It’s OK to be weird… we’re all the same here! – ElizabethDarcel
“I’ve spent the last decade learning just how much no one owes me anything and the second I start to think I’m owed anything is the second no one wants to help. Kendrick Lamar said it best, “be humble, sit down”– ElizabethDarcel
ElizabethDarcel (“no space, one L”) is a free spirit when it comes to music, drawing her influences across multiple genres and injecting a good dose of ‘feel-good’ into her performances. Hailing from Kansas City, Missouri, known for incredible barbecue, ‘Kansas City jazz’, and an apparent fetish for squirting water (why so many fountains??), ElizabethDarcel has been gracing church halls with her velvety vocals since the tender age of four years old.
Having added a few years, she began focusing on writing and producing her own music, and has been collaborating with some quality producers at a fierce rate ever since! Her top-notch vocal stylings on original tracks and covers have made her one to watch… and I guarantee you, the only place you’ll be able to watch someone performing in a full Eeyore onesie… is on ElizabethDarcel’s YouTube page. Can’t be missed. Let’s get into it…
The Eeyore onesie though… We’ll get to that, but first… Welcome! And, thanks for your time ElizabethDarcel. It’s customary to start with introductions, so can you tell us a bit about you?
I am a wife and mother of 4 (3 kids, 1 pup). I do a pretty good Erykah Badu impression. I have a very quirky personality but I promise I mean well, I’m just a little awkward. But I love that about me. I’ve always been proudly weird. I struggled with it growing up and desperately wanted to change myself. But now that I’m an adult I realize that school is just about conformity and everybody else was just as uncomfortable as I was. But now I’m just as weird as my husband lets me be, which on a 1-10 weird scale, is usually idling at about an 8. I watch entirely too much true crime and I love photography.
It’s great to hear that you eventually came to the realisation that ‘weird’ isn’t a bad thing! How boring would life be without that? I accept it can be tough during school years, or when people don’t understand it. How would you describe your weirdness?
I’m weird as in I fall outside of what is considered normal social behavior and people tend to look at me strangely. I burst into song almost constantly. I’m very loud and outgoing and have no issue with strangers because there is no such thing as a stranger to me. If I ran the world, it would be a giant hippie commune. I was born in the wrong time period, I should have been a 60s/70s flower child.
Now, see… that just sounds pretty cool to me! Something else that’s cool, and which I alluded to earlier… your original track, “Recipe feat. Papi”, which you posted on YouTube last year… also featuring your Eeyore onsie! I had to smile when I saw this, and I guess it kind of illustrates that fantastic quirkiness, right?
Yes, I have a pretty goofy personality. I do try to make something about each performance stand out and one way to do this is with costumes. I love getting dressed up. I try to match what I’m wearing with the mood of the song. That particular song was upbeat and fun so I thought a cartoon onesie was fitting (lol). But I also love the sultry. So whatever fits with the theme, I try to lean into that.
Singing and performing seem to come naturally to you and, you mentioned you’d started singing in church halls when you were really young. Can you tell us a bit about your background and those early experiences?
My family is like the Jacksons without all the plastic surgery. I mean they’re extremely musical. My mother and father met in a band. My grandfather played saxophone and my family sang together in church performances all the time. My father and uncle are both still touring musicians and were throughout my childhood. My other uncle is in the LA Philharmonic. So music is in the genes.
Those are some pretty strong musical roots! One of your uncles is in the LA Philharmonic? That’s pretty awesome! What does he play?
Yes, his name is Mark Smith and he plays the violin. I think he’s the second chair in the Philharmonic. I have never had the chance to see him perform live (haven’t been to California yet) but I have seen recorded performances. He also does commercials, films, and tv shows. He’s AWESOME.. the famous one in the family.
