Sometimes romance can take you farther than you could ever expect. In 1987 one eager, talented musician hit the road from New Orleans who’s world changed for her when she wrote her first song at 18. She wanted to immerse her whole self into the music of singer/songwriters and propelled by the women who were doing it. The women that sparked this flame were Heart, Joni Mitchell, Janis Ian, Carol King, and then the “new wave” of folk singers and Patti Griffin, The Indigo Girls, Sheryl Crow, Tracy Chapman, etc. Liz Barnez was dating one of the guys in the Subdudes, and when he moved to Fort Collins, she followed.
“It was an amazing and exciting time to be here. We arrived in a very welcoming musical community and just friendly folks in general. I started playing some acoustic nights and met my first bandmates pretty quickly.”
Not only did Fort Collins shape Liz as a musician, but Barnez was also influential in building up the music community here. She worked closely with the Bohemian Foundation in curating the Armory and has been a staple in Fort Collins Music for 30 years.
“I have been involved in creating what is now simply because I have played for the last 30 years in the area. I have seen clubs, bands, artists come and go. Some quit playing, some move to other places. It evolves and changes. But there is nothing that is happening now that wasn’t happening over the years…just different places and faces. Music is pretty simple…technology and styles and venues and festivals might spring up and change…but music is simple. 12 tones…rhythm, melodies, harmonies…it’s all very predictable and mathematical really…The magic, the art comes from the individual truths that each musician brings to the music. That is what keeps me so interested and curious…finding that magic thing…I love when I hear it from other musicians…I love when the muse presents that to me in a song, or a story…..that thing that hits my heart in just the right way…so elusive, so fleeting, pure magic! Those are the moments that I live for. Overall…the access to venues to play…that really seems to shift and flow. I like that there are a few places that aren’t “bar scenes”….where folks can sit and listen intently to the songs and the musicians. That’s a really great advancement for the scene.”
Liz grew up in the city and is a baby of six kids. Music was a foundation in her home, and there wasn’t a moment she could remember when music wasn’t playing in the background. Around 17 is when it all connected for her. Her neighbor heard her singing along with Barbra Streisand from A Star is Born and urged her to sing it for her. That was the beginning of a beautiful love affair with singing.
Barnez has published four albums, and her relationship with music has evolved. After the release of her last album, she is on a bit of a sabbatical from full-time music. She is playing regionally and locally with her band: Marty Rein on bass, and Eric Moon on keys, Dave Beegle on guitar, Bryon Holley or Christian Teele, Steve Amedee, Jeff Finlin on drums. She is organizing some songwriter in the round shows and playing with those regionally. “It’s a revolving cast of songwriters, but I really love doing those shows. I am continually inspired by the courage of songwriters to tell personal stories and to expose themselves by playing their songs.”
As a woman musician, she is very vocal about her support and encouragement of other women in the industry. “I have seen and experienced the sexism, the misogyny, stalking, men club owners trying to rip me off, or ask for special favors. I’ve seen a lot as the band leader and as a musician. Fortunately, I have made it through those situations relatively unscathed; others have not been so fortunate. My bandmates, for the most part, have been men, and I have been the band leader. I haven’t really run into any problems with that.” Barnez goes on to say, “I do get tired of hearing things like, you are pretty good for a woman. I had a woman saxophonist in my band for a long time, and she would get that comment a lot…her response was usually far more diplomatic than mine ever was. Women are underrepresented in most festivals and venues…all the typical struggles that women face in every line of work. Again, I have been pretty fortunate and have managed to surround myself with most amazing men and women who see beyond gender…or simply don’t care. The same way they don’t care that I am married to a woman. If that is a problem for anyone, then I just don’t have those people in my life. Too toxic and life is short.
I am a big cheerleader and fan of so many women in the music scene today. I love organizing the songwriter in the round shows and have been focusing on women songwriters….It is so great to share songs, stories, and experiences with other women. There is a strong sense of that “knowing”….we know what the others have gone through and maybe still are going through.” She is doing her part to make sure women get more representation and have a voice, “Over the years I have been on some booking committees for local festivals and venues, and I am always watching that women are equally represented….equally represented.”
Liz will be performing locally this summer on June 14th in Old Town Square as part of Thursday Night Live Bohemian concerts. Bonnie and the Clydes will play first, and then her band plays the second half.
Liz plays a fundraiser for the Larimer County Food Bank on July 13th at their distribution center in Loveland. Pride Fest on July 14 details TBD, and July 28th for the Voices Carry Bocce Tournament fundraiser. Events and music are on her website: http://lizbarnezmusic.com.