Liz Stringer

BLOG – Vancouver’s in The Race

I hiked every morning in the mountains north of Vancouver last week with my friend and fellow songwriter Larissa Tandy. A Canadian permanent resident for some time now, Larissa has taken to driving the half hour up into North Vancouver every morning from her place downtown to explore the infinite system of trails. She told me how good it’s been for her body and for her head. And I was more than enthusiastic to join her. The air is cold at the moment. There’s something other-worldly about walking along a mountain trail under towering cedars, the thundering river a sharp drop away, while the snowflakes drift down and settle on the Hemlocks and ferns. If fairies existed, this is where they would hang out.

Although a cold winter by southern BC standards, the Pacific north west is a much more forgiving climate than those of her eastern cousins and it felt like shorts and tee-shirt weather in Vancouver after coming from Toronto where it was twenty below and howling a damp, icy wind that tore at any exposed flesh like the fangs of a crazed dog, leaving my eyes and nose streaming before I collapsed stinging-faced and grateful into the life-saving heat of the subway station. Dramatic? Fuck yes. This Australian is struggling HARD. Needless to say that I revelled in the serenely green wonderland of Vancouver, buds already visible and waiting open armed for the spring, while Toronto continued to savage its freezing bite through the second half of January.

Vancouver was my introduction to Canada. My manager at the time Cat and I drove up from Portland, Oregon where I’d been making All The Bridges in July 2015. We stopped in Seattle to play a house concert and then drove the last two hours through the silt country over the border to British Columbia. My first experience with Canadian customs officers was a stereotypically friendly one.
“What are you doing here in Canada?”
“Playing gigs.”
“Ok, have a great time then!”

I remember not wanting to like Vancouver. Not wanting to like Canada. I was being wrenched, begrudgingly, from the recording bubble and I had fallen deeply in love with Portland. For me it was serious – I was already picturing our future together. I was lovesick and distracted and Vancouver kind of got in the way. Little did I know how formative my love affair with this inconvenient stranger would become.

My friends Jane and Jody, still my number one connection to western Canada and two of my closest people, were living near Commercial Drive, pretty much the Sydney Road of Vancouver, in the summer of 2015. The Drive is the centre of East Vancouver, the city’s creative community, which means what it always means – it’s vibrant, thriving and alive. In summer everyone is out, gorging on every last crumb of the sunshine. The trails of sweet weed smoke hang in the air on all the corners as the afternoons drift on and on, warm and dusty and fragrant. From Venables to 12th the Drive is crammed with cheap sushi joints (Vancouver has some of the best and most generously priced sashimi I’ve ever eaten – not surprising considering the access to the abundant fruits of the Pacific), dollar stores, organic food markets and vendors selling everything from vintage clothes to handmade furniture. Like in most cities I’ve been in recently, housing affordability is an often passionately discussed topic here and from everything I’ve been told it’s brutally clear that East Vancouver has not been immune to gentrification. However, while prices for the tiny, porch-fronted weatherboard houses that pack the Drive’s arterial streets are now way out of anyone’s reach who has called the area home forever, the heart of the community around there seems to have mostly weathered the farcical, cruel and onward-raging storm of the property market. Commercial Drive runs north south and when facing north, the mountains loom up in front like ancient, smoke-blue behemoths, snowy, in varying patches, all year round. Not only are they breathtakingly beautiful but the mountains also make Vancouver one of the easiest cities to navigate geographically that I’ve spent any time in. Where’s north? Where the mountains are.

My first hangs in Vancouver were during that hot summer of 2015. There were several trips north into parts of interior BC, country so sacred and ancient that it’s difficult to write about. When I think of those places and experiences I drift off in a reverie to a place in my psyche that I’m convinced was woken for the first time there, a birth of consciousness I could only liken to the shift I felt during the first stretch I ever spent in the Kimberley. The festivals that we played, tucked away in the folds of British Columbia, framed with freezing melt rivers, have claimed a place in my memory disproportionate to the actual time that was spent there. Maybe one day I’ll write about them in a more focussed way but for now I am content to be able to viscerally feel them and remain deeply grateful to their influence. Healing, welcoming, abundant country.

