After seeing a performance earlier this year at Clifton’s Clash Bar, I met Northern New Jersey singer/songwriter Liv Lombardi at a basement show in Montclair earlier this month. We chatted briefly before the show about her music and some of the other great acts on the bill for that evening. One of the first things I thought was “this is a genuine person.” She comes across as very open and honest. And that comes through in her music.
Her 2012 debut album Self-Medicate is a wonderfully personal record that is at times folky, powerful, soulful and spiritual. “Self-Medicate” is a breezy number with deep-meaning lyrics accentuated with a funky organ. You can feel the passion and anger in “Break” well beyond the opening lyrics “You put a hole in my heart, a knife in my chest, my thoughts are on fire, and I can’t seem to rest without thinking I hate you.” The gorgeous closer “Take” highlights Lombardi’s voice accompanied by a lone piano.
Her latest EP, The Unraveler, originally recorded in 48 hours, has been re-released to include the fantastic new song “With Love, From Berlin” which was co-written and recorded in Berlin, Germany with indie-rock producer Gogo.
What was your experience growing up in New Jersey?
Busy! I did a lot growing up, whether I was with friends, in a band playing music, acting, in improv comedy groups, or studying for school. I was always really involved in school, but honestly I couldn’t wait to get out of New Jersey. There was this other part of my life that I never shared, and I couldn’t wait to leave and go some place to be out, to be myself completely. I don’t think I consciously knew this at the time, but now I can see how anxious I was, and how stifled I felt. I have to say, I really like that I grew up here and am proud of it, because it gave me this edgy attitude. I developed the ability to advocate for myself and be very straightforward with people, which I did not know was unique until I went out of state to college.
When did you first pick up the guitar?
When I was 12, I begged my parents for a guitar for Christmas. I remember taking lessons for about 6 months before quitting. The guitar collected dust in my closet for about four years and I always thought about playing it again, but never did. Then when I was 16, a girl I went to school with told me that she thought girls who played guitar were sexy, so that summer, I locked myself away in my basement and taught myself how to play again. The rest is history…I guess I just needed a different kind of encouragement, haha!
What made you decide to attend school in New Mexico?
It’s a funny and long story of how I ended up in New Mexico. I applied to The College of Santa Fe (now called “Santa Fe University of Art and Design”) on a whim because my twin sister had enrolled in their writing program and loved the school. So, once I also was accepted, I decided to go. It was a last minute decision and sort of crazy to attend a school that I had never visited, but luckily, I fell in love with the place. It sounds silly to some people, but there is a palpable energy in Northern New Mexico that is very inviting. Living there for 5 years was a major part of why I am pursuing music.
You graduated with a degree in Theater Performance. How does that help with your stage presence?
Everything about studying acting has become integral to my live performances and stage presence. People see theater or movies to be entertained. They want to escape the routine of their lives and become a immersed in a different world. And they want to feel like they are an important part of that experience. So, I’ve always thought, why should I approach live music any differently than theater? And the most important things on stage like, physical awareness and breath control, make all the difference in stage presence. A person who is comfortable in their own skin and not afraid to be silly is more relatable when you watch them perform. At least I think so…
What made you decide to return to New Jersey?
After four years of living across the country and another two years touring around the US and Europe, it was time to come home and regroup. So, that’s where I am now. I also had some great professional opportunities waiting for me here that I couldn’t pass up.
Your lyrics are quite personal. Tell us a little about your songwriting process.
Recently, I have been a bit baffled by my songwriting process, mostly because after a couple of years of traveling, my experience of how I see the world has changed greatly. Honestly, I am still catching up with myself. But I always say that there are two ways I approach songwriting. Sometimes they jump out of me and write themselves all at once (which is rare), but more often than not, it’s a patience game. I’ll have a guitar riff I like and will try matching lyrics to it little by little-like I am pulling it on a string from the recesses of my deepest heart. In my experience, my songs are extensions of the truth that need to be celebrated and tended to. Whether it comes from a conversation, something I read, or realizations about love and the spaces between words, they are all deeply personal to me.
Are you currently working on new material?
I’m always working on new material, and recently I have been spending more time honing in on my guitar technique.
How exciting is it to be doing the current dates with your former bandmate Daniel Siuba?
SO EXCITING! Daniel is a really special person and I am proud to have him as a friend. We spent so much time together playing music in college, recording my debut album, so to have the opportunity to do it again after three years of growing and changing is a gift. I feel blessed to have such a great friend who is so deeply connected to me through music.
Five words to describe Liv Lombardi?
Love, Love, Worry, Love, Love.
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