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LIZ COOPER

A Conversation With Liz Cooper

Interview and Photos by Tommy Moore


Liz Cooper photographed by Tommy Moore at Cactus Club in Milwaukee, WI.


Liz Cooper—where do I start. Within an hour or two of meeting Liz it felt like I was catching up with an old friend. The Nashville native and current New Yorker is as welcoming, cheeky, and powerful as her tunes would suggest. Few people melt a crowd with ease as quickly as Liz. With sparkled eyes and flaming boots, she commands any room through a blend of psychedelic and folk tendencies.


Her latest record, Hot Sass, came out in 2021, and was followed by its sibling project, Soft Sass, in 2022. From the release of her first projects to now, Liz has shed much of her Americana roots, diving head first into a world of punk and psych. Over dogs from Milwaukee's Vanguard, I sat down with Liz and her cast of characters in the upstairs of the one and only Cactus Club. After a lot of laughs and a hell of a show, I caught up with them a couple days later while on the road to dive into the growth of her music, making a place home, and getting a dog.



Liz Cooper photographed by Tommy Moore at Cactus Club in Milwaukee, WI.


Tommy Moore: I don’t know what you’re about to hit. Out of nowhere, tornado sirens just went off here.


LC: Well, it's beautiful here right now, but I'll keep that bit of information in mind.


TM: How was good ole’ Iowa?


LC: Oh, you know, just plain as can be.


TM: I guess it's not too new anymore, but can you talk about the process of switching gears with Hot Sass?


LC: Well, I always tell people that I wrote Window Flowers when I was a teenager. That was when I first started writing the songs, then it morphs into playing things live for the first time with a band. That was my first experience doing any of that. Hot Sass was the progression of playing, at this point, for eight years on the road. We were also in a totally different state. The recording process was with all new people. So it was just completely different, and nothing like Window Flowers. Window Flowers was recorded in a big studio in Nashville, and we made Hot Sass at our friend's apartment studio up in Burlington, VT. I was basically on tour when I was writing the songs for Hot Sass. So I was just in that practice of being in motion and learning how to do things always being in motion. At the point where I was writing, I didn't realize that I would be recording with a totally different band. My drummer, Ryan Asher, he was playing with me for the past few years, but I had never recorded with him. Then our friend Joe Bisirri started playing with us after our old bass player left the project. So everything was new, and that was exciting. It was all part of making that record.


Liz Cooper photographed by Tommy Moore at Cactus Club in Milwaukee, WI.


TM: Did it feel like a build-up of those seven or eight years on the road, figuring out how you actually want to do things and how you actually want everything to sound?


LC: Definitely. It was a buildup of my experiences on and off the road. I was living in a crazy, transient, flash party house that was just a big, gross nightmare. It was super fun. When I was on tour, it was a whirlwind. And then when I would get off tour, it was also a whirlwind. So I think all of that had everything to do with making Hot Sass.


TM: Listening to the record, it hits back on that idea of wanting access to the chaos, but wanting the ability to shut your door and not deal with it. The pace of the record goes up and down so much. There’s the feeling of being on the streets in Brooklyn, and then also the feeling of being in your apartment with a candle at 10 o'clock.


LC: It was funny, I wrote all of this and recorded it before any of that was happening. So I think I must have manifested that for myself. Writing new songs, I feel like that's a thing that’s always happening. A lot of my friends and I talk about how sometimes you write a song, and you're like, I have no idea what this means. Then it hits you months or years later, where you're like, Oh, I manifested that.


Liz Cooper photographed by Tommy Moore at Cactus Club in Milwaukee, WI.


"I never really enjoyed being home, and I tried to avoid it as much as possible. Now I'm leaning into my space."


TM: Yeah, that's such a common creative theme, where you don't understand why you do anything. Then you look back however long later, you're like, Okay, this all makes so much more sense.


What’s the state of your practice now? Are you are you writing? How are you figuring out that balance of being on the road, versus giving yourself some time just to be in peace and quiet?


