Each Wednesday, Rocks Off arbitrarily appoints one lucky local performer or group "Artist of the Week," bestowing upon them all the fame and grandeur such a lofty title implies. Know a band or artist that isn't awful? Email their particulars to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For some reason, our wife left us last week. Apparently the female sex frowns upon answering “Do these pants make me look fat?” with “Do you think your sister would date me?” Take note, fellas.
All we did these past seven days was sit around soaking in the tub, drinking chardonnay and swearing we were never going to love again. Not surprisingly, then, this week we’re totally digging sappy-hearted pianist Liz Dannemiller. On our patented Sappy-Hearted Pianist Music Ranking Scale, we rate her two and three quarter Golden Teardrops - which turns out to be an actual flower - out of four.
We took a few minutes away from our sorrows to have Liz answer a few questions.
Houston Press: Tell us a bit about how you got started in music. It'd be great if there were a fistfight, shootout or unruly small-town mogul who didn't appreciate you coming into his town and cleaning up the Double Deuce somehow involved.
Liz Dannemiller: You're obviously expecting some sort of fabulous story here. Let’s see... when I was five years old my parents abandoned me on Bob Dylan's doorstep. I spent my days blowin’ in the wind with the legend himself, and learning through his sound that indeed, 'The times they are a changin.'
Okay, okay. That’s so not quite the truth. While my life story may be no more than completely average, it is what has made me who I am today. I grew up in a family full of singing, guitar-playing, piano-playing freaks - and I mean that in the most loving way possible. My father, who has beyond an amazing ear, plays a mean acoustic guitar, and some of my earliest memories involve full-family singalongs on the wooden floor of our tiny Madison, Wisc., apartment.
When I was old enough to get allowance, I saved up and bought a crappy electric organ from a neighborhood garage sale, and the rest is history. However, it was not really until I entered music school as a piano major at Vanderbilt University that I dabbled in actual songwriting, as opposed to piano composition.
I guess the angst and culture shock of being a liberal, Midwestern girl in a fairly Southern, conservative university required some sort of outlet, and thankfully that outlet became songwriting. It didn't hurt that Ben Folds himself wrote half of his early songs on the very pianos that I practiced on daily. Now I call that some inspiration.
HP: Longest answer, ever. Clearly, your music is aimed at young, urban males of low socioeconomic status. How are you able to connect with them on such a visceral level?
LD: Well I mean, let’s be honest here. I am a young, urban male of low socioeconomic status. How better to connect with a certain demographic than to be that demographic?
HP: Word. There's a great line in my favorite song of yours, "Lies," that says something like, "I prayed to your God every night / Just like Nietchze says, 'God is dead,' yeah, and it's true / Killed him last night, when I caught you in your lies." What was going on when you wrote that?
LD: You know when you are so certain you've finally found someone who is completely opposite from everything negative in a past relationship-gone-wrong? So certain, that in your eyes this new person morphs into somewhat of a deity, simply because of the fact that they are the antithesis of the last one?
Then you find out that this new deity in your life is little more than a drug addict who has been dating four girls at the same time, and trying to pass your song lyrics off as his own. Well, let’s be honest: when that truth comes out, as far as I’m concerned, a deity has been killed. Long story short, right? [laughs]
HP: Wait, so you know a real-life shapeshifter? Like, Highlander-style? That’s dope., and it flows perfectly with our next question: Barack Obama's teeth are kinda creepy, right?
LD: Not quite as creepy as Hilary Duff's!
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HP: Inappropriate, Dannemiller. What are you looking to accomplish with your music? Get paid? Used on the soundtrack on of a sad, romantic movie starring Jude Law like Closer or something? (Which, by the way, our wives made us watch. We wanted to stay home and watch UFC.)
LD: Umm, excuse me? The Closer soundtrack only has one of the most amazing musicians ever on it! [Damien Rice] Watch yourself! But anyways, what do I want to accomplish? Well I always say that if I wanted to make money, I would have never chosen to be a musician.
We are poor. Come on. Really, this is what it all comes down to: I get a rush from being on stage. Whether I am playing in front of two people or 200, the reward I get from connecting musically with people is what makes my world go 'round. – Shea Serrano
Dannemiller is currently recording her first EP, which she plans to make available on her MySpace page. She performs live 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 18 at McGonigel’s Mucky Duck, with Joel Stein and 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, October 15 at Bar Boheme.