It’s interesting for me to observe, objectively, the relationship that I’m forming with Canada in all of its diversity. Places are powerful. They have spirit and character. And, just like between people, relationships with these places can be complicated and not always harmonious. Sometimes a place can come into your life for a short time and is not meant to be part of the greater arc of your story. I don’t know where I’ll ‘end up’. I seem to live one month at a time at the moment, in Toronto, Melbourne, NYC, PEI, Vancouver, I’ll be spending more time in Chicago soon… And I like all of those places for very different reasons, although I feel a deeper soul connection to some than to others. I think that’s how things are going to look for me for a while. I’ll be moving around until another deep shift occurs which will guide my instinct towards stopping and planting roots. The wheel of fortune is spinning. But I tell ya what, Vancouver is making a pretty compelling case right now to be my solid squeeze. Who knows, eh. Who the fuck knows.

Larissa Tandy, Jody Peck and me. North of Vancouver, BC. Feb 2019

February 10, 2019

Jordie Lane, Liz Stringer and Parlour Xmas 2018

Would you like to host your own Jordie Lane and Liz Stringer Xmas show?? Our two gigs at the Northcote Social Club on 18th and 19th December are sold out but we’re teaming up with Parlour for three nights (Thursday December 20th, Saturday December 22nd and Sunday December 23rd), so if you’re in Victoria and you’d like to apply to host CLICK HERE


December 3, 2018

Xmas Shows with Jordie Lane Both Sold Out

Jords and I can’t wait to play for you guys in our home venue, the Northcote Social Club, on the 18th and 19th of December. For those who have snapped up tickets, we’re going to be running the now annual Asylum Seekers Resource Centre Raffle, so bring some spare beer money to go into the running to win some incredible prizes donated by local artists and businesses. Last year we raised $1500 for the ASRC and this year we’re hoping to at least double that this year. So far we have prizes donated by:

Milk! Records

Sophie Cunningham (author)

Rocksteady Records


Courtney Meacham (visual artist)

As well as merch and music from Jordie and me

with more to be added over the next couple of weeks.

See you soon, Melbourne. X


December 1, 2018

Liz and Adam Won’t Be Performing at FRL 2018

I’m so sad to have to say that, due to some personal circumstances, Adam May and I won’t be performing at this year’s FRL at Bilyana in our traditional Friday night slot on the Hilltop Stage. I wish the FRL family a massive, fun-and-sun-drenched weekend, and big love and thanks to the Skermers and all of the festival organisers for being so awesome. I’ll be thinking of you all. Lots of love. XX

(this photo is of Ads and me after our set at the last FRL ❤️)

November 26, 2018

The Kimberley and Me – Ten Years On

I started writing the following in Perth, having just come from Broome after a very brief four nights up there. The Broome show marked the end of six weeks in Australia, most of it spent with my family in Melbourne, hanging out with my nephew and drinking as much coffee as I could physically consume. It also marked ten years since my first trip to the Kimberley.

I’m not convinced I can relay what the support from everyone over the last decade has meant. Here are a few thoughts that I scrambled down and have spent the last week putting into some kind of order, which may go some way to articulating my gratitude and to let you all know where I’m at. 

x Stringzy 

Adam May and me, circa 2009 (photo by Leah Flanagan)

