FESTIVAL SEASON 2018: LIZZO @ LOLLAPALOOZA
When I asked Lizzo what her favorite lyrics to sing live were, she didn’t disappoint, rhythmically reciting, “You coulda had a bad bitch, non-committal /Help you with your career just a little / You’re ‘posed to hold me down, but you’re holding me back / And that’s the sound of me not calling you back.” I was shook. I was validated. In less than two sentences Lizzo laid out an entire aspect of the femme experience, honestly, and unapologetically. Lizzo is a bad bitch, and that’s the power of her music. That’s also the power of Lizzo, who happens to have an aura brighter than the fitted fuschia top she was wearing when I met her.
Lizzo, born Melissa Jefferson, has made life-sans-apology a mission of sorts. Her music to date aligns with that message, with tracks like “Good as Hell,” “Boys,” and “My Skin” that celebrate her individuality, body, and amplify her experience. I caught up with Lizzo at Lollapalooza to talk about being too black for the indies and too weird the rappers, how she bulldozed her own path, and how to be classic and iconic instead of just trendy.
People rarely talk about Minnesota as a hub for music, but so much of your career started there and you’ve mentioned that once you got to Minnesota, that’s when your career really took off. What is it about it that made it the perfect place for you to come into your own?
I’m forever grateful to Minneapolis and St. Paul because they really embrace local acts. You’re a transplant and they support you. I was a little different than the other acts that were currently there and it made me feel that it could have gone either way. I could have stuck out like a sore thumb or could have been, like, not fucked with. And the fact that they chose to fuck with me, it was amazing. There can be like 10 local shows and they’re all sold out on the same night which I think is really special. And I think they really believe in a purifying themselves in the waters of Lake Minnetonka!
That’s awesome, I love the plot twist at the end. You grew up in a church around Gospel music which I find very similar to my own experience. Do you feel like that had an impact not only how you write your songs and their sound, but also on how you perform on stage?
Yeah. I feel like when you grow up in church, a few things can happen to you. And fortunately, I used church as a vessel to spirituality and I would see people–the holy ghost and running around the church and shouting and hollering and speaking in tongues. That doesn’t just have to happen in church and in our culture, black culture especially, you can catch the holy ghost anywhere, you can start shouting anywhere, you can start doing the shuffle anywhere and I wanted to bring that into my musical career. It just started happening naturally and then once I was aware that I was channeling something that I’ve been channeling my whole life, I focused on that and I kinda like to bring church to the stage. Because a lot of people don’t go to church and they need some in their life.
I read that you felt like you were at one time too black for the indies and too weird for the rappers. Do you feel like you’ve found your place now? What kind of advice would you give to younger artists that are still trying to find their place?
Yeah, bro, you gotta make yourself. Because when you’re weird, nobody’s checking for you. Nobody’s making space for you. And I just feel so fortunate that I’m big and loud and you know, I had a lane so I kinda just bulldozed it. I still feel weird and at this point like I still feel I’m by myself out here in the industry and yeah, I think that like sometimes I get really frustrated because I’ll be like, man, they get cosigns and they get accepted and they started after me. But you know, it’s like all of that frustration can’t turn into bitterness. I can’t get jaded because I have something really unique. And if you have something unique, you have to remember this. Keep it that way, stay that way. Don’t try to homogenize yourself, don’t try to start singing like all these motherfuckers…then you’re trendy and what do trends do? They come and go. So you don’t want to be a trendy-ass motherfucker. You want to be classic, you want to be iconic. I think the only way to truly be classic and iconic is by being yourself.
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