Written by Molly Gorman
Latvian native Eliza Legzdina is soon to take over the world with her genre experimentalism. Eliza and the music she creates, is a fresh burst of beauty and brightness, radiating an exuberant feminine energy.
Having independently released music since 2019, Eliza’s second EP ‘Silver Linings’, sees her firmly establish her identity and show off her aptitude as a musician and writer. It comes two years after her 2020 release, ‘Iron Curtain, Golden Pussy’, with Eliza noting that Silver Linings is more glossy and polished. ‘It’s a lot more considered and mature (there’s no swearing!) compared to my first project, which was me taking a punt at the industry,’ she says. The project is a creative fusion – blending dance music, r’n’b influences with silky smooth production and deeper meanings and vulnerabilities weaved in through the stories she tells. Each of the four tracks have a distinct narrative with a unique sound, but as a collective it’s a powerful body of work that speaks true to Eliza’s artistry and identity.
Eliza’s accent drifts between Eastern European and American with an English twang (she describes herself as sounding like a ‘yankee’), which she credits to the international school she attended back in Latvia. She later moved to the UK to study for her masters degree at Goldsmiths University and now has dual citizenship. While appreciating how valuable it’s been to have insight into two different cultures, Eliza acknowledges the pressure that comes with it, ‘No one really considers how it is to be a person of two cultures, and exist in them both, and try to represent them both equally. The pressure I feel to represent Latvia is massive. I wish there was more support for me back home so I could fulfil that responsibility… people back home are gradually becoming more accepting of me. I’ve always done this for Latvia and the women who listen to my music.’
Eliza recalls early memories of her grandmother taking her to the circus in Latvia every year for her birthday, one of the reasons why she became obsessed with performance art when she was a child. She also remembers singing when she was as young as three-years-old, setting a trajectory for her future career, before training in opera, ‘I went on to study classical opera at university but I wrote my dissertation on hip-hop. Training in opera was the only thing available thing for me to do at the time and while I’m so appreciative and grateful for it I realised that it wasn’t the musical direction I wanted to take. It took a long time for me to pack away all of that learning.’
And Eliza isn’t just springing into the limelight now – she’s already achieved remarkable success. Her track ‘Tic Toc’ with Janelle Wynter featured on Michaela Coel’s groundbreaking show ‘I May Destroy You’ and she’s collaborated with sought after and respected DJs – Idris Elba, Jaded and Craig Classics to name a few. She says that she’s at the point where ‘I’m approached by DJs and artists who want me to jump on their tracks and make them cool. I’m so grateful for these opportunities and for everyone I’ve worked with, but I want to focus on my own art and direction now.’ Noting the importance of creating boundaries, she has grown more confident in asserting her needs, and protecting her environment. I ask, ‘which environments do you feel safe in?’ and she replies, ‘It’s who I’m around, how much sleep I’ve had, how many people are in the room. I personally don’t like being around too many writers, as they get in my head. I’d rather they help me tidy it up at the end.’
Eliza definitely has a clear vision of how she perceives herself and wants to empower people who listen to her, ‘I think with this record and my next record – I want to always show a complex but delicious layering of both themes and sounds. I hope through my music, I give people the notion that you can give the world what you want and it can be a mix and blend, no strict boundaries.’ I can feel the passion she has for her work through her words – she’s very thoughtful and considerate with her answers. ‘Feminine empowered messaging is just second nature to me now in my songwriting, but I want people to hear the vulnerability too, because I’m growing as an artist and as a person. With vulnerability you give people the opportunity to see themselves in the music and relate to it. Music has been there for me when I’ve needed it, so I hope my music will be there for others too.’
Eliza notes how almost every journalist seems somewhat fascinated, or at least keen to mention, that her music is both sex and body positive – myself included. I ask her if sex and body positivity is an integral part her artistry, how she presents herself to the world and why she thinks listeners may be drawn to that aspect of her music. ‘I’m proud to be sensual – and when you consider the things men sing or rap about!’ she states. ‘And I’m proud to not be a size zero. Freedom through my body and movement isn’t to impress, it’s to help anyone who has a little something something different than someone else, to feel accepted.’ She continues, ‘It’s the horrification of the female body, really – if I was a six foot model, if I had smaller breasts – would I be as racy? Probably not. I’m existing normally!’ I completely agree with her and we reflect on the persistent, wider reluctance of society to accept bigger bodies both digitally and physically – including the censorship of bigger bodies on Instagram. Having struggled from an eating disorder and body dysmorphia for most of my teens and early twenties, I wonder if that’s why those themes within her songwriting jumped out at me, because I craved the presence of artists like Eliza when I was younger. Or is it that sex and women’s bodies are still relatively taboo topics? Regardless, I feel that it’s important to keep that dialogue open and acknowledge that Eliza wants to empower women’s bodies and show them the love they deserve.
Returning to ‘Silver Linings’, I gush over ‘Real Girl’, not only because of the messaging (hence the title of this piece), but also because it feels in touch with Eliza’s dance roots – it has an infectious pop-feel. The accompanying visuals bring the song together, with a bright pink aesthetic, fire choreography and an exceptionally cute bunny outfit. Eliza shares, ‘For me, ‘Grateful for my self-esteem’ [the main lyric on Grateful Zombie] has always been a mantra for me – that was one of the first songs that Jordan and I wrote. But Real Girl is such a banger and is so fun to perform and it screams – you really are that girl! You deserve a fully holistic love.’ However, she expresses her weakness for the opening track ‘Composure’, ‘the stacked harmonies and final chorus – I was really pushing myself to a space that I’ve never been in before.’ Eliza reflects. When I heard that first beat, I felt like I really was losing my composure and cool. The sentiment was true and such a different sound sonically, was a great feeling.’
Two Zoom links and some technical difficulties later, Eliza and I have been chatting for over an hour now. Before we say goodbye, she teases music to come, ‘the next body of work is angrier, and more balls to the wall. It’s definitely an emotional right of passage. Having survived a pandemic, there are elements of anger that I didn’t know how to express in concise and careful ways.’
Head over to Eliza Legzdina’s Spotify page to hear more of her recent releases, and keep your eyes peeled for new tracks.