by Skye Butchard
Glasgow singer-songwriter Lizzie Reid arrives with a fully-formed sound on her debut EP, Cubicle. It’s a warm and intimate collection of folk and rock songs that showcases her clear skill for storytelling, and a surprisingly diverse range of sounds for a compact collection. The project documents a break-up, and her first same-sex relationship. But its welcoming homespun atmosphere acts as its hidden strength. Recorded at her home in ten days before the first lockdown in March, the project truly exists within that period of stasis.
“We were kind of disconnected by what was going on in the world,” Lizzie says during our Zoom call. “Everyone was freaking out about COVID and isolation, and we were in a completely different headspace. Lockdown came about two days after Oli [Barton-Wood, the record’s producer whose credits include Nilüfer Yanya and Molly Payton] left. I remember at the time thinking, ‘wow those ten days, what a long time to just be in the house.’ Little did I know that would be the next nine months of my life.”
Despite the intimate setting, there was an underlying pressure on the recording process. “We’d already announced that we were going to be releasing music this year so this needed to be the one,” Reid says. “I had recorded a few times with the idea of releasing, but it was never quite right, I felt like it could go one of two ways, but when it came down to it, this had to be the one. I’m a very anxious person… I do always have a sense of time. There was less of that because we were at home the whole time.”
That homely quality manifests through a wonderfully close recording. The gentle fingerpicked guitars of Always Lovely, the closeness of Reid’s breath on the mic – and even the gentle meowing of her cat Ivan at the end of Seamless – all offer heartfelt textures that might not have been captured without a home recording. The sense of home continues with her bandmates, with Reid’s cousin Catriona playing cello twice across the project.
A seasoned live performer, there’s a maturity to Reid’s performances – especially on Always Lovely, with stark poetic lines like ‘You’ve changed your name / It’s engraved in a park bench’. As it happens, that track turns out to be the oldest of the collection, and Reid feels that her lyric writing has improved since. “My writing was less to the point,” she says. “I used vague language that could mean a multitude of things. To me, Always Lovely is about the idea of self and how you’re perceived.
“I’m a bit of a social chameleon,” Reid continues. “I can change depending on my surroundings. It’s referring to that shapeshifting, but ultimately there’s one part of you that’s always there. There’s a few lines from back then that you’d have to ask to understand it, whereas Seamless is very much a break-up story.”
Part of that change comes from a newfound power to write about herself without feeling uncomfortable. She says: “It takes time to write that way, I think. I ended up finding being direct liberating. It’s like, ‘I have all of these feelings, and now this room of people knows about it, and I’m still alive.’ I think you have to fall in love with the process a bit.
“Lyrics are a big thing for me,” she adds when we talk about her influences (Julia Jacklin, Laura Marling and Big Thief come up). “I often can’t see past lyrics a lot of the time. I listened to Black Dog by Arlo Parks the other day, and it was the lyrics that kept me there and engaged with it.”
There’s an off-the-cuff quality to Reid’s music that’s emphasised on Tribute, a rough demo that made it onto the EP unpolished, as first thing the listener hears. “I couldn’t imagine what I would do with that song with any other bells or whistles,” she says. “It could have easily been lost, that feeling that I got from that particular demo, and I was unsure if we could create it again. It’s nice that it’s just on my phone I think.”
These songs are journal entries in part, of a difficult part of Reid’s life. “Last year was a journey,” she jokingly exaggerates. “It was a needed journey though. I’m in a different place now. I’ve learnt a lot more about myself. It’s quite emotionally draining to release these songs now because it does transport me back to how I was feeling when I wasn’t as confident in myself.”
And what would she tell her younger self now that she’s made it through? “That I can relax. I’m telling myself that now to be honest… Nothing ever lasts. ‘It’s shit until it’s not’ is my motto.”