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Music: An Interview with Nancy Elizabeth

We have been Nancy supporters for a long while. We were lucky enough to get an interview with the stunning singer, songwriter and multi-instrument playing lady. She's super.

Written by Helen Martin

Nancy Elizabeth falling Matilde Sazio
Illustration by Matilde Sazio

She sounds delicate, pretty and well.. wonderful. Floating folk, her music is ethereal and yet very raw. We at Amelia’s have been fans of Nancy Elizabeth for yonks. See the review of her album, Wrought Iron, available on the Leaf Label, here. Then see live reviews, here and here from 2007. This is our first interview with her. She is simply charming as you can read. Enjoy.

You sound so relaxed when you play your music, it’s like having a massage listening to you! Are you a very relaxed person?
Erm, It’s hard to tell how relaxed you yourself are because you have nothing to measure it against. I’ve never been inside someone else’s mind to see how it is. Nevertheless, I do feel at home on stage even though I hate people staring at me. It’s a strange juxtaposition. I’m generally a relaxed person I suppose. I hate rushing and spend a lot of time day dreaming.

How did you get to where you are today?
I have a great mentor, Daisaku Ikeda, who has taught me never to give in to disbelief and doubt. I adore making music, so I do as much of it as possible.

nancy elizabeth by daria hlazatova
Illustration by Daria Hlazatova

Have you always been creative?
Yes, it’s quite tiring. I am always thinking of sounds and images and how to make new things. Having said that, I don’t know if I’m that creative. I do create a lot of stuff, but again, I’ve never been inside the mind of an accountant so I don’t know what that’d be like. I imagine everyone is creative, just in different ways. I can’t create a spreadsheet that will calculate the cost of cornflakes to save my life, because I don’t care. Some people do! I think creativity is the desire to do something and the necessary inspiration to do it, whatever it may be. Some people have that for cooking, some people have it for equations. I have it for music and words.

What musical instruments do you play and when did you start learning them?
I generally play anything that comes my way. I’ve got a piano and a guitar and a little harp and a few other stringed instruments, a celeste, synths, bells, drums. Loads of stuff. My house is a nightmare. Can’t move for instruments. They’re not designed to be economic with space. I started with the piano when I was ten but I hated having lessons so I rebelled and taught myself guitar. From then on I’ve collected various things and ended up falling back in love with the piano, but on my own terms, not the teacher’s terms.

Nancy Elizabeth by Jenny Lloyd
Illustration by Jenny Lloyd

Who inspires your music?
Everyone I meet. I particularly adore Aphex Twin and I’d love to be inside his mind for a moment. I also love poetry and dialects.

How do you use the countryside/city/people as tools to write your lyrics?
I don’t really think about that. I live in a city. I sometimes go for walks in the countryside. I’m always writing so it makes no difference where I am. I use my own feelings as inspiration and both people and places being out different feelings so I try and mix it up as much as possible. I’ll be out clubbing one week and staring at a mountain the next. I have loads of different kinds of friends and enemies. It’s all a rich tapestry to me.

Nancy Elizabeth
Illustration by Matilde Sazio

It’s so easy to become immersed in your music and drift off to a little world. Would you say your lyrics are your almost like your ‘own world’?
Yes. I find it really hard to deal with the reality of paying my rent and organizing paperwork. I’m 100% completely absorbed by my story of life and I live it like it’s a book unfolding. I sometimes want to shoot myself in the head and put a rest to it all but I don’t have a gun and anyway, even struggling to pay my rent is a story and a new chapter so I embrace it all. My songs are most definitely like chapters in a story. I don’t even care if no one cares. I am living out my life like a play and I love all the characters dearly. If I didn’t have many different kinds of sub plots and storylines going on then I wouldn’t be able to understand or relate to any one else’s story. It’s all interesting. I think I will write music until I die.

Does it ever make you feel vulnerable, articulating and exposing it?
Not really. In this modern age people seem to think you’ve got to put on some kind of show, especially in the arts. I am completely myself. I believe that my life is perfect as it is, with all it’s flaws and foibles. Surely I would not be happy if I felt I had to hide it? I think that sometimes people don’t like my level of honesty but I am happy this way so I will keep on writing music that is a representation of how I feel and if no one likes it I don’t worry. I don’t think that other people’s opinion’s has any bearing on how valuable what I do is. This is the only way to not end up making shit, lifeless music, or die of heartache in an industry and world where money and fame are the only accepted ways to measure success. It might sound arrogant, but it’s just self-belief, the two are not the same. I believe in myself completely, but I also have absolute belief in other people.

How do you escape it and free your mind?!
Day dreaming, dancing and the odd pint.

Is it hard to sit down and motivate yourself sometimes? How do you do it?
Yes I sometimes put off what needs to be done because it feels like the task it too big and everything is hard and scary. This never benefits me but I’ve learned not to give myself a hard time for it. I think motivation comes in direct proportion to how inspired I feel, and how inspired I feel comes in direct proportion to how much I’m striving to understand the purpose of my life. As I say, going out for a pint usually helps, as does eating curry and turning my music up loud and dancing around.

Where did you grow up, and where do you reside now?
I grew up in the wonderful town of Wigan and I now live in my beloved city of Manchester.


How important is ‘home’ to you? Do you get nostalgic?
I’ve wondered about this loads. I’m in love with the North of England. I really love other places too, but a few years ago I realized that I always measure everything against what I first knew… Wigan. I suppose the word “home” means, the place where you consider to be the centre of your world. Of course that can mean many different things. Geographically, at least, that will always be Lancashire for me. I always wear rose tinted spectacles when it comes to Lancashire. Red ones, of course.

How do you challenge yourself?
Ooo that’s a big question. I’d like to say I go for a jog at 6am everyday but that would be a giant lie. I try and read and see something good in people who I might dislike. If I just outright hate them then I’ll try and understand why and take a look at myself. I try and make my fingers play things they don’t want to on the piano, but only if it sounds good. Drumming is great for me because I usually can’t physically do what is in my mind, but after a good practice it all comes right. That is great.

What are you working on now?
MY THIRD ALBUM! God only knows when it shall be ready. I’m not rushing.

Thank you x

Nancy will be playing three more dates this month. See them here.


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