Born and raised in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, future festival headliner Lizzie Esau is cutting through the noise with her heartfelt, powerful songwriting. Drawing from her personal experience while exploring relatable and important subject matters such as social mobility, Esau has a voice that needs to be heard.
A woman of many creative talents, Lizzie is currently busy finishing her architecture degree, working with Catherine Marks [Wolf Alice, Foals, The Mysterines] on her upcoming EP and playing live shows across the country.
We caught up with Lizzie after her set at Neighbourhood Festival in Manchester.
A standout moment in your live set is ‘The Enemy’, a compelling, anthemic song tackling an unfair system. What does that song mean to you?
It was written quite generally about where I grew up, a village just outside of Newcastle, towards the countryside way. You’ve got your local pubs and working men’s clubs, and for a lot of people I went to school with, they got their jobs and drank at the same pubs, and stayed in the same place. That’s great if you’re happy with it – but I saw so many people so unhappy with it. The Enemy is about feeling like you’re pigeon-holed because of where you live and who you are. I’m a bit angry with the world! I went to quite a rough school, it wasn’t the best area, and the system keeps you stuck in the same place. It’s like: You’re going to work at this place, and do this trade, and drink at this pub – and you’re never going to go anywhere. The Enemy is about rebelling in your mind, and trying to break out of that.
And we can drown outLizzie Esau – The Enemy
All the wrong ones
Who underestimate the power
From the people at the bottom
Who are your main influences musically?
Wolf Alice are a huge influence to me. They do what they want to do, and don’t stay in a box. When I was really young, I remember listening to a lot of Avril Lavigne and dancing around my room. I’ve got a really broad love of music, I love Radiohead and Biffy Clyro. I’m very inspired by Red Hot Chilli Peppers, I love the way they mix rap with rock.
Did you grow up around music?
Yeah, there’s always been a lot of creativity around me. My Dad is very musical, he’s a bass player in a prog-rock band. That’s where a lot of my heavier rock influence comes from. My Mum loves listening to a lot of strong female solo artists – Amy Winehouse, Joni Mitchell. I’d say those two sides have come together and helped me to find my sound.
Your latest single Bleak Sublime is gaining lots of attention. What’s your inspiration behind that song?
Bleak Sublime is similar to The Enemy, in the way that I wanted the song to feel quite generalised, but it is also written from personal experience. It’s about our need to rely on alcohol and substances to have a good time or feel like we’re a fun person to be around. I don’t think I know any young person I’ve been around who hasn’t felt this way or questioned it. It’s great to feel a confidence boost in the moment, but it’s also sad because it’s false. Why do we rely on alcohol to feel happy or have fun? It’s such a part of youth culture, and although it’s a serious subject, I didn’t want Bleak Sublime to be too much of a serious song. It’s not finding any solutions, it’s just telling the truth.
What can you tell us about your upcoming EP?
The EP will be released either at the end of this year, or the start of next year. I’ve been working with Catherine Marks [Wolf Alice, Foals, The Mysterines] she’s the best. There are four brand new songs on there, including a ballad. When I started out in music, all I did was ballads, so it’s nice to go back to that. It’s a guitar ballad, so it still fits in with the rest of the EP. I’m really excited for people to hear!