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The Start of a New Era: Lizzie Cates Releases “I Like the Way”

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At age 5, Lizzie Cates was creating her own fairy tales and nursery rhymes. Eight years later, the Reno, Nevada native was writing songs with her first guitar in hand.

Cates’ ability to tell a story is endless, and after receiving an International Singer Songwriters Association (ISSA) Award for her breakout song “Strangers” in 2017, she moved to Nashville to hone her craft.

Favorite fairy tales and nursery rhymes that influenced you to write your own as a child?

I was always obsessed with Disney Fairy Tales. My favorite one was Snow White. I don’t know what it is about that movie that had me so intrigued. I seemed to be drawn to the darker fairy tales. Not to mention, I loved and still love animals. Red Riding Hood was one of my favorites as well. I was fascinated with talking animals. The fairy tales that I made up always involved them, in particular unicorns and kitticorns.

As the pandemic closed venues in March, how difficult was it to bring your live performance energy to an online show?

At first, I felt very awkward doing live streams shows by myself cause I am definitely one of those performers who feed off a crowd’s energy. Talking to a camera without an applause after you finish a song took some getting used to. I feel like I have found my own niche. I love to just have fun and be silly. Engaging with the audience is key. Asking them questions and having them do the same. Acknowledging and thanking the audience is really important.

Writing while social distancing. “Forget to Forget” with co-writer Jason Witt … “I just remember way too much that I forget to forget you.” You said that the bridge was written in under 5 minutes. What makes this song a pop anthem?

Forget to Forget” was the first co-write that I did during the whole shutdown. I wanted to write something that was different than anything I had ever done. I’ve written some pop songs but nothing to this extent. At the time, I had the Taylor Swift 1989 album on repeat. I was really fascinated with the 80s synth pop with vocal layering. The version that I have been playing live on the guitar is just kind of a sample of it. I almost think that there could be two versions. The acoustic version could honestly be a pop or country song, but we wrote this song to track. The track is very heavily 80s inspired and sounds almost like “Stranger Things”. There is stacking on my vocals that give it that 1989 sound. I say it’s a pop anthem because I felt like the 80s had all the “anthems”.

Having your solo write, “King of Hearts”, song be nominated for the World Songwriting Awards for “Best Modern Country Song”. How does a recognition like this influence future song writing?

I was so honored to be nominated because “King of Hearts” is a song that I wrote by myself when I was 19. This song is really important to me because I have decided that this song is the main influence on my next project’s sound. “King of Hearts” is full of metaphors about falling for the wrong person and knowing that it won’t work out, and is actually inspired by one of my favorite fairy tales “Alice and Wonderland”. The song reminds me how much I love writing with metaphors, so my new project is full of them! The recognition is reassuring that I am onto something with my new music. I haven’t felt this much like myself when it comes to this sound. I just think it’s funny that a song I wrote six years ago was the song that really inspired it all. This has always been my fans’ favorite song, and they constantly remind me how much they love it.

International Singer Songwriters Association (ISSA) nominations. Fan voting. Reflecting on two debuts a year ago — your Such a Mess EP and Bluebird Cafe show. What was the pivotal moment when you knew moving to Nashville, a huge personal change, was the right one for you?

I have been threatening to move to Nashville since I was 12 years old. I finally made the move when I was 22, three and half years ago. I think that I have several moments that I consider “pivotal moments” when I knew that moving here was the right move for me. Definitely making my debut at The Bluebird Cafe was one of them. I was 13 when I wrote in permanent marker, the top five things I wanted to do in life on my bedroom closet mirror, and number one, was moving to Nashville, and two, was playing the Bluebird Cafe. So, saying that I was excited to play the Bluebird is an understatement. I just remember playing for a crowd that was dead silent watching me and being told by many that I was meant to be there. That truly inspires me and drives me. I agreed, because I wasn’t nervous at all as soon as I stepped on that stage.

Another moment that I consider a “pivotal moment” is recently after I released my newest single “I Like the Way”. This isn’t exactly one “moment” but more “moments”. I’ve been working on my next project for about a year now and I really narrowed the people that I worked with. The team that I have chosen to work with have all told me that they know that I am different because when I walk into the room, I always know what I want to say and write about. They believe in me and let me carry my vision in my writing and sound. I think that you have to have this drive and self assurance to make your place in Nashville. I just feel so at place lately with the team I have been working with.

How have Boys Like Girls influenced your songwriting?

