After dropping All My Ghosts, the newest single from her sophomore album, the rise of Lizzy McAlpine seems inevitable.
For any artist, the release of their second album can be a lot of pressure, especially for those with a successful and beloved debut. To keep your fanbase, do you stick with what you know worked in the past or do you change your sound entirely in hope of gaining a new audience? For Pennsylvania-born indie artist Lizzy McAlpine the answer was the perfect combination of the two. From the beginning, McAlpine was an artist to keep an eye on. Her debut album, Give Me A Minute, released in August 2020 at the height of a global pandemic. Despite the diminished press and touring opportunities, it quickly gained both critical acclaim and commercial success, garnering millions of streams on Spotify and catching the attention of fellow artists such as Darren Criss, Pheobe Bridgers, and Finneas. In the 2 years that have followed, the now 22-year-old has grown both as a person and an artist. Her newest releases perfectly mirror that.
All My Ghosts, the most recent of three singles that have led to the release of her upcoming album Five Seconds Flat is a look inside a moment in Lizzy’s life when all was well in a relationship. Like her past songs, the lyrics paint a vivid picture and a story that is easy to both follow and feel. Yet, like Doomsday and Erase Me, also taken from Five Seconds Flat, it leans less toward her singer/songwriter roots of the past. The songs are heavier sonically and rock-influenced creating something still distinctly Lizzy McAlpine, but new just the same.
Lizzy and 1883’s Sydney Bolen talked about her growth as an artist, the short film accompanying Five Seconds Flat, the upcoming Build A Problem tour, and more.
First of all congratulations on All My Ghosts!
I was pleased that you added to music’s grand tradition of romanticizing kitchens. It’s in so many songs. I don’t know why.
Have you found the release process easier with each shingle that’s come out or have you gotten just as emotional every time?
It’s kind of terrifying every time. I feel like it doesn’t get easier. [chuckles] I am getting more and more excited though. I know every single is leading up to the album and I’m really excited about that.
It’s been a very good lead-up, so you should be excited. You have a very vulnerable and detail-oriented writing style- which creates very specific and vivid songs. I know some artists find this taboo. They try not to influence their audiences’ experience with their songs – but what is the story of All My Ghosts?
It’s pretty much exactly what the lyrics are. I wrote it about my ex. We weren’t exes at the time, obviously, but over the summer we were hanging out and it felt right. This ex and I have been on and off for about three years. We are very much twin flame vibes. Not all the moments were good. All My Ghosts is about a good moment, but there are other songs on the album about him that are not great. [laughs] All My Ghosts specifically is about a couple of moments that we had where I finally felt there was a possibility of healing from my past relationship traumas. I could see that with him at that moment.
I think it’s my favourite single so far.
Mine too, actually. [laughs]
One of the things I’ve noticed is the three singles that you’ve released so far tell their own little story. Are you releasing a narrative concept album or do these just happen to go together because of who they are about?
Yes. [laughs] That’s the short answer. Yes. It’s definitely a narrative concept album. We’re also are making music videos for all of the singles and those will eventually turn into a short film.
[gasps] That’s so cool!
Yeah! They’re all connected. There are four singles in total. This is the third one. We’ve made a music video for each of them. When the album comes out, we’re adding one more music video plus scenes in between all those videos once we put them together, so it’ll become a full-blown short film.
That is so cool! How fun and very Taylor Swift of you.
[laughs] Yeah. I’m very excited about it.
How did the idea for the short come about?
Before this album, we were going to do a seven songs EP. It ended up becoming the live EP. We just didn’t produce it. I wanted those songs to have their moment but I didn’t feel like they need to be produced that much. I had the film idea for that EP and I was like, “Okay, now that we’re not doing it for this I want to transfer that over to the album.” Obviously, we can’t make a video for every song. I would have loved to, but that’s a little expensive. [both laugh]
Yeah, it is.
I picked five songs and wrote the concept. I wrote the script. I came up with all of the ideas. I brought them to Gus Black, the director, who I just found on Instagram. I was like, “I like your work and I think that this would be really cool if we did it together. I know it’s ambitious. But I think that it would be good.” and he was like, “Yeah. Let’s go for it.”
It’s awesome you had such a hand in it.