You’re not kidding! So, he sang on a bunch of blockbuster film scores; Mulan, Sing 1&2, Secret Life of Pets (1&2) Minions, Star Wars, Jumanji. He’s also ‘recorded or performed live with Sting (tour), Sheryl Crow, Herbie Hancock, Vinx (tour)’… (thanks Google). With such strong musical influence within your family, it’d be difficult NOT to be inspired to take up music in some form!
He actually inspired my little cousin to take up violin. I always knew I wanted to be a singer. One of my favorite memories of my mother was coming home from school and hearing the Phoebe Snow turned up so long I could hear it before I opened the front door. And she’d be in the kitchen, singing along making some kind of pasta dish.
Aside from those family influences, you’ve already mentioned Erykah Badu, but where else do you draw your inspiration from and how do those artists inform your approach to songwriting?
My influences change depending on the artist I’m obsessed with at the moment, but I think most artists do that. I went through a really heavy Maggie Rogers phase a while ago and everything started sounding like her. John Mayer has been a staple for a long time. Then there are the R&B greats, Alicia Keys, Janet Jackson. Kendrick Lamar made me think about lyrics in a way I never had before. Thundercat and Steely Dan made me want to try obscure chord progressions.
I think I’m an R&B artist but I still love country, folk, and pop music so, whichever way the wind blows. I think we have the freedom to do that as independent artists. There’s no boxes to check.
For most of my early teens I was really limited to one kind of music (I was a grunge kid) and it wasn’t until my early 20’s that I opened up to other genres (I did have a Badu and an India Arie phase too)… an eclectic music library does help to keep things fresh when writing new material. In terms of your own writing and creating – what do you get from it, and what does being a songwriter mean to you?
It’s the closest I’ve ever been able to come to keeping a diary. I’ve tried to write a book about my life. I’ve tried to write a script. I always end up coming back to music. It’s the only thing I can do for hours without realizing hours have passed. And it’s honest. The freer I am with songwriting, the less obligation I feel to save people’s feelings. It’s building my confidence.
You mentioned that ‘life journal’ – is there a track you’ve written that best summarises those life experiences?
I don’t think I could summarize in a single song. Every song I write is about something I’m going through at the time. The book of me would be every song I’ve ever written played back to back. But if I had to pick one that means the most to me now it’s Dear Miss Melanin. It’s my anthem and my motivation right now. I believe brown queens are the masters of adversity. And we don’t get enough credit for it. Black women have been through some shit for lack of a better word. There is no challenge we can’t overcome. It took me a long time to be appreciative of my melanin. In this country, brown skin is almost a disability. So it took me 30 years to see my brown as a blessing. And it took watching my mother and grandmother and aunts handle everything thrown at them with grace and fearlessness to realize that I was given a gift. What doesn’t kill you will fortify you. My skin is thick now. Dear Miss Melanin is my love letter to not only the women who have influenced me, but it’s my way of saying, “whatever it is, there’s no need to worry, you can handle it; you’re a black woman.”
Dear Miss Melanin is a tribute to black women. It’s a tribute to my mother and my grandmother and the ladies at the church who wear the big hats. Every black woman is a queen. There’s so much beauty in the struggle. Polished diamonds are created through pressure. Pain is no stranger but neither is joy. Thank you for the blessing of the sun-kissed life.
Well said! I agree with you when you say “there’s no challenge we can’t overcome” but challenge you on “in this country, brown skin is almost a disability”. And what I mean by that is, the only disability is, of course, discrimination. The way we humans treat each other over ‘difference’ is abhorrent. It’s a huge, and serious, topic – but I remember seeing one poster that read “I love pandas. They’re black and white, and Asian”. Though personally, I prefer Red Panda’s, on account of them being black, white, Asian… and red (gotta include the gingers, like me!). It’s a great track, and you’d collaborated on this with the super talented beatmaker YodaGee from over here in the UK. You put out collaborations at some pace Elizabeth, and often feature in the Trending lists on BandLab. You stay busy!