I was so obsessed with Boys Like Girls when I first learned how to play guitar at 13. So, I think it’s safe to say that they were a big influence on my songwriting. I have always loved their writing and melodies. They use a lot of metaphors, “I feel like a hero and you’re my heroine” (Hero Heroine) “Your voice was the soundtrack of my summer. Do you know you’re unlike any other? You’ll always be my thunder, and I said your eyes are the brightest of all the colors. I don’t wanna ever love another. You’ll always be my thunder” (Thunder). If you listen to my first songs written on guitar, you can definitely hear a similarity in writing style and melodies. I think you can hear even a little today. It’s funny that you brought this up, because I actually wrote a song very inspired sonically to Boys like Girls.

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Writing during the quarantine. Focusing on a positive during uncertain times, what has been a songwriting highlight these past few months?

I think that this time has been really important to me. I was able to write by myself which I have not done in quite awhile since I moved to Nashville. I love co-writing, but I think it’s important to write by yourself sometimes just to challenge yourself and trust in what you have to say. I was able to lock myself in my writing room and just write for hours without being interrupted because I didn’t have anything on my schedule for that day. Another highlight was face-timing my friend Jason Witt and writing weekly. We decided to take this time to challenge ourselves and write something different that we wouldn’t normally write. We would write a different style and sounding song every week. I looked forward to it! Some of these songs I am even considering putting on my next project.

Working for almost a year on your new single “I Like the Way’’, co-written with Hasting & Co. “Your lips on my lips my feet leave the ground. We’re dancin a tightrope. Baby, don’t look down.” You said this song is the start of the next era for you. How does this music represent a change for you?

First of all, thank you so much for quoting my lyrics! Nothing makes me more happy when people acknowledge my lyrics! I released my EP “Such a Mess” in April 2019 and at the time, I kind of wanted to just be a songwriter. I grew up wanting to be an artist who wrote their own songs, but when I moved to Nashville, I fell in love with writing and co-writing so much that I was so content writing all different kinds of songs for different artists other than myself and I wanted to chase that. I had the opportunity to record six songs that I wasn’t sure I was going to release. I was thinking about just releasing some singles just to have music out. I was going to play at the Bluebird Cafe and decided to put the whole EP out at once. After I released it, the love I received was so overwhelming. My closest friends kept telling me that I should really consider becoming an artist because I have something to say. So, I kind of kept to myself and narrowed down my co-writers with people who believed in me and just wrote a ton of songs.

When I got in the room with Kate and Josh of Hasting and Co., we wrote “I Like the Way”. I knew immediately that this was a switching point for me. The sound of this song fit so well with my song “King of Hearts” that I had decided was going to be the theme of my next project. I fell in love with the metaphors and imagery used in these two songs that I knew I wanted to make a more songwriting heavy sound. “I Like the Way” felt like an reintroduction of me as an artist. I thought it was perfect because the running metaphor is of falling in love being compared to New York City, which is also a great metaphor for recreating yourself as an artist as well. People move to New York City every day to start over and recreate themselves. So, I knew that putting out “I Like the Way” the first single off this new project could not have been more perfect.

Another Jason Witt co-write, “Myself” “Cause baby when I lost you, I found myself”. How challenging is it for artists to recreate themselves over their careers?

I think that artists are so scared to recreate themselves because once they feel comfortable, it’s terrifying to try something new. Comfortability is familiar to their fans and those who know your music, so I totally get not wanting to move forward. I think it is really important to keep trying new things and try recreating your sound, though. It doesn’t have to be a drastic change, but I fully believe in challenging yourself and not making the same song twice. If you keep making the same music, careers will not grow. You don’t go anywhere by staying in place.

How has the new single opened doors for you?

“I Like the Way” has been changing my life, because I feel like no one sounds like me who is in country music right now, so it’s grabbing people’s attention. I could not be more grateful! This is the first song that I’ve put out where people have told me that they feel like this is my sound. I have had so many people wanting to play my song. I have been asked by several radio stations in the UK, Canada and Ireland which is awesome! I also found out that my song is being listened to in 50 different countries on Spotify which is mind blowing. I also have been asked by some really cool people who want to write with me because of this song.

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Upcoming appearance on Miss Hope United’s nationally televised beauty positive beauty pageant on September 26. Any special plans for your first tv appearance on a major television network?

I am so so excited to play this show! You can definitely expect dancing and sparkles. I’m not a great dancer (haha) but I am so excited to just have fun on stage.

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New family member Sora. Where did you adopt your 5 month old Scotttish Fold cat from?

Sora is so cute! I literally want to cry every time I see her face. She has the Puss in Boots eyes. It makes my heart explode. I love her so much! She just follows me everywhere and lays with me while I write songs. I actually got her from a super nice lady in New York. I knew I needed her the moment I saw her. She was so good and didn’t cry at all on the trip home.

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