The essence of the folk heritage is music for the people by the people, and singer-songwriter Lizzy Lehman furthers this tradition in a variety of meaningful ways. As a solo artist, she draws on the folk tradition to sincerely express herself and forge deep communal bonds across social and societal lines. Within a band context—with her group Carry Illinois—she progresses the music form through bold sonic experimentation.
“I write about my life, and my perspective of the world surrounding me. My songs are more local than global, but the themes are universal,” the Austin, Texas-based artist explains. This quality of highly relatable vulnerability is a constant within Lizzy’s work as a solo artist, and fronting Carry Illinois. “The songs in both contexts are complimentary, but the sonic treatments are different. My solo work is informed by the roots of folk, but the band reflects more of a connection to the indie folk rock of my generation,” she explains.
The critically acclaimed singer-songwriter draws upon a broad array of classic and contemporary Americana-tinged influences, including Carole King, Brandi Carlile, Joni Mitchell, Gillian Welch, Shawn Colvin, among others, to synthesize a unique and intimate folk-based aesthetic. Leicester Bangs has praised Lizzy’s “pop smarts,” Music Connection Magazine has said: “”Lehman’s voice has a wonderfully husky resonance custom-built to sell the emotion in her material, which is often somber and searching,” and the Austin Chronicle has described her songwriting as “thoughtful, story-like.”
Live, she’s built a respectable profile, highlights being opening for Gregory Alan Isakov at George’s Majestic Lounge in Fayetteville, Arkansas, participating in the Fayetteville Roots Festival, singing with The Blackwells, and performing as a solo artist, and with The Blackwells, on such legendary Austin stages as Antone’s, The Cactus Cafe, The Parish, Cheer Up Charlies, and the Mohawk.
Lizzy started singing in 4th grade and participated in choir and musical theater throughout high school. But it wouldn’t be until college when her creativity would come into its own. There, three events transformed her life. One, she found a guitar teacher who took her seriously as a musician and helped her develop into the artist she wanted to become. Two, a close friend gifted her with a special handmade notebook that held a creative aura which inspired her to channel her thoughts into songs. Three, she attended an 18-day Texas folk festival where artists shared songs and stories— here she found a home base in the communal vibe of the folk scene. From these epiphanic moments, she’s gone on to release a solo EP, a full length, and play in various Americana bands such as the Blackwells, and now in her own band, Carry Illinois.
The Austin, Texas quartet specializes in reimagining Lizzy’s campfire folk compositions with adventurous musicality and spacy textures. The band features a roster of accomplished musicians with a command of the Americana heritage and a bold approach to furthering its scope. Carry Illinois is Lizzy Lehman singer, songwriter, guitar; Nick Droz, bass; Rudy Villarreal, drums; and Darwin Smith, guitar.
The group’s five-song debut EP Siren is best described as late-night heart worn indie folk-rock. The track “Nothing to Despise” features banjo, looped beats, stately strings, processed vocals, and a dramatic storyteller narrative for a masterful and vibey classic and contemporary genre mash up. “Weakest Limb” is futuristic gospel-folk with a harrowing but inspiring “I will overcome” message. The stunning title track is transcendent with blissful ambience and dreamy vocals. “That’s about a trip I took to Colorado. It’s about flying out of the city to this utopia where there is clean air, no loud trains, and very little noise,” Lizzy reveals.
It’s been a profound journey of diverse creative guises and up-and-coming artist accomplishments, but what keeps Lizzy artistically inspired is holding fast to those foundational folk ideals. She says: “The most meaningful things for me have been the connections and relationships I’ve made, and sharing experiences and perspectives on life with different people.”