Meet Lizzie No, a.k.a. Miss Freedomland

It’s always nice when an artist comes along who is hard to define, a musician who doesn’t fit in a box. Lizzie No is that artist for Americana music.

A New York-based singer, songwriter, guitarist, and harpist, No released her latest album Halfsies in January. It tells the story of Miss Freedomland, a fictional character representing No, and her story of liberation. “Some albums are stories, some are films. This album is a video game,” No says of Halfsies.

The title track is a slow burn that steadily progresses in both lyrics and instrumentals. The first half of the song features a soft acoustic guitar and vocals, then it progresses into a symphony of sound as the drums, horns, and strings get more intense…only to fade back into softness. The song sets a great tone for the rest of the album.

“If you’re in these songs with me, what seems at first like a journey of self-analysis becomes a journey to get free, and get your people free, as well,” says No. Returning to the video game analogy: “I think of the character as being chased by what I can only describe as Pac-Man ghosts of white supremacy, moving through the levels of this game.”

As Miss Freedomland goes about her journey, she’s joined by other voices to help her reach her goals. On the title track it’s Allison Russell, who provides backing vocals and clarinet. After all, Miss Freedomland can’t achieve her goals alone. Everyone (fictional or in real life) needs help in some way or another.

“The album begins with a kind of personal and political isolation that seems impossible to break free from,” No says, “but as Miss Freedomland moves through the levels, I wanted to surround her with community, whether spiritual or corporeal.”

lizzie no halfsies cole nielsen
Lizzie No photo by Cole Nielsen

Much of Americana and folk music is rooted in defiance – think about artists like Woody Guthrie, Joan Baez, and Pete Seeger. Lizzie No embodies their message as someone who isn’t afraid to address very serious issues in this country, the world…and particularly in her own community, as a Black queer woman. Even the name she decided to go with, “No,” was not done by accident. It’s a word many women are quite familiar with.

“I think there’s a real difference between singing songs that you wrote in the context of a band versus being a solo artist and having people literally look at you, in your physical body, and associate the songs with you and yourself,” says No. “So I needed an identity, a performer identity, that would be able to encapsulate the confidence and the directness, and yes the femininity, that I wanted to present with these songs that I was writing.”

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