Last night was the show at the White Elephant Bar with Stephen Pigram, a gig that I’ve been waiting to play, or at least hoping would one day happen, for many years now. My bestie Leah Flanagan introduced me to the Pigram Brother’s music, and by extension Steve’s songs, ten years ago when Flano and I first met in Leah’s home town of Darwin. We embarked on a tour across the Territory and the Kimberley to Broome in the dry-season of 2008, set up by our darling friend, Kununurra-born-and-bred songwriter, Tash Parker. We sang one of Steve’s songs, ‘Going Back Home’, at all of the thirteen gigs across that northwest belt of Australia and over those couple of weeks something in my spirit stirred and was woken by the country up there. It was a life-changing tour for me, an experience that sent gentle waves ahead of itself, carving the paths that would lead me back to the Kimberley and the NT again and again over the next ten years and allow me to form some of my closest and most important relationships. We took stints driving Flano’s old aircon-less Hiace in convoy with our tour-mates Ads and G, overcoming the lack of phone reception by using walkie-talkies that someone had acquired from a $2 shop between vehicles, as we blustered open-windowed along endless kilometres of road-train studded single-lane desert-country highway. Long languid evenings of coloured lights strung in up in frangipani trees, gin and soda-tonics dripping with condensation in the soupy Darwin heat, red dust on our feet and in our hair (I’m borrowing that line, Steve), and that indescribable dusk light of the Kimberley sunsets out on the Ord and later over Broome, padding barefoot across the cooling pindan, finally near the ocean. My new but growing relationship with the northwest of Australia began to teach me quickly how much I have (and want) to learn about the continent I was born on. And every time I’m there, my heart tangles itself in that country a bit more.

As I played with Steve last night I felt waves of energy running through me. I could feel my spirit filling up, I felt proud and understood and part of something. Steve and I talked about a lot of things over the unfolding of that Friday, way into the small hours of Saturday morning, along with a round table of old friends after the show, as we sat drinking wine and tea on a beautiful dark-wood porch under the banana trees. We talked about music, Steve told me things about Broome and the infinite complexities and nuances of culture and home, we played songs to each other, we learned each other’s tunes. And we talked about how hard it can be, sometimes, trying to make a career in music work. How financially pressuring, and how frustrating and isolating it can feel, things that have been weighing heavily on me recently. But gigs like the one that we’d just played together have the ability to make most things begin to make sense. Or at least they make the hard stuff not matter so much. Steve is a natural musician and it turns out he thinks musically very similarly to me, although he’s way better than I am (or anyone else I’ve talked to) at articulating the way he understands things musically. It was revelatory for me to hear someone make tangible the things that I had never been able to find the language to express. Music connected us like two old friends and I was so stoked that I not only finally got to play with this man, but that we made a musical connection that will, I’m certain, send its waves forward to form parts of my future for many years to come.

Since I stopped drinking over 18 months ago I’ve been going through the process of what I’ve regularly described to friends as ‘pulling my head out of my arse’. I loved drinking. And I was good at it. I partied my face off for years. Booze was my partner in crime for many of my life’s experiences, and just like the bottle I drank it from, every last drop from every moment was wrung dry with booze in my blood. It helped me relax, it took me away from myself. Often. But after a while things started to change (to quote my sister quoting Hemingway) ‘gradually, and then suddenly’. My drinking, and everything that went along with it, changed direction like the wind at a fire front, causing a sharp but insidious process of disconnection between every part of my internal and external world. A disconnection from myself, from the people I love, from my instinct and my innate knowledge of who I am, and from my own sense of personal responsibility. This process kicked up the already smouldering spot fires of precarious mental health and before I knew what was going on, the whole situation had ignited into a blaze that I was afraid was about to burn entirely beyond my control.

Since the moment I stumbled, bleary eyed and terrified, from the dark cave of my excesses, I began to see things in an utterly new way. And I’ve realised how at odds my behaviour had been with the way I moved through the world as a musician, and what an eroding conflict this incongruity had been causing in me for many years, even throughout the earlier days, when there had seemed so much less at stake. The potential for autonomy and an idiosyncratic way of living is what has always drawn me so magnetically to a life in art and yet I’ve only in the last couple of years begun to realise that I have more freedom to construct the best way for myself to live than I’d allowed myself to believe. I began to see that connection is what makes the music and the songs – the centre of how I understand the world – alive and make sense. And that, for me, drinking was like a bullying, over-protective sibling – ultimately trying to help, but in reality domineering my will to live freely, and smothering my ability to truly relate to myself and to the world around me. And as I began the process of emancipation from this increasingly oppressive relationship with a vice that I had loved so hard for so long, I tried consciously to tread new paths through the grassy fields of my psyche, stepping off those long trodden trails worn down and compacted by a consistent and relentless way of thinking over the last twenty-five-odd years. I’m so grateful for the teachers and experiences that the Kimberley has given me. And for every place in Australia where I can go, after years of touring, and sit down among friends, rest, fill up, learn, and laugh deep into the dawn. And that I can now fully meet all of those connections with a clear and open heart.

