Arts & Entertainment

Press Pass: Lizz Wright

Lizz Wright (Photo: Courtesy of Jesse Kitt)
Lizz Wright (Photo: Courtesy of Jesse Kitt)

Singer/songwriter Lizz Wright said that she is “grateful” for her new album Freedom & Surrender, which was released on Friday, Sept. 4. It was her first album with Concord Records.

“I remember a lot of long days and nights in front of the wood stove and in hotel rooms just kind of working through this songwriting and in the transition between labels and wondering how things would work out,” she said. “And I just remember putting my head down and working hard and meeting new friends and enjoying the process, but I also remember a lot of uncertainty.”

The 35-year-old songstress had spent over a decade on Verve Records and released her first four albums on the label before they decided to let her go last year. She said she particularly remembers a string of days where she spoke to her mother every day. Throughout that period, her mother would wake her up every day with an inspirational words and prayers to keep her motivated.

“I just really appreciate the deeper threads that run through our lives and keep everything connected. And I really had some time where things were stripped down to those threads,” she said with a laugh. “So in a moment like this I’m really grateful because the riverbed is filling back in and I’m thankful for the whole process that keeps it real.”

Wright’s process for creating Freedom & Surrender included a myriad of musicians, songwriters and producers, starting with Larry Klein, the legendary musician and producer who has produced albums for Herbie Hancock, Joni Mitchell and Tracy Chapman. She said she enjoyed working with Klein on the album.

“Even from our first couple of conversations, Larry has a beautiful ability to build a process for making a record around who the artist is and how they need work and how they express themselves,” Wright said.

“And he works with so many different people and the span of his work reveals records that are incredibly different and don’t have an overbearing stamp that would make him immediately recognizable as a producer. And I think that’s an extraordinary and special attribute. He’s such a beautiful musician and person. I had a such a good time working with him.”

Wright spent six or seven week-long trips to Los Angeles, she said, during the making of her latest offering, which she’ll be performing songs from at the Howard Theatre on Friday, Sept. 11. She said that she would start her studio sessions at 11 a.m. most days with conversations with Klein and David Batteau. “The pace of our conversations naturally started to have more depth and meaning and sometimes they would be more personal,” Wright said.

“And then sometimes we’d talk about poetry, philosophy and things just came up on their own. So the resources started to appear from us starting to have relationship. I just never heard of anyone writing like this.”

The disc is bookended by two songs bearing the name of the two parts of the album’s title. While the song “Freedom” wasn’t written by Wright, Klein and Batteau – it was written by Toshi Reagon – it’s a funky tone-setter for the album. “She sent the song to me while she knew I was in the process,” Wright said. “She said ‘I don’t know if this will fit what you’re doing, but I know that you could really sing something like this’ and I love Toshi because she’s family to me, she and her mother [Sweet Honey on the Rock founder] Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon.

“And they helped to really keep a hold of where I’m from because they’re from Georgia also and they’re from a place of awareness where they make sure I sing my roots.”

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