Lizzy Farrall isn’t someone who holds back. Nor is she someone who is phased about what other people think. That much is evident from one listen to her new EP, Barbados. On the surface, its five songs all have an unashamedly pop sensibility, centered around uplifting beats, shimmering synths and ultra catchy choruses. That’s a far cry from the more maudlin, acoustic guitar-based songs of her debut EP, 2018’s All I Said Was Never Heard, but pay attention to Farrall’s lyrics and you’ll realize that, actually, beyond her sound, not all that much has changed.
“I’ve always used music as a release,” she says, “whether it be listening or creating. I’ve always struggled writing happy lyrics, and I feel that’s a reflection of the music I was brought up on – things like Damien Rice, The Smiths and David Gray. I hold my first EP very close to my heart, but it was my stepping stone into creating the music I write now. I wanted the release I get from creating my music to be less sad and more uplifting. The vision i had was being able to sing these personal lyrics but also be able to actually dance and make the lyrics relatable to the listener.”
Farrall was born in Chester, UK – a small town not far from Liverpool – but at the age of four months her family moved to a rural village in North Wales. There, she and her six siblings were home educated by their parents, but when Farrall was 11 they separated, and she moved back to Chester. At 14, she began busking on the town’s streets and two years later entered formal education for the first time at Coleg Cambria in Wrexham, North Wales, where she studied BTEC Music Performance. All of that helped with her ability to channel her emotions into song, but there was another shift with this EP – she wanted to shift the focus of her lyrics away from herself to make songs that anyone can relate to, whoever they are and wherever they are. That doesn’t mean they’re not personal. On the contrary, these are songs that tell specific stories and which are full of overwrought, fragile emotion. They just might not mean exactly what you think they mean.
“I don’t want to make all the songs from the perspective of my eyes,” she explains. “A lot of these songs may hint at something that’s actually not. So if some of the lyrics seem blunt, it might not actually be about what it seems. I wrote these songs like a mirrored image. So while one side of it is all about something that’s happened to me, I’ve used metaphors and ways for other people to connect to it in a way that they would like to for themselves.”
Beyond that, Farrall also wanted these songs to exist in a larger context than her own feelings and emotions. “Balloon”, for example, covers themes like displacement, isolation and mental instability, which is in sharp contrast to its ’80s-tinged synth-pop melodies. The tune of opener “Games” is buoyant and cheerful, but its chorus – “I want to be killed by you” – is anything but. Similarly, the title track might be named after a popular holiday destination, but it’s actually a reference to a rehabilitation center in that country that the likes of Amy Winehouse and is full of personal turmoil. Elsewhere, “Help” is a song driven by melancholy euphoria – a paradox that makes total sense when you listen to it – but which was really written about the lack of support for, and awareness of, mental health issues that people face. Similarly, closing track “Make Up Sex” is a vivid description of relationship that dives much deeper than what some may perceive to be a salacious title. Indeed, the unflinching honesty of Farrall’s words in all these songs is both refreshing and eye-opening, and one of the reasons these songs resonate the way they do. Unfiltered and honest, they also seem at odds with the uplifting nature of the music, but that makes them all the more powerful.
“When I wrote “Make Up Sex” I did worry about the lyrical content and how people would react,” says Farrall, “as I guess people could see it as not a very ‘safe topic’. Once released, I did receive a few negative comments along the lines of it being ‘a very obnoxious topic for a woman to be singing about’ – just because I’m a female and sing about sex people paint me in an obnoxious light. But I just find that funny. And, honestly, it’s just pushed me to write more ‘obnoxious’ lyrics!”
While Farrall has always had that unflinching approach to words, this time around she was able to write the music she wanted, too. By collaborating with Miles Kent (Catch Fire), Chris Curran (PVRIS, Handguns) and Anton Delost (Bearings, Seaway), as well as Brett Romnes (I Am The Avalanche), who recorded the EP at his Barbershop Studios in New Jersey, Farrall has made a record that sounds exactly the way she wanted it to sound – her intention was to make something that couldn’t be pigeonholed.
“Now that I’m not writing solely acoustic music, it definitely has more of a modern feel,” says Farrall, who has previously toured with Elder Brother and Microwave, and embarks on US dates with pop-punks Set It Off in June and UK dates with Aaron West And The Roaring Twenties in September, “but there’s also this alternative vibe and I can’t quite pin down what genre you would class it as. The main goal – or I guess you could say the fear – was to make sure each track didn’t sound anything like the last, which would give you the feeling of listening to a playlist. I didn’t want there to be a specific sound – I wanted it to include different elements of everything I listen to.”
Part of her way of accomplishing that was to write in the studio – as opposed where to her bedroom as she’d done previously.
“I wrote pretty much everything out there,” she continues. “I wanted it all to be in the moment and for me to be taken out of my creative comfort zone.”
The result is an audacious and beautiful, sad and inspiring EP that’s full of spirit and which overflows with Farrell’s spritely personality. More importantly, its five songs aren’t afraid to infuse real life into pop music – or, perhaps, vice versa. It’s perfect pop about an imperfect world, one that reveals – and, ultimately, revels in – the bruises we all endure from just being alive, but which always fade.
“Bruises aren’t permanent,” says Farrall. “They’re just a little imperfection that’ll appear now and then if you’ve hurt yourself. All I want to be able to is put out the music I want to put out and have people connect with it! Music is what has kept me alive for 22 years. It’s the reason I stay happy and positive and as long as I can somehow be involved in it, music will continue to be my release.”