Lizzo is the 28 year-old singer, rapper, flutist and recording artist you might know from her hit single “Good as Hell” or from her post-election performance on Samantha Bee’s Full Frontal. Her genre-bending EP Coconut Oil was released in October 2016.
The multitalented artist talks about her early days in music, from being a band geek and starting girl groups in middle school to making music now that’s empowering and body-positive.
(Hey! Want to support this show and get a sweet Nerdette mug and/or notebook as a thank you gift? Go to https://wbez.org/nerdalert)
Lizzo on loving herself
I do think there’s this double-edged sword in the industry where if I wear a leotard -- if I show my legs and I say I’m in love with myself -- I’m body-positive or feminist or free. Another artist -- say like Ariana Grande or Nicki Minaj -- does the same thing, people will say she’s scantily-clad or she’s trying to use sex to get ahead. I think that’s really unfair. And I think yeah, because I’m fat and black and happy, they’re like “Oh my God, she loves herself and she’s so brave.” I’m not any more brave than Ariana Grande. I’m not any more brave than Beyonce Knowles. I’m not any more brave than any of these other women who are out here doing the same thing and loving themselves.
These terms like body-positive and “Dare to be beautiful”, they really shouldn’t exist. We shouldn’t dare to be beautiful. It shouldn’t be brave for a girl who’s over a size six to be wearing a bikini.
When she knew she was going to be a musician
I was a writer. I would write a lot of stories. I wrote little fantasy -- I loved Lord of the Rings and I read a lot of fantasy like Sarah J. Mass novels and I was so into the dragons and the magic. I wrote a story about a phoenix. I was such a nerd.
So I would write for a long time. Then I started playing the flute in the fifth grade. But before that I was writing little pop songs a la Spice Girls. I was in this group called Peace Love & Joy. I was Peace, my friend was Love and my other friend was Joy and we were like Spice Girls. So we wrote little corny songs. But I always kind of gravitated toward music.
On her recent success
It is a beautiful thing. I’ve always wanted this, and it’s tight to look up and see your dreams kind of happen.
On her variety of musical styles
I was nervous. I have all these different styles. I asked my executive producer, “Do you think I need to pick one?” And he was like, “No, because your voice is kind of the thing that marries all of the genres.” And I was like, “That’s a huge compliment.” But the more Coconut Oil starts to do better the more people tell me that. They’re like, “I just vibe the whole time.”
On learning to perform in front of wildly different audiences
I was singing “My Skin” and saying “Black Lives Matter” in front of a My Morning Jacket crowd and I was performing rowdy punk songs like “Easy, Easy” and trying to start moshpits in front of a Boston riot-girl crowd. And then we opened for Chvrches and that was thousands of people, and I was like “Okay, I have to adapt to a Scottish audience, in their hometown of Glasgow, who love Chvrches.” And I have to be this girl that sets the stage for them. So it’s like we learned how to read audiences really well and adapt and the fact that I was a hip-hop artist and was not ever performing for hip hop crowds -- it made it difficult. It made it a challenge and I think that it made us better performers.
Special thanks to flutists Darlene Drew, Alyce Johnson, Karin Ursin, Mimi Stillman and lexicographer Ben Zimmer for helping us pronounce ‘flutist’. Are YOU a professional player of the flute who calls yourself a ‘FLAUTIST’? It’s becoming a bit of an obsession to a few of us so please tweet @nerdettepodcast