Imagine if you could be at the very beginning of the world’s creation. Liz Vice, a “Gospel, soul, and R&B infused artist” originally from Portland, OR imagines this in her latest single “It was Good”. Based on the poem, “The Creation” by James Weldon, it begins with a relaxed R&B vibe that I can’t help but get lost in.
It’s a sparse yet conscious choice of minimal percussion, piano, and bass guitar that makes me feel like I’m right there to see the very beginning of the universe’s creation.
Liz Vice comes in with a voice full of soft soul, telling us how God stepped out and showed the light in a night painted black before creating the first solid objects of the world:
Spangled night with moon and stars
down between the light and dark
hurled the world into its place
and it was good
oh it was good
She goes on to the refrain, repeating how it was good as vocal harmonies, brass, and layers of instruments come together to praise this creator for the work they’ve put in creating this world.
As the song slowly works its way back to the refrain, Liz continues by sharing details of how the creator decided to grace his presence on Earth, creating valleys, mountains, and seas full of life-sustaining water. There’s another praiseful refrain before percussion, bass, and strings come together as Liz announces the most exciting part of this tale of creation:
Beasts and birds were not enough
God could not contain his love
in his image from the dust
we rose up
we rose up
Yes, you heard it right, it was ourselves truly that came up to exist. Liz is so excited she can’t help but repeat this line, re-emphasizing how important this part is as there’s a repeating bass line and a build and release of tension from string instruments in the background.
Liz goes on to proclaim one last time of how it was good as the percussion and other-worldly synth sounds come into play, taking us back to the present day as the song slowly fades away to silence. Despite being four and a half minutes long, this song always catches me off guard at how quickly it goes by. It’s a well-paced track with a good balance that doesn’t make the song feel too busy or too repetitive.
It’s an energetically chill soulful retelling of how we may have come onto this planet.
What was the inspiration for your song “It Was Good”?
The poem “the Creation” by James Weldon Johnson. Most of the times I think a lot of the world issues would be solved by loving and treating people like they are precious creatures that share the same breath as the Creator.
For “It Was Good” which came first, the lyrics or the music?
They came at the same time. I was participating in a songwriting retreat down in Nashville and had been in a few different groups that day and this particular group just brought out the best in me. We had been going back and forth with ideas and one of our writing partners, Leslie Jordan, told us about this poem she had read. We had a melody but it wasn’t until Leslie kind of made the chord changes more gospel in vibe that the song came alive.
The melody we have now is a combination of two different melodies. I have a tendency to make as many versions of a song via logic. It wasn’t until 2 years later a producer friend of mine, Isaac Wardell, asked what I was working on. He’s a VERY talented man. He listened to my demos and, because he was working on a couple of records at this studio in Virginia, he had the musicians play the combination during a very small window of time. I happened to be in Virginia singing on one of the records he was producing.
What would you consider to be more important: the music, the words, or neither?
The music is basically a soundtrack for the words. The most important thing is that people connect to the message as a whole — music and lyrics — and it either causes them to acknowledge they’re made from love or at least ask questions about this love.
What was it like growing up as one of five children? I have two other siblings and that was already hectic enough for me growing up!
Crazy. My mom recently asked me if I thought she was a good mom. I told her she did the best she could and surprised she didn’t give us up for adoption. She must still be exhausted as the job of a mother never truly ends and not only did she put herself aside to raise us, she had to raise five different people with different personalities, some with health issues, and just everyday issues humans encounter. It’s a lot of work. I don’t think she will ever comprehend how thankful I am for her and I think the only way to show that is to make much of my life and doing the best I can to pass on the wisdom I learned from growing up the way I did.
I saw on your Facebook page that you would go down to your basement as a kid and dance to “The Lion King” soundtrack for hours on end alone. What’s your favorite song off of the soundtrack?
The intro. Do I dare spell it? No. Ha.
I read that you had to receive a kidney transplant when you were younger and had to put your artistic ambitions on hold. I’m sorry to hear that happened. What has that experience taught you as a person and an artist?
I learned the language of pain first hand and I also got to practice the beauty of victory. I was struck down but not destroyed and so while I’m still here, which who knows how long that’ll be, I might as well use that pain and realization that death is roaming, that it pushes me to take risk.
Sometimes talking about life’s painful experience can only be explained through art. It transcends language, gender, politics, skin color, and as well as points to it.
On your website, it says you had mainly been behind the scenes of the film and video world before accidentally ending up behind the mic. How did that happen?
Oh, that’ll be a Netflix documentary. I basically turned down a full ride scholarship to get a masters in producing. Three months later I sang on a record called “wounded healer” with Josh white and Eric Early (Glisten Trapper).
On your about page of your website I saw you’re originally from Portland, OR but moved to Brooklyn, NY. What made you decide to move there? Do you ever miss your hometown
I miss the food, west coast chill, friends, and family. I miss my rhythms that gave me some sense of control but now I’m in a new season. Learning that five year plans don’t work for me and because nyc has put me in positions where I had zero idea what was happening in my life. I’ve learned to be open. To be ready for the unexpected. Sometimes it’s moving 6 times in a month, and other times it’s singing at a Mavis Staples birthday bash at a sold out show at the Apollo.
If you had to give one piece of advice to any aspiring musician, what would it be?
Ego will only get you so far. At least if you play with me. I’m too sensitive and don’t have time for mind games. Having the gift of music is a very powerful gift.It can build bridges or walls. Always reflect on why you do what you do and know that you’re a boss. The more you know, the less you pay people to know for you. I’m still learning myself.