ALWAYS! I’m working on a few collaborations with some Lab royalty, and always working on an album that I’m not sure will ever be an album until I have a manager who can make me stop releasing music the nanosecond I’m done with it. I get excited. But I’m working on a track called “Letters” right now. It’s the most honest song I’ve ever made and it terrifies me. But the fear excites me, because usually when I’m this afraid of a song, it ends up being something that a lot of people can relate to.
And, the great thing is, there’s a lot of variety to your work. You post regularly under R&B, and also hip-hop and Jazz. But, without getting hung up on ‘genre’, how would you describe your music?
It’s cathartic. I’m very heavily influenced by my surroundings and the people I’m surrounded by. I moved to the country for a Summer, fell in love with it, and started writing “country” music (my version of country music anyway). Whatever I’m going through in my life at the time is what my music is about. I didn’t write my first song until after my mom died. I guess up to that point I hadn’t experienced enough raw uncomfortable emotion to write about me, and my experiences. But I had this epiphany after she passed. 1. I am going to die (my mom did so there’s proof) and 2. Fear is a tool, use it correctly. Fear can help keep you alive but it can also keep you stagnant if you let it. So my music has become more and more about saying the things I would never have the guts to say to someone’s face. The more I can get out of my head, the less likely my head will pop.
That’s a great answer!! We’ve talked a bit about your songwriting and influences, but when it comes to the actual writing… what’s your process? How do you get it done?
The music comes first!!! I have to get inspired! And the music always directs the lyrics. I try to only listen to the music once and really listen to all the elements of the song. If it makes a melody line or lyrics pop into my head, I do a scratch take to get my ideas out. Then from there I just keep building and building on top of that until every idea has been recorded. That’s where I start polishing up lyrics and making sure everything I said is the best way I could have said it. From there it’s chopping out everything that doesn’t work, and won’t work, no matter how hard I try to make it work. But all of these stops are interchangeable. I change lyrics all the time. I change music all the time. If I find a beat that I like better, I’m changing it at the last minute. It’s very fluid.
And regards instruments, are you likely to be joining your Uncle in the LA Philharmonic any time soon?
My mom used to say “I don’t play any instruments but I play a mean radio.” That applies to me as well. I can put a song together and I can find the notes on a keyboard or a guitar if need be but, that’s all folks. I do play the computer though. Audio Engineering is my instrument.
Aah cool! Engineering is obviously one of the most critical elements of producing good quality work – did you study, or self-taught?
I haven’t officially studied audio engineering in an educational setting, but I’ve been playing with it for at least a decade. I started producing music when I was a sophomore in high school. It was the first time I had had access to a DAW and it started off as a hobby that I would do when we had free time at the end of music class. I’ve been hooked ever since. I’ve always been partial to Apple products so GarageBand and I go waaaay back. I do less producing now and more mixing and arranging. I do plan to pursue a degree in it when the time is right.
That sounds great, I loved my time studying to become a sound engineer and it’s incredible nowadays what tools are available for home-studio musicians. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy that at some point in the future!
Ok, we’ve heard and talked about one of your tracks already. What else have you got for us, and if you can give us a little background on them, Elizabeth?
PGS is for Lizzo. I saw her in a bikini announcing the beginning of “big girl summer” and I thought, is that the title of her next song? Still might be… LIZZO HIT ME UP!!!
Backyard Barbeque almost didn’t exist but I’m really glad that it does. I played with the idea of this song for months but it wasn’t until I was listening to Frankie Beverly & Maze close to the end of summer in my backyard and I thought, I want a song that sounds like this. Like soul food. I joke with another royal about this song being a full plate of Sunday dinner. And I wanted it to feel really warm and inviting. It’s a backyard barbecue, grab and plate and tell your story. Were all the same here.
That’s a great line to end the interview… “Were all the same here.” Absolutely! Well, thank you so much for sharing with us Elizabeth! We wish you all the best for the future – hope you do find a manager soon, so you can get that album down!!
ElizabethDarcel can be found via the links below.