LC: It's definitely different now than it was when I was making Hot Sass a few years ago. Because of the times, everything's different. Me living in New York now, and figuring out how to set boundaries for my personal life and music life. Something that I've learned is I've bent way over backwards to do music things all the time, and when I'm home, I never allow myself to rest. I think that's a huge thing that I've been trying to allow myself to do. It's tough, but I've been trying to do that more. I'm trying to write, but I've had a harder time writing just because I've been of on and off tour for the past year. It's definitely not been as busy as it used to be, but I still feel like I’m trying to relearn how to do it all again. Touring is very natural to me, but it's definitely harder than it used to be. I’m a little older and the last few years of being able to be still and really lean into my routine that keeps me healthy at home. I don't have those out here—I do in certain ways, but it's just harder. Whereas before, I could be on tour and write when I was out here. There’s just no way I could do that now. I just don't know how to do that anymore. So I'm just excited to be done, so I can go home and figure out how to move forward making whatever I need to make next. I know that I need to do that, and the pressure is looming and I can feel it. But I need to put in the work and start doing it. It's just a totally different thing. I need to be off the road and fully immerse myself in it, as opposed to multitasking.


Liz Cooper photographed by Tommy Moore at Cactus Club in Milwaukee, WI.


TM: Especially with stuff like that, multitasking works at first, but then after a while it gets way too sporadic. You can't complete a thought, and then you don’t end up with a clear picture.


LC: And I think that was perfect for Hot Sass, because it was all over the place. The madness of it was horrific, but that's just not what it is anymore. It’s a new era. That's just kind of the art that I make. It's different for each chapter. I'm just trying to figure out what the next chapter is. I'm trying not to stress too much about it, and just let it be, because I've been stressing about it for enough time.


TM: With the next book, we're working through this idea of daydreams, and I think that fits in with a lot of what we've been talking about. Everybody has the thing they do or the place they go where everything can somewhat fade away. That’s the place they can go to get to that point to be able to daydream or just be mindless for a moment. I think it's a lot harder for some of us than others, but there's always something, whether it's doing something active where your mind goes numb, or if it's a certain place you can physically or mentally escape. In that vein, what is that for you?


LC: I'm definitely an active person. I feel like I lean on that to meditate. Running has been a big part of my life this year, and I definitely lean on that. I love to be outdoors or doing anything where there's just quiet surrounded by nature. I live in New York, which is a very different nature, but still has its own its own nature about it. For me, it's going to the water or the beach or the park, and being in that environment is really nice for me. Also just being in my house. I keep saying I've never really allowed myself to rest, and I think I've really learned how to do more of that and enjoy being home. I never really enjoyed being home, and I tried to avoid it as much as possible. Now I'm leaning into my space. I've been able to have a space that I love and have been working on to make it feel like my own. It’s cozy and comfortable and curated to makes me feel at peace. I've never done that before, so I think that's been a really big thing for me. That's definitely my space when I'm off the road, but it's always changing.



Liz Cooper photographed by Tommy Moore at Cactus Club in Milwaukee, WI.


TM: I finally just went through the same thing with my space. Having a space for first time that feels like yours and like home is such an important and powerful thing. You don’t know how necessary it is until you finally have it.


LC: Yeah, I've never had that before, and I think it's also just like growing up and being an adult. You're like, Oh, wow, I like my thing or I like curating my space. These are things that I never cared about and never knew that that they made an impact on me. But now that I have had all this time to be home and try to make a home, it makes a huge difference.


TM: It really does, especially on that off time—whether you're working there or you're just trying to take a breath there. Now that you’ve got this space, what are you dreaming right now?


LC: I want a dog—or an animal. That's something I think about a lot. I really want that.

I still love what I do. I love playing music and doing the whole thing, but I'd like for it to be better. I'd like to make a solid living doing it, so I can go home and do whatever I want to do, and you know, get a dog. It's making my home more and more comfy. It's building the next chapter, which is healthy. I dream to be healthy.


TM: That’s a good dream.


"I love playing music and doing the whole thing, but I'd like for it to be better. I'd like to make a solid living doing it, so I can go home and do whatever I want to do, and you know, get a dog."


Liz Cooper photographed by Tommy Moore at Cactus Club in Milwaukee, WI.


A Conversation With Liz Cooper

Interview and Photos by Tommy Moore

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