Oh yeah. He’s also very open to me being a part of the editing process. Yesterday, I was over there for like eight hours. I just sat and we edited through the film. I love being involved in every aspect. It’s been really fun.
Yeah, I love music videos. When I was at college, originally what I thought I wanted to do was produce music videos. Obviously, things changed, but I still really like music videos. This truly is super exciting to me.
Me too. I also love acting. Acting is a passion of mine and so is writing. So to be able to write the script and the concept and then also act in it has been amazing. The in-between scenes have dialogue. It was cool to be able to do all of the things that I’m passionate about in one project. [laughs]
It’s going to be so yours and so you. You’re going to feel so good when it comes out.
[laughs] I’m very excited.
We started this whole conversation with a question about your upcoming album. Speaking of albums- looking back on your debut, Give Me A Minute, I can’t help but remark on the growth you’ve had as an artist since then. To be honest, I first listened to you because you kept being on my social feeds. My friends started posting about you, Darren Criss posted about you. I couldn’t escape you the week your album came out, so I decided to see what all the fuss was about.
To me, you seemed to have come out of nowhere, but obviously, that wasn’t the case. How are you feeling about your journey as you move into this next era?
I’m feeling really good about it, honestly. At this point, I’ve put in so much work behind the scenes that is finally starting to pay off, which is a cool feeling. The debut album was the jumping-off point. I feel like it’s only gone up since then. I’ve been on a steady incline. It’s very exciting. I feel like this album is very different from Give Me A Minute. I feel like that’s easy to tell with the singles, which I wanted. The minute that we started recording this one I was like, “We can’t do a Give Me A Minute: Part Two. There’s going to be none of that.” [chuckles] I didn’t want to box myself into the singer/songwriter genre. I love it and that’s always going to be part of who I am. But I wanted to explore more. Since I worked with Philip Etherington again, it was almost like we were growing together. You can definitely hear that.
Yes! While the songs are still very you, they’re almost heavier or fuller sonically. What made you decide to venture down a less acoustic road this time?
Give Me A Minute had its moment. I am forever grateful for that album. But it’s not really who I am as an artist anymore. That’s always how it goes. It was right for who I was at the time. I’ve grown not just as an artist, but also as a person since then. I wanted this album to reflect that growth. I think it does. [laughs]
It does. You’ve evolved very naturally and it shows that you have some staying power, which is paramount for newer artists. Were there any specific artists you found particularly inspiring during the creative process?
We drew from a lot of different places. Punisher by Phoebe Bridgers was a huge inspiration. Holly Humberstone, Del Water Gap. Lots from that indie pop/rock scene.
Looking back and at where you are now, is there any advice you would give your 2019 self?
Don’t listen to anyone. Just do whatever you want to do. As an artist, I think it’s really important to be able to stand your ground and stick up for your ideas and your creative vision and not let anyone tell you that it’s wrong or not possible. If you believe in something and you want to do it, there are ways to do it. You have to stay true and creative.
That’s really good advice. It allows you to build something authentic.
Speaking of building things [chuckles] — very soon you’ll be playing at least some of these songs live regularly when you open for Dodie in the Build A Problem tour. What are you looking forward to most?
I’m just excited to play live again. I never got to tour Give Me A Minute because it came out during the pandemic, so I haven’t really been able to play any songs. I’ve done a couple of gigs here and there, but I’ve never toured. I’ve never played these songs for a large audience. I’m excited. I know that as soon as people start singing the words I’m not going to be able to sing because I’m going to be crying. [both laugh] I’ve kind of grown my career online. It started during the pandemic. I haven’t been able to meet people. I get recognized occasionally and that’s the only time I’m able to see these people who follow me on Instagram or TikTok or any social media in real life. That’s when I’m finally able to think, “Oh. There are actual physical people who are supporting me and want to come to my shows.” It’s crazy.
I’ll be at the LA show on March 24th. My friends and I are really excited.
Are you?! Oh my gosh.
Yeah, we got lucky they added a second LA show! Finally, to bring it all back to All My Ghosts, what is your favourite 7-eleven Slurpee flavour?
I really like the coke.
That’s my go-to at the movies. You can’t go wrong. Add some cherry in there. Perfect.
Right. Right. [laughs]
Interview by Sydney Bolen
All My Ghosts is out now. Lizzy McAlpine’s second album, Five Seconds Flat, is out April 8th.