INTERVIEW CONDUCTED BY DECATUR DAILY
1. Describe your sound:
I've been told I sound like everyone from Tracy Chapman to Amy Winehouse to Nina Simone to Brandi Carlile to Eva Cassidy. I'd call it Green-Eyed Soul Folk with some super catchy guitar riffs. And the occasional kazoo impersonation.
2. What kind of show should the audience expect?
Come prepared to hear some familiar songs in a completely new way, and original tunes that you'll be humming as you go home. Also, listen between the songs. I have very few filters between my internal monologue and my microphone, and that's usually grounds for giggles.
3. What about your music do you think appeals to audiences?
If you play it backwards you end up in Oz.
4. Where do you find inspiration for your songs?
I try not to get too navel-gazey about the whole thing, but the majority of my songs are written about my experiences, usually with friends or lovers, or ex-friends and would-be (or wanna-be) lovers, as the case may be. I've moved 33 times, so I've had a lot of practice at analyzing and agonizing, at meeting new people and sharing new experiences, and at finding ways to hold on and say goodbye (and then telling the whole world about it in thinly veiled rhythmical rhyme).
5. Is there a lyric, verse, chord or entire song you are the most proud of?
Well, “proud” is a dubious distinction, but I will say that I have gotten the most response from a line in my song Promises that starts with “Fool me twice,” and ends with a phrase that you probably can't print in this newspaper.
6. Who introduced you to music?
My mother has pictures of me at the piano before I could speak, and I think there's a video tape somewhere of me singing in the Christmas Pageant at church, dressed as a cardboard purple piano. She played piano in church, so I'm sure there was some early influence there. My choir teacher in school (Ms. Mayo) taught me how to harmonize and sight sing, and really gave me a solid musical foundation.
7. What music did you listen to growing up?
I was 13 when the whole Lilith Fair crew (Sarah, Tori, Tracy, Natalie, Jewel, Alanis, Fiona, etc.) hit the scene; suddenly there were female singer-songwriters all over the radio and I fit snugly into their target demographic. But I also listened to Motown and Classical and Country and Celtic and 90s Rock. In college a friend took me to an Ani DiFranco concert for my birthday, and that's where it clicked that one could use music to tell real stories, and that one chick and her guitar could move an entire room full of people.
8. When did music go from just a hobby to a career?
When I quit business school in the Netherlands and recorded my first CD of songs I had written while I was there, all my fellow exchange student friends came to the CD release party and told me that listening to my music was like listening to their own stories of the time they spent there. I loved that I could connect with all these kids from all over the world by sharing my story. I knew that I wanted to keep traveling, and I needed a career that would facilitate travel; a career that could take me back to Europe, to New Zealand, to New York City, to Music City; and so far, it's working. I'm planning my return to the Netherlands for our 10 year reunion this summer, and working on putting together a European tour while I'm there.
9. How did you develop your own sound?
I sang in choirs growing up, then sang in my room in the Netherlands for a semester, then busked on the sidewalks of Madison, Wisconsin, then in coffee shops in Oklahoma, then in a jazz duo, then in a swingin' big band, then at the University of Tulsa on an Opera scholarship, then I moved to New York City and sang in the NYC Women's Chorus and at a funk jam in the Village every week, then I put together my own band to perform my original material at some awesome little venues on the Lower East Side, then I moved to Nashville and have been flying mostly solo for about a year. There are a lot of ingredients in the MIZE casserole.
10. What have been the highlights of your career so far?
Well, if you're “only as good as your last performance,” then my hometown show in Nashville last week was definitely a highlight for me. I've lived there for about a year, and it was the first show I'd done in Nashville where the room was completely packed with my friends. It made Music City feel like home for me.
Other highs include playing at Ani DiFranco's Babeville 3 years in a row, opening for the Average White Band this past New Year's Eve, playing with Mary Ramsey (violinist and lead singer for the 10,000 Maniacs) at the inaugural Statler City Ice Ball, and every single time that people sing along with a song (or la-dee-da, or hey-hey) that I've written.
11. And the biggest challenges?
I work for myself. My boss has ADD. (Squirrel!!!)
Finding good sushi and healthy food on the road. Maintaining long distance friendships. Getting to sleep at a reasonable hour. Keeping the bees in my beehive. Finding attractive comfortable shoes. Worrying if people know that I'm joking (most of the time). Begging people to like my Facebook page (www.Facebook.com/ValerieMIZEmusic) and follow me on Twitter (@ValerieMIZE).
12. What do you love most about what you do?
When I'm finally onstage; turning all the preparation into play.
13 . What is your goal when you step in front of an audience?
Don't suck, and tell some truth up there.
1. What is currently playing on your iPod?
I just hit play on my phone and it's on a new Holly Williams song called “Without You." (www.iTunes.com/Nashvilleindiespotlight) I don't know why, but this song made me cry the first several times I heard it. I told Holly she owes me a box of Kleenex.
2. If you were performing Karaoke, what song would you choose?
Proud Mary (in the Style of Tina Turner)
3. What is your most memorable experience from a concert you attended?
I had the awesome opportunity to attend the GRAMMYs in 2010 with my friends at the MERF Music Group, and got to see them set up the stage for P!NK's stunningly acrobatic performance of “Glitter in the Air.”Even sitting in the Staples Center audience, we had no idea that she was going to be dunked into a tub of water halfway through her song, much less that she would proceed to be lifted 40 feet in the air, then whip around in a circle, flinging water off her unitard and onto the entire floor-seat section of the audience, which was comprised of nominees, trustees, and governors of the Grammy board. Beautiful and ballsy.
4. What is the last thing you do before you step on stage?
Take a deep breath.