I work hard these days at being actively grateful in my life, and am trying to replace decade-long patterns of aggressive self-talk and a gnarly pessimism with positivity and service. It requires dedicated practice because my cynicism and negativity not only form part of the map of these well-worn neural trails, but they also comprise a large part my self-identity that I created over many years, along with always being up for a bender at a moments notice. The beginning of a sober life marked the beginning of my search for myself, for who I’ve always been, but who I had carefully (albeit subconsciously) obscured by constructing around myself a complicated series of fortified walls. Every section of those walls were of course on some level authentic – it’s not like I’m a different person now to who I was two years ago – I’m just more The Same As Myself than I’ve been, probably since I was a kid. The people that I’ve spent time with on tour following this shift, from all over the world, some new friends, and some the kind of road family who know how I am as soon as I pull up in a driveway and who gently and silently pour me tea on a porch and allow me to rest my energy with them, are the long bands of constellations that have filled my sky, allowing me to navigate my way back to who I am after years adrift on a shadowed sea.

Being back in Australia these last few weeks has driven home with deep clarity how grateful I am to the communities that have welcomed me and opened their lives to me for many years, grateful for the experiences that music continues to give me and all of the things that those experiences teach me, grateful for my family, for my safety, for my friends all over Australia and in other parts of the world, and for my forged family, who teach me about who I am and who fill up and comfort my spirit every time I get to see them.

With Leah ‘Flano’ Flanagan, Marrickville 2016

Continued two weeks later in Canada…

I arrived in Toronto where a lush greenness has exploded everywhere, the sun is up until 9:30 every evening, people are out and about wearing shorts and sipping beers on patios. The general ‘vibe’ around here is lighter, happier and more open than the hibernation-like qualities of the Ontario winter. I felt it as soon as I landed at the airport. And I am now revelling in being able to walk through High Park which is, gloriously, only a few hundred metres from where I’m staying. I explore the infinite maze of trails that wind through this enormous urban wilderness, gliding through cool air under a canopy of thick green woodland trees, staring longingly at other people’s dogs, in all of their delightful and hilarious variety, wishing I had my own furry friend to share these walks with.

And while I’m taking this break from performing my own stuff, Chris and I are finishing the record we started in February. Slowly and carefully. It’s nearly there, but I don’t want to rush it because these songs mark the significant personal shift that I’ve just touched on. They’re more vulnerable and profoundly more personal than any songs I’ve ever written, and certainly any songs that I’ve recorded or shown to other people… So we want to get it right. I refuse to put pressure on this process like I have done in the past. There’s no magic timeline to get this record out. Indeed the mobilisation that will be required to release it (maybe next year) is so immense I feel exhausted thinking about it. Which is a signal to me that I’m not ready to attempt to tackle it yet. I’ve put so much pressure on my songs and on my music for so many years that I’ve only just realised, since releasing the strangle-hold, just how long I’d been gasping for air. My instinct is being firm in letting me know that I need to let my art breathe and give it the space to be what it is. Starting from now.

And so this next part for me will be about reconnecting with myself and with the world I’m in. Listening more and yelling at myself less, learning to play other people’s songs and learning from their experiences. And allowing myself to be carried on the waves that began their forms at all of those various moments over the last ten years, letting them gently guide me towards where I’m meant to go. Wherever that is.

Toronto, 2018 (photo by Skye Polson) 










June 26, 2018

Melbourne June Dates Sold Out

I can’t wait to see everyone at these shows in June. And there’s still tickets available for Friday June 1st at the Bridge Hotel in Castlemaine, Victoria. I’ll be joined by the wonderful Kerryn Fields. Tickets available from the Shows Page


April 13, 2018