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Lizza Connor

Nashville-bred singer-songwriter Lizza Connor knew motherhood would change her life, but she never imagined how much it would change her music. No stranger to the stage, Lizza has played her fair share of coffeehouses, hole-in-the-wall bars and music festivals, but she’s adapting to playing for a new crowd these days. On any given day of the week, Lizza can be found around town serenading audience members of a more diminutive variety – children – with tunes from her newly released album, Commander Salamander.
 
In stark contrast to Lizza’s debut album Runaway, a country-folk record that received critical acclaim, Commander Salamander boasts 13 up-tempo and whimsical tracks with health-centric lyrics written to encourage nutrition, physical activity and self-esteem in young children. “I went from writing songs about heartbreak, whiskey and Jesus to songs about slippery salamanders and slimy noodles,” Lizza says.
 
The musician admits to once having concerns about how motherhood would affect her creative process but found herself more inspired than ever after the birth of her oldest, 2-year-old Bennett. She says as a mom, everything has new meaning; a flower in bloom becomes fodder for a full-length track when viewed from the perspective of a child. “It’s so fascinating to watch them grow up and look at the world,” Lizza says. “It helps me every day as a creative person to wake up and put on a fresh set of eyes and ears.”
 
Lizza identifies one event as the catalyst for her foray into the music industry. The daughter of a politician, she recalls attending a benefit concert for her father when he was running for regional office. The headliner: country music legend Vince Gill. Unbeknownst to the 15-year-old, her dad had casually mentioned Lizza’s interest in music to the country crooner. That night, Gill invited the star-struck teenager to join him on stage for a duet of his song I Still Believe in You. Lizza says it was an “aha moment”; she had found her calling. “That event was really big,” she says. “I knew immediately, ‘This is what I want to do with my life.’”
 
Right away she began writing, taking guitar and piano lessons, and soaking up every bit of the industry that she could. Music legends such as Nanci Griffith, Emmylou Harris and Willie Nelson were a few of Lizza’s earliest influences; she says they all helped shape her into the artist she is today. Also influential was Dennis Dunn, an award-winning folk singer from Lizza’s home state of Florida. Dunn took the promising young artist under his wing, mentoring her on all aspects of the music biz. The two remain close. Lizza says she still reaches out any time she needs help figuring out which chord to use to achieve a particular sound.
 
After studying journalism and English in college, Lizza moved to country music capital Nashville, immersing herself in nearly every aspect of the music scene. She filled many roles; from publicist to music editor at a music magazine to learning about public relations, Lizza took it all in. Those years proved to be pivotal in shaping her career. Not only did she release her first full-length album but also gained a new, multifaceted outlook on the music industry.
 
Today, Lizza implements that knowledge every day. She runs her own independent record label, Whoa Jesse Records. Commander Salamander was released on the label, making the multitasking mom busier than ever. “I’m always trying to find that balance of finding time to accomplish what I need on the business end with social media, distribution and PR with finding time to sit down, practice and write new songs,” she says.
 
As a wife and mother of two young children, balance is more important than ever. Luckily, she’s able to mix business and family. While her children were her greatest inspiration for Commander Salamander, her husband, Michael Bowen, was her staunchest supporter. Bowen’s position as an assistant professor at UT Southwestern Medical Center is what brought the family to Dallas. As a doctor trained in pediatrics and a father, Michael is passionate about the health crisis in America, specifically as it relates to children. Lizza says her husband – though not musically inclined – was influential in developing the content of many of the songs on Commander Salamander. Conversations about raising healthy children and combating the childhood obesity epidemic translated into lighthearted lyrics backed by upbeat melodies, music that not only educates but entertains.
 
Creating and performing music for the world’s most honest critics, children, has been a welcome challenge for Lizza. For children to understand, the concept must be simple and age-appropriate. For children to respond, the music must be fun. “It’s forced me to be a better songwriter, because you have to approach music differently,” she says. “Kids innately want to move, so you have to give them a song with rhythm. That makes it fun for me to play for them and write for them.”
 
Lizza is busy promoting Commander Salamander and settling into life in Big D (which she says she loves), but her mind never stops buzzing with new song ideas. She jokes that there are napkins with incomplete song lyrics littering her house, an occupational hazard of being a music-maker. Lizza has plans to keep on writing for adults as well as her pint-sized fans. As her own children grow and evolve, so will the content of her music. “I’m inspired by my kids on a daily basis,” she says. “As they go through the stages of development and the stages of growing up, that content will constantly evolve. I’m excited to be able to offer a soundtrack for their growing up. That’s my goal.”
 
Commander Salamander was recently awarded a Silver Parents’ Choice Award in music. To purchase a Lizza Connor album visit lizzaconnor.comFor other updates or a schedule of local appearances visit facebook.com/lizzaconnormusic.