Chicks Chat with… Lady Rizo

Lady Rizo photo credit: Shervin Lainez

Chicks Chat with…

Lady Rizo (aka Amelia Zirin-Brown) she’s a comedian, Grammy winning cabaret chanteuse and songwriter hailing from the US. She just finished a sell-out show at the Soho Theatre; London Red, White and Indigo. We at Those London Chicks are so pleased she has taken the time out to chat with us. She discusses life and her new album Indigo.

Lady Rizo is  your stage name, tell us how ‘Lady Rizo’ came to life, as it were?

Lady Rizo started from two places–first a desire to collaborate with my ‘milk sister’ (we were raised in tandem in a tight knit hippy artist community and our mothers breast-fed both of us.) She lived in New York City and had been encouraging me to move there for some time- I had major fear of the ‘Big Apple.’  However, I  finally got there and was completely overwhelmed with the prospect of introducing myself as an actress and singer to the world and paralized about getting an agent.

I decided against the traditional route of knocking on doors and going to auditions (I had never liked them– they felt humiliating and not a good reflection of my power as a performer. ) I was married at the time to a beautiful Colombian man named Andres Rizo and I created “Lady Rizo and the Assettes” with my sister Amber and Mr. Rizo — I didn’t take his name legally- but took it for my nom de stage.  It’s ironic that it’s had more staying power than the marriage.

Your vocals are off the chart! Have you always sung?

As a child every holiday season my nuclear family would head down to California to be there we would sing in multi-part harmony with my father’s side.  My paternal grandfather James Brown played most instruments.  This was the WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant)  side of my family- not my mom’s Jewish side.  Music was key as my grandfather was not only a music teacher but also the director of music at his church.  Additionally, there was always music in my community growing up in Oregon.  There were many bands that surrounded me and often music collaborators in the theatrical productions.  A lot of blues around me- albeit white men playing the blues, but there was still was a love affair with rhythm and blues.  I knew I could really sing when around 10 years I started to be asked to sing for different  productions in town…I even snuck into a couple of bars and sang with the bands.   The town I grew up in was incredibly small yet it had three dance companies, two theatre companies and a vibrant visual arts center as well, so it was an incredibly warm and fostering place to grow up as an artist.

Photo: Shervin Lainez

I was lucky enough to have caught your brilliant show Red,White and Indigo. There were laugh out loud funny moments, peppered with politics (clearly a love/hate relationship with America), amazing singing and songs…How did you devise the show?

My process with specific shows  is to highlight the subject that is circling in my mind most frequently and then to explore it using the tools that I’ve devised with Lady Rizo.  If I’m truly trying to answer some questions, the chances are the audience will be inspired to question as well.  The tools in my own little diva-kit are songs, stories, power, vulnerability, seduction, humor, real candid questions put up against highly stylized moments.  The first time I made a show that was focused on a theme was while I was going through the most painful time in my life– processing my divorce from Mr. Rizo.  It was double hard as Lady Rizo had come to life with him by my side.  It was so hard to even say the name I was considering putting the diva to rest.  It was important for me to explore that–and was interesting to do onstage in front of people in that show titled “Under.” Then the next show I had to acknowledge that I had become a mother with “Multiplied.”  This year the topic of Amercia was obvious and exciting because although equally consuming it was not as personal– I was sharing the same obsessive fear/thought with many of my countrymen and women when Drumpf became president.

You have been quoted as saying that London is like a second home. Why is that?  

I love the connective thread between New York and London.  There is a shared vibrancy, and similar cultural focus on all levels of art, fashion, architecture, food.   London has an inherent literacy and calm intelligence to it– an intelectual curiosity and rigor that I find most attractive.   I love to perform in London because there is also a deep desire to be more open  — the Brit culture is a little more buttoned up, not so used to wearing emotions on the outside.  I find that British audience members use elements of a Lady Rizo show like a drug– and baby I want to be your love drug!  The shows are always a journey.

When you’re here, where are your favourite haunts and why?

Of course, the Soho Theatre is where I find a real home away from home.  I love the mix of artists, theatregoers, and generally jovial drinkers you get there.  I also like to hit up Groucho for a nice luxurious velvet couched post show drink and the feeling that you’re superior because youre in there!  Elitist to the max.  But I’ve also seen some really bad behavior there by drunken entitled idiots.     On that same street CAY TRE  has some amazing Vietnamese inspired food.  I’ve never enjoyed eggplant from the bottom part of my soul before eatitng their roasted eggplant and pork appetizer.  I love going to yoga at Tri-Yoga and having one of their amazing smoothies afterwards – and if i’m splurging: a four handed hawaiian lomi lomi massage after as well!  

Tell what we can expect from your up-coming album Indigo?   

There’s many different kinds of songs on the album- but what is consistent is my voice, songs about love or pain and this sense of lush musical mystery.  I’ve felt recently like the album is like entering an old large magic mansion where every room has a totally differnent light, decor and energy that washes over you immediately.

Your fantastic show is a mixture of original songs and reboots of other artists, like your homage to Leonard Cohen. Who are your musical inspirations and why?

Ella Fitgerald for her pure mastery of the voice and jazz, Peggy Lee for her smooth relaxed glamorous style and simple sexy songwriting, Nina Simone for her unparalelled way of making a song truly her own and her boldness: socio-politically and in her presence, David Bowie for his adventurous glamour, expression of gender and party, Prince for his raw sex appeal and understanding of rhythm, Freddie Mercury for theatre and the best rock n’roll voice, Janis for truth, pain and raw expression of voice, Aretha for ease and soul.

What is your song writing process?  

I write out lyrics first often but sometimes a melody comes with.  Then I take that simple melody and the start to the lyrics and bring it to a collaborator who is a better musician than I am and we flesh it out together.  It’s best if I have an assignment or a deadline so sometimes I have to give myself those.

You have a two year old son. How have your found the whole touring thing as a mother?   

Luckily I have a super amazing and chill baby who always made it pretty easy because people want to hold him.  I love being in countries where people want to hold other people’s children.  I have to let go of some perfection because there’s so much to do that I can’t do it all.  I”m slowly, slowly learning to give myself more time before I go the airport.  It’s pretty exciting to show him the world and introduce him to so many amazing people around the globe.    

What with travelling, writing and recording and being a Mum. What do you like to do for ‘you’ time?  

I love taking yoga classes, getting chai and watching people,  having long baths: watching amazing tv series’ on netflix in the bath is my current favorite way to unwind now that i don’t go out party late into the night after a show any more.  It took me a while to be able to pay a babysitter to watch Tennyson when I wanted to go out and do something for me.  But giving myself time makes me a better mother, a better person.   I mean gimme that four handed massage again please!

Photo Credit: Kevin Kauer

Finally, when will you be back in the UK, any time soon?

I’m in the states through the end of the year which I’m pretty excited about– I don’t get to be home that often and there are closets that I’m just organzing from when we moved to this Brooklyn apartment in March!  Then I head to Australia/ Asia for some shows in the new year.  Including the very exciting Sydney Festival! (Which is where I met my love Nicholas Rayment- Tennyson’s father in 2014)  I’m so happy to bring a show back there and also bring the baby that was born because of that booking.  I’m in talks about the UK in May but nothing has been confirmed.  I love spending time in the UK- it really holds a piece of my heart. The audiences there fully recieve the shows in a way that makes me just fall in love every time!

Thank you so much Lady Rizo xx

Thank you Karen!!! you’re such a hawt London chick!

Interviewed by Karen Bryson

Take a look at the teaser for Indigo

Buy the album Indigo HERE

Download Indigo from iTunes 

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Title image photo credit: Shervin Lainez
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