Singer-songwriter Liz Graham released her sophmore album "Damaged" on September 29. Photo Credit: Liz Graham.

Singer-songwriter Liz Graham released her sophomore album “Damaged” on September 29. Photo Credit: Liz Graham.

Liz Graham cares about people. From the moment I started speaking with the singer-songwriter, this fact became clear. What became even clearer was that I was in for a different type of interview — a candid one.

For starters, I was caught off-guard when after having exchanged the customary “how are you?” niceties that are common at the start of most human interactions, she didn’t just spout off a typical run-of-the-mill answer, only to move on with the business at hand. Instead, she willingly went into detail about her current state of mind, which according to her was “great,” and her current location — a gorgeous high-rise building in Jersey City. If that wasn’t surprising enough, she then proceeded to ask how I was — and actually listened to the answer (now don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of artists who do the same, but unfortunately, there are also plenty of those who come off distant and have prepared answers at the ready. Clearly, she was not the latter). It no longer felt like I was conducting an interview, much less that I was on the job. Instead, it seemed as if I was just chatting away on the phone with a friend. Granted, one I didn’t know too well yet, but a friend nonetheless. Gone were the barriers that separated us. There was only a feeling of ease and openness. Suffice it to say, Graham is not your typical artist.

Hailing from Nyack, New York, Graham’s journey has been anything but easy. She has had to endure abuse, loss and rejection, all of which she’s used as fuel for her art. In fact, music has always been her coping mechanism. Whether it was listening to Joni Mitchell, The Rolling Stones or Eric Clapton, folk and rock music served as a getaway from the hurt she experienced at home as a child and from the grief of losing her elder brother to suicide. Now she hopes that the music she creates can do the same for others who might be suffering and in need of a helping hand to get through their own life struggles. She wants her songs to be a symbol of hope for better times that are yet to come.

While Graham may fly under the mainstream radar, she’s been doing a pretty phenomenal job at getting her music heard. To date, she’s sold over 100,000 album copies with almost no promotion and was the mastermind behind the single “Daylight,” which was featured in the Dreamworks movie The Fifth Estate. Still, that didn’t stop the critiques or the comparisons. With her previous works, her sound was often said to resemble that of Paramore or Sheryl Crow. But with Damaged, her sophomore LP, comes a piece of art that is completely her own. “I feel like this is my own sound, and that’s what I was hoping to be able to have — the freedom to express myself,” she says.

In the following exclusive interview, Graham tells GALO all about her new album and reveals which book from her childhood she keeps inside her dresser to this day.

GALO: Congratulations on your new album, Damaged, which dropped a few weeks ago! How does it feel to finally have new music out there?

Liz Graham: Well, the official date [was] September 29, and I [was] freaking out! I [was] so excited — which surprised me! I wasn’t expecting to be this excited, but I am. It turned out exactly as I envisioned it to be.

GALO: Can you tell me a little bit about your initial vision for this album?

LG: I wanted it to be a sound that you know. You have to be compared to [other] people because it gives everyone a point of reference where it’s like, “oh okay, it sounds like so and so,” until you get used to the sound and it sounds like that person. I feel like this is my own sound, and that’s what I was hoping [for] — to be able to have the freedom to express myself.

I feel like I had the right person to work with in Larry Alexander because he listened to my ideas and then enhanced them with me, and we just grew [with] the songs. [It was a] sort of organic garden of growing [laughs]!

GALO: You mentioned working with Grammy winner Larry Alexander. What was that experience like?

LG: It was so awesome! He’s from my hometown, so it was so cool! And he’s so mellow. He doesn’t have this giant ego. We just got along so well.

GALO: Your work always seems to come from such an honest place, and this album is no different. What has been the inspiration or the heart behind the songs that are on this record?

LG: These are songs that came out of me, and I just let them come out and I didn’t edit them. I just said what I wanted to say as purely and honestly as possible. I didn’t get in the way of the songs, if that makes sense.

GALO: “Damaged” is a powerful ballad about being “damaged on the inside, where you can’t see it.” This is such a poignant observation of how a lot of people currently feel on a day-to-day basis. Why did you decide to make it the title track for the album?

