Turkish, etc. I find great inspiration in this kind of old and beautiful music.
You’re playing dates with jazz guitarist Graeme Stephen – how did this come about? I saw on his website the two of you worked on a project called Enchanted Tales – could you tell me a little more about it?
I was doing some gigs in the Jazz Festival in Aberdeen 2016 and I heard about Graeme’s playing before and he also knew who I was through some common friends. I asked him if he would like to join me on some songs on the festival and that’s how it all started.
Enchanted Tales is a live score we wrote for a silent fairytale movie that we pieced together from old silent fairytales like Sleeping Beauty, Hansel and Gretel, Jack and the beanstalk, Snow White and some others. They are pieced together in order to form a new story. It’s pretty experimental in concept but great fun.
It mentions that you’re well travelled since growing up in Transylvania – how do the influences of the places you’ve been factor into your music and art? As someone currently residing in Scotland after travelling so much, what would you say is the main thing about Scottish culture that you’ve taken influence from?
I have toured in Japan quite a few times now. I find that country very inspirational. The sound of the countryside is amazing and the attention for details, their customs and traditional music is all art. They even fix broken cups/pottery pieces and consider the finished product to be more beautiful than before.
Scotland has a certain solitude and loneliness to it. I think a lot of my music has been influenced by this solitude.
You also make soap and knitted bow-ties – which sounds amazing! How did you get into the craftier side of things? And what particular item have you created that you’ve taken a particular pride in its outcome?
I think I take the crafty side from my family. My mum is such a skilled woman. She used to make us all the clothes for us.
as children, she’s makes amazing wine, moonshine and pickles every year, she has a great veggie garden, knits jumpers and all sorts and what not. So I slowly learned how to make a few things. It’s such a therapeutic process working with your hands and making something on your own. I actually created a wee company called ‘Wolf Ate Soap’ (online on Etsy) where I sell my soap, deodorants, creams, lip balms and other stuff all natural, made with herbs and organic oils. I use a lot of herbs that I grow myself so I am pretty chuffed about that. I am particularly happy with the natural deodorant I make..effective and safe.
What’s been the best bit of advice you’ve been given as an artist?
It doesn’t matter what other people think about my music. I need to be happy and satisfied with the outcome.
What’s been your biggest and best gig so far? And what’s been your most unusual one?
I don’t really have a best gig. I think every gig has something interesting in it and all gigs together have a special place in my mind. It’s all essential experiences that help me grow.
Unusual gig...I played once a very spontaneous gig in Japan in the middle of a forest in a remote part of the country. Everything felt a bit surreal. The community of people over there has their own thing going on. I felt like I was in a different world.
So after these dates with Graeme in the north of Scotland, what’s next for you? What plans have you got for the rest of 2018?
I have a few more gigs in July in Biggar and Dunoon and a Fringe Fest gig in August. I am currently working on a new album and hope I will finish it this year.
Lizabett Russo (with Graeme Stephen) play the Drouthy Cobbler on Friday, July 13 and Carnegie Hall, Portmahomack on Friday, July 20.