Jun 15th, 2020
Liz Vice is a reluctant gospel singer who yearns to see gospel justice fall across the earth. Her current single See the Day is a longing for that kind of justice.
Her first album, There's a Light was released back in 2012 and climbed to number six on Billboard's, Top Gospel albums, and 13 on the R&B chart. It's an incredible honour to welcome Liz Vice to Bleeding Daylight.
Wherever there shadows there are people ready to kick at the darkness until it bleeds daylight. This is bleeding daylight with your host Rodney Olsen.
Liz Vice is a reluctant gospel singer who yearns to see gospel justice fall across the earth. Her current single See the Day is a longing for that kind of justice.
Rodney Olsen (00:00):
Some years ago, I discovered an album that quickly became a favourite of mine. I then started raving about my discovery to friends who began buying their own copies. That album was, There's a Light released back in 2012 by today's guest, Liz Vice. The album was rereleased in 2015 it climbed to number six on Billboard’s, Top Gospel albums and 13 on the R&B chart. There's been another album since then. The amazing Save Me and a few single releases. All of them displaying Liz's soulful vocals, bringing to life some incredible gospel lyrics. Liz, it's an incredible honour to welcome you to Bleeding Daylight. Thanks for your time.
Liz Vice (00:39):
Oh, thanks for your interest.
Rodney Olsen (00:41):
You're one of five children. That's a reasonable sized family. Was it a musical childhood for you?
Liz Vice (00:47):
Not really. I feel like the, the story goes for middle children. I pretty much kept to myself. I would sing for hours in the basement or my bedroom, but I mean my mom would sing throughout the house, but that slowly disappeared as working multiple jobs to raise five kids might cause one to stop singing at some point. But in my lineage there is a lot of musical influences. My grandfather played the guitar and sang, my grandmother played the piano and sang. Well my mom is from LA and she was moving towards a career in being a jazz musician, but my grandmother was very old fashioned. According to my mom, she was offered a record deal and my grandmother didn't really support it because she wanted my mom to be a wife and raise a family and so my mom kind of let go of that dream to honour her mother. And then my dad, who I didn't really grow up with was in a famous seventies and eighties band and even though he wasn't a part of my life, the music just passed through somehow. Osmosis is what I would like to say. Through the genes.
Rodney Olsen (02:15):
So, there was that influence all along but at that stage it wasn't something that you really took up apart from just singing around the home.
Liz Vice (02:23):
Oh no, I was, I was a shy kid and I don't really remember that, but I've had people who knew me when I was in kindergarten or middle school that have sent, sent me messages saying I never imagined the shy little girl would grow up to be singing on stage. Music was never ever a part of my plan. I always wanted to be an actress, be in movies, be a movie star. Mainly because I didn't see any characters that looked like me on screen and so I wanted to be that for other little Brown girls. But that's like leads into a whole other story of health issues that kind of put a halt to being able to go to college for theatre.
Rodney Olsen (03:09):
You were moving towards that kind of a life, but as you say, your plans had to take a back seat when you hit your late teens. Tell me about the health issues that you faced.
Liz Vice (03:18):
Yeah. So when I was 15 I was diagnosed with an auto immune disease and by the age of 19 I was on dialysis for kidney failure and for three and a half years, ups and downs, mostly downs with my health including congestive heart failure and becoming so ill from the process of dialysis that I was removed from the transplant list because my heart, I would have had to have a heart transplant as well. And so by the time I was 20 I kind of gave up on any dreams of ever going to school for theatre or being an actress or anything in that realm, let alone thinking I'd actually live to graduate from a four year university and my last year on dialysis, I don't know what happened. I started taking this medication for my heart, which is not the story of a lot of people that I met at the clinics.
Liz Vice (04:15):
When I would go for my dialysis sessions, a lot of people would pass away from the process or from the fear and that stopped coming because it was so exhausting on the body. And I got my kidney transplant and in that process I had gone, I had stayed in college the whole time so I have like an associate of arts associate of science, a certification in medical assisting and I graduated with my certification and being a medical assistant because I was like, I think I could do a year long program, even if I don't like live long enough to work in this degree and this certification, I could at least be a voice to people who are in the hospital who are losing hope. I don't, it's, like it feels like another life that I had. There are moments in my life today where I wish I was as strong as I was when I was actually on my death bed.
Liz Vice (05:18):
And so after I got my transplant, I went back to school a month later, which my doctors were not happy about and I graduated with this certification and being a medical assistant and just after working in the hospital with cancer patients, it just felt too close to home being on the other side of the bed of people who literally were in my same situation four weeks prior, and I did that for a little while before I decided to take the leap to them go to film school because if I couldn't be in the movies, at least I could make the movies right. So that's what I decided to do.
