- Posted on Mar 4th 2011 2:00PM by Emily Tan
Gino DePinto, AOL
In addition to opening for pop singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles on an upcoming tour, Elizabeth and the Catapult will head to Austin to perform at this year's SXSW. Spinner had the chance to talk to Ziman about singing in the subway, potentially writing music for Animal Planet and her undying love for New York City.
So, you're Elizabeth, but who or what is the Catapult?
The Catapult kind of changes members. There's so many brilliant people in New York City that I think I get a little ADD about it. I have so many talented friends that I get really excited. So depending on the month, the Catapult, especially on the road, switches members.
How did you find your voice?
I went to school for film scoring, and I met Esperanza at school. It was interesting because I wasn't really doing much singing before I met her, and we went on the road together. We were both backing up Patti Austin, who was this jazz singer. Basically I was in the film-scoring major, and someone convinced me to audition for this weird Ella Fitzgerald tribute tour with Patti Austin. I thought it was cool and never thought I would get it, but then I started touring with Esperanza all the time. She was really encouraging me in playing my own music out and I started doing that, and she was a badass. I thought I was Jill Scott meets Erykah Badu and the Brazilian Girls and had a lot of fun with her and played a lot and toured around. At a certain point, Esperanza Spalding needed to be her own force and her own band.
So when Esperanza did her own thing, how did your band, Elizabeth and the Catapult, start?
I played at Rockwood Music Hall [in New York] every single week. I did residencies there for years where I kind of started this New York following in the East Village. I just played New York a lot. At a certain point, a couple of years in, we were a very do-it-yourself band, and then Verve [Records] came in and put out 'The Other Size of Zero' and also put out the last record, 'Taller Children.' Now we're spreading our wings.
When did you realize music was your thing?
I wanted to be a classical pianist for most of my life, maybe until I was 16. I was locked away in a room by myself for many years, and at some point, I wanted human contact. When I started playing with my friends, it just all came together. I wanted to write music, play music and hang out with my friends and collaborate with a lot of people. I always knew I wanted to be a musician, but I just didn't know my path until around the time I met Esperanza.
You originally went to school to study film scoring. And with artists like Grizzly Bear and Trent Reznor scoring movies, do you think that could be in your future?
That's always been my dream, but actually, I never finished my degree, because I went on tour with Patti Austin, so I have to go back to school or read a lot of arranging books. In the meantime, I do cinematically score a lot of my music. I did a lot of the string arrangements on the last album, and the album before that, I did all the arrangements. I'm just really inspired by different textures of instruments and orchestration in general.
But my actual dream -- and I put my money this that this is going to happen, after I sing songs and tour around for a little while -- I'm going to end up writing music for Animal Planet. Like, animal documentaries, Nature Channel. I'm going to write music for that.
I've worked in a pet shop, and I just love animals. I have a rabbit and a kitten, and it always just goes back to animals for me. I want to involve all my loves, and that's music and animals.
Leonard Cohen's 'Book of Longing' was an inspiration for 'The Other Side of Zero.' How'd that come about? And how did it influence your music?
I feel like I give a lot of credit to Leonard Cohen for everything, but the truth is that I went through a lot of breakups over the past year, and then I read Leonard Cohen, the Dalai Lama and David Lynch's 'Catching the Big Fish.' Basically, there were all these books on meditation and staying grounded and being really disciplined and anything that focuses you and helps you slow down. I basically read all these books about it and listened to these tapes while I was on tour about slowing down in order to focus. Leonard Cohen's 'Book of Longing' was really cool, and he's my main inspiration. Writing-wise and lyrically, I think he's the best.
Who are your other influences?
I would have to say my influences are Richard Pryor, Woody Allen and George Carlin. They just all happen to be comics who performed right down the block from where I grew up in the Village, so maybe that has something to do with it.
You've been a New Yorker all your life. How did that influence your music?
I've lived in seven different areas in Brooklyn. I really do totally romanticize New York like Woody Allen would like in 'Annie Hall' or 'Manhattan.' When I cross bridges, like on the F line, when it goes above ground, and I see across New York, I hear Gershwin playing. I really think that New York is the best, and I never want to leave. I also go and play in the subway, because the acoustics are awesome. I love singing in the subway. That's something I think you can only do in New York: find a place where there aren't a lot of people, except old Polish women, and hang out and do your thing and not be bothered.
If you'd never toured with Patti Austin and weren't part of Elizabeth and the Catapult or had anything to do with music, what do you think you'd be doing?
I'd probably be working with a veterinarian. It's interesting, because I have short periods in my life where it's like, "OK, I'm not going to make money doing this, so what should I really do?" I've had those moments. So I'd probably either be working with animals or be some kind of journalist or maybe working for a non-profit. My father actually has in his lifetime been a mime, an actor, a real estate broker. He's done everything. So I really do believe I can live multiple lives.
Catch Elizabeth and the Catapult's SXSW Set on Friday, March 18 at Creekside at Hilton Garden Inn (500 N IH 35) 1AM.
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