LG: I was struggling with what the title would be. I was concerned that people would think, ‘oh, this record is a bummer. I don’t want to listen to it.’ But what I am trying to say is that throughout all the songs [on this album], there is hope and there is humor. And so we pick ourselves up each time and we get back out there, back on our feet.

Video courtesy of Liz Graham.

With “Damaged,” the message in the song is: I messed up on the inside [and] there are some things there, but I am willing to get back out there, do my thing and make positive changes in my life.

GALO: Before the album was out officially, I’m sure you’d played it for close friends and family and seen some of the feedback on social media. Was any of it helpful or confidence boosting?

LG: The feedback from my fans is, “OK, Liz, release this! Get it out there! People need to hear this.” For everybody else, they’ve heard the songs so many times that they said it’s time to release it.

GALO: You’ve already released music videos for two of the tracks on your album, one of those being “Charcoal on a Canvas.” I love the imagery that’s present in that song, specifically how you paint such a great picture for listeners with only your words (no pun intended). Why charcoal on a canvas? Did that mean something in particular in your life at the moment?

LG: Well, I think it’s a song that resonates with people. So yeah, it does. It means a lot. It’s really about my playful side — or people’s playful sides — and not taking things too seriously. Like liking somebody and chasing after them, and once you kind of get close enough, you see that you’re really not actually that interested in them.

The video is fun! I thought that would be a good first video to release. We were thinking about releasing “Damaged” first, but I don’t want everybody to judge music on that [one song]. I’d really like them to check out the whole body of work.

Video courtesy of Liz Graham.

GALO: You have garnered a lot of new fans in the last year, especially with the release of your song “Daylight” from the movie The Fifth Estate. How was making a song specifically for a film different than the process of creating a piece of work for your own album?

LG: Well, it’s fun, actually. You don’t always know if it’s going to work out. Even going down to the studio to record it, we didn’t have any lyrics for it! I was like, “let’s see what will be cool.” You can’t overthink it because everyone will sense that — then it will sound like something that was manufactured and brought to you, [something that] doesn’t really mean anything.

When I got into the room, we just started talking ideas and I literally just stepped up to the mic. The film was playing in the background — it was actually on a giant screen in the background — and I just started singing. The VP of the production was there and he was like, “oh! I like that.” And then he just left and we just created it. I really didn’t know until I saw the film that it was definitely going to be in there.

GALO: A lot of artists — especially musicians — use music as a way to heal. With this being your sophomore LP, have you been able to look back at all and see the things that you were able to overcome through your music and/or situations you are still looking to flesh out in a future album?

LG: Yes, actually, I have found happiness, which is probably the hardest thing for us to accept and have. I started to look back at my life and where I was writing from and I felt free. I felt really cool in my skin, like, it’s okay to be me.

GALO: That is incredible. Are there any songs in particular that represent that for you?

LG: Seriously, maybe a little bit [of] each song that culminates into one big happy bubble.

GALO: You originally got your start from reading the book of poems “A Child’s Garden of Verses” by Robert Louis Stevenson. Over the years, have you found that you go back to that book to become inspired once again, or are there different ways that you have found to help keep the creative juices flowing?

LG: I keep my book in my dresser and I see it every day. It is a big part of my life. That was when I realized that words could rhyme and I could express myself through them. I wasn’t able to express them in my familial situation — I’ll put it like that.

Yes, I do. I recite from them. I could recite to you right now many poems from the book, but I doubt you would like to hear them [laughs]!

GALO: What’s next for you? Is there anything special we can be looking forward to seeing from you?

LG: I finished two songs this past week. I am in writing mode, and it’s kind of difficult for me to maneuver the real world when I am in this state because I am vulnerable and spacey. I am writing with the intent to release the next CD when it’s time. I plan to release another record, and I am going to continue to put songs on films and things like that, and keep on doing what I’m doing.

“Damaged” is now available for purchase. For more information about Liz Graham and her upcoming 2016 tour, you can visit her website at or follow her on Twitter @LizGrahamMusic.