The British-Cambodian singer chats intimate escapades, London vs LA, and the heights she plans on conquering in 2021.
There’s no one out there quite like Liza Owen. The British-Cambodian singer is all of our childhood dreams personified, her sound a perfect blend of electrifying indie and pure pop enchantment. Having been on quite the journey since debuting in 2016, lockdown saw her really kick things into gear, ushering in a new era of intimate escapades and wreckless pleasure-seeking. Whether it be in her latest single “Starry Eyed”, or the slinky slowburning power of “Why Aren’t We Having Sex”, Owen always has an interesting story up her sleeve, and we know you’ll wanna hear it.
The singer grew up in Headley, a small village in the Surrey countryside, but knew she was destined for something more. At just 17 she waved goodbye to the rural idyl in favour of the hustle and bustle of London, intent on pursuing her dreams in the process. After bouncing around for a while performing the balancing act of figuring out her sound, getting her act together and having a good time, Owen then relocated to LA, where she was mentored by songwriting powerhouse Ali Tamposi (Beyoncé, Xtina, One Direction, you get the picture). It was here that everything clicked for the singer, and now with all her ducks in a row, she’s coming at the music game with everything she has.
Check out the interview with the head-turning star below…
Hey Liza! During lockdown you made music, releasing your debut single “Why Aren’t We Having Sex” alongside your video with user-submitted footage of people in quarantine; tell us how that came to mind!
So “Why Aren’t We Having Sex” and “Getting Good” were both written the weekend before we all had to go into full lockdown. I organised a writing retreat in Palm Springs to escape the city and post up with my closest collaborators. Crazy to think if it had been a week later these songs wouldn’t exist! I continued to write by myself whilst at home but then about a month or so into it I noticed I was reading a lot of articles saying how there’s probably going to be a baby boom after this! Articles talking about brand new couples who had only been on a few dates but decided to quarantine together. With not much else to do, you can imagine there would be a ton of sex!
On the flip side, I was talking to my single friends & hearing about their struggles with dating apps and getting zero action. Which sucks. All of this is what inspired the video. I really just wanted to create something that showed how we’re all in this together. No matter what your situation is, we all get lonely and have the same needs, and that in these crazy stressful times we still need to remember to connect and have fun. It was really cool to be able to have my friends be part of this and every storyline came from their authentic experiences. I love that the song is just fun and carefree but that it took on a whole new deeper meaning with the video.
Has it been difficult to stay creative during these uncertain times? What have you learned about yourself?
In the beginning I had no desire to be creative musically which is very unlike me. The world had turned upside down and I think a lot of confusion and fear comes with that. At some point, I just accepted the new normal and leaned in. Releasing my first single definitely kicked me back into ‘go mode’ and to be honest I haven’t stopped since. I’ve learned that I hate writing songs over zoom. I need that in-person connection. So I’m currently only creating music in person with a handful of people that I’m close to. And I’ve learned that life is too short to spend time with people that you don’t love and that don’t inspire you.
You grew up in Headley, a tiny village in the English countryside listening to Whitney, Aretha, Alanis, Oasis and Nirvana. How did this all impact your music?
I was exposed to such an eclectic selection of music but I think that the one thing all of those artists have in common is their incredible storytelling. They definitely inspired me in that way. Each and every one of them had such a strong identity and a powerful message. Every single one of my songs has a story behind it. I don’t think I can give that town any credit for making me the way I am. All of that goes to my mum! She always taught me to express myself freely and that the world is a much bigger place than where I came from.
Which artists are you currently listening to?
A lot of The 1975, Dominic Fike & Kacey Musgraves
Being raised solely by your mother, a Cambodian holocaust survivor, she was obviously a strong and powerful role model, how did that shape you and your art?
I think strong and powerful women know how to raise strong and powerful women. She went through so many hardships in her life to get where she is so she always taught me to grab life by the horns fight for what I want. I’m very persistent and I don’t give up easily so I know I got that from her. I was obsessed with music and fashion from such a young age and she did everything in her power to help me explore my creativity.
At only 17 you left home for London, what was that time like? How did you meet producers and get signed?
Honestly, I was so excited to finally move to the big city. I was like SEE YA and never looked back. I had no clue what I was doing or where to start so I threw up a cover on YouTube and that was when I first started to connect with producers in London. From that point, I just started writing as much as I could, and everything slowly started falling into place.
How do you define your music, and is your process for writing for other artists differently than your process for your own?
I’d say my music is very personal and very honest. Every song is a story. Expect lots of guitars, live drums and live instruments – I really gravitate towards that rawness. I think the only difference for me when writing for myself vs writing for others is telling my stories in the way I want to tell them rather than trying to channel somebody else’s in the best way for them.
Your manager set you up with renowned songwriter Ali Tamposi (Beyoncé, Christina Aguilera, One Direction) and Ali became your mentor; what do you think made Ali choose to work with you?
I think it’s very rare to click with someone that instantly and to build a deep connection so quickly but that’s exactly what happened with Ali and I. We met on my first ever trip to LA and two months later I was back, staying at her place and we were signing a publishing deal. I think life has a way of putting you exactly where you need to be and the timing was just right for the both of us. Ali was one of the first people to believe in me and I’m infinitely a better writer and artist because of her.
Los Angeles is now your permanent home, how has being there changed things for you?
I had been going back and forth for while but 2020 is truly the first year where this feels like home. I’ve found my ride or die creative family here and that is such a huge part of being an artist. A small handful of writers and producers who I’ve created all my music with and I’ve learned so much from them. Back in London I was jumping around so much trying to find that.
I also think I had a more toxic lifestyle while I was living in London, although I would say I owe a lot of my taste in visuals and fashion to being in London, being in LA allowed me to slow down & actually focus.
What was it like penning songs for massive artists including Selena Gomez and BTS.
The process behind each of these songs was so different. Everything was done virtually for the BTS record which was a new experience for me. Starting with the track we were sent, we wrote to it in English and then it was later translated. Then the Selena song was something that came together super fast and organically in the studio.
What’s in store for you now?
A ton of new music! I’ve spent the past year in the studio focusing on myself so now I’m ready to release it all into the world and it feels great to have a partner that supports my vision and gives me the freedom to do things my way.
What are your hopes and goals for 2021?
Well, firstly I hope I can get on a plane and finally be with my family. That’s huge. Secondly, I cannot wait to finally be able to do shows again. I miss that human connection so much. So being able to go on tour again with this new music would be incredible. Other than that I ‘m just super excited to drop this EP and for new people to discover it and fall in love with it the way I have.