Rodney Olsen (05:59):
That sort of medical condition that you went through, I guess would bring all sorts of things in in life into sharp focus when you're facing your own mortality
Liz Vice (06:09):
Especially at such a young age. I definitely feel like that keeps me living a quote unquote risky life, which feels counter intuitive to the American dream of working a nine to five and having a 401 K and getting married with two and a half children with a white picket fence. It just never seemed like a plan for me, especially not knowing how long I had in this life. So yeah, I went to film school and I worked on set and I would teach myself how to use software programs to create DVDs for short films. I shot and learn how to edit and sound design, all these tech things. I really love the technical parts of film. And now that I do music I love, because of this pandemic, I've been recording a lot at home, but before we get into that going to film school and then graduating and being selected to give the commencement speech and getting invited to work on a TV show for three weeks, that was a paid internship.
Liz Vice (07:20):
And then that leading to another job and that leading to another job and then having a pause. Which led to me singing on a church record that I never, I just, you know, I never ever wanted to be a singer, but for some reason this church that I had started going to, I just felt like this little tug to just sing harmonies in the background. That's it. I'm good. I'm going to work in film to pay off my debt, thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars in debt for going to film school. And then I would, you know, live my happily filmmaking, life struggle bus of being an artist
Rodney Olsen (08:09):
So that first entrance into music is really wanting to perhaps just sing harmonies, be in the background. And I guess that still shines through in your music, in that you're constantly collaborating with others. You're wanting others around you. You're not the typical frontwoman who just wants to say, I'm the singer. You're constantly bringing others into your music.
Liz Vice (08:33):
Yeah. I mean even to this day I work better with a second head and a second heart just because I can get so stuck on the little things and overcomplicate words for myself or ideas or a certain sound and not to mention feeling the pressure of having a certain image in the music industry that I, it just never felt like it was my identity, especially feeling like I was called, which is like a whole other thing that I wrestled with. So I started going to church at 14 years old and for six, seven, 10 years or so. It was a small church. We would sing out of hymn books sometimes we had a pianist, sometimes the pianist wasn't the greatest player, but we would all sing with our voices and you learn how to hear harmonies and you learn how to sing certain parts.
Liz Vice (09:31):
Never knew how to read music, but would take music classes to get that extra credit in university and then started going to another church because the church I was a part of was an older generation and I just wanted to make sure there are young people who wanted to pursue a relationship with Jesus that were my age, who also worked in the arts. I just needed to see that for myself and this particular community saying songs that felt real and human and that transcended any kind of faith practices with the in like the foundation of Jesus as the one who was the example of love for people. And I just would sing harmonies from the pier and I just, the tug got stronger and stronger and then I was like, okay, I've gone out to sing background vocals, which I never, I remember going to audition to sing on the worship team and I thought I was going to die.
Liz Vice (10:34):
And Josh White said, okay, like what's one of your favourite songs? I had practiced all these songs that I had learned from the hymn book and, and he asked if I wanted to sing one of his songs that he would sing during a Sunday service. And I said yes. And it went from singing background vocals to on Thursday night prayer to singing a verse or two or leading a song on a Sunday evening. And I just did that for myself, for the Lord. It was never anything that I thought I would end up doing for the past almost 10 years now.
Rodney Olsen (11:14):
So when was it that those people around you started to say, Liz, there's, there's something more than a background vocalist in you? When did they start to call that out?
Liz Vice (11:22):
Oh man, I remember that day. Like it was yesterday. My friend Joe, he was one of the worship leaders and he really wanted women to kinda be seen in the forefront as a church and leading songs. And so he asked if I would sing this song called Enfold Me. I did not want to do it. Like I thought I was going to have a heart attack, but for some reason my head shook. Yes, in agreement. Even though on the inside I was trembling and saying, what am I doing? What am I doing? And I remember the moment I finally saying, I felt like the room emptied. I felt like one, my pupils were getting smaller and smaller, so it was getting darker. Like I was about to faint and I just kept envisioning myself fainting off of stage into the front row and all of a sudden the room was empty and I just felt like I was singing for one.
Liz Vice (12:20):
Okay Liz, if you don't want to sing for the people, sing for one, sing for the Lord. And when the song was over, I was like covered in sweat. Like I felt like every pore on my body had opened up and after the church service had ended and the worship team is like leaving the stage as people are being released and putting chairs back. My friend Nancy walks on stage in tears and she's like, what was that? And I almost started crying but I didn't because I hate crying in front of people and I said I don't know. And every time I would lead a song at church it felt like the whole room stood still. And I know this because one of the pastors told me this, he was like when you started singing, no one got up. Like the whole room stood still.
Liz Vice (13:16):
And then my friends started saying maybe you should consider doing music. And then strangers started saying, I think there is a call over your life that but you have a wall up and I don't know what it's going to take for that wall to come down. And I had to start telling my friends, please stop telling me that music is my calling because I don't want to do that. And anytime a sermon would be taught at church about calling, I was hoping that it would be a form of release that I don't have to do music, that it could just be something I did on Sunday and that was fine and I could go and struggle and film cause I was still doing that, which is feast or famine until after working on a TV show, the pastor of the church asked if I wanted to sing on a church record and he asked me to sing the song that I sang at church.
Liz Vice (14:12):
That kind of started a whole movement of music and people loved that song. They loved that track. And Josh, the pastor would announce it from the pulpit that he was going to make a record for me. We're going to make a record for Liz, Vice Liz Vice Liz Vice. We're going to make a record for Liz Vice and my name is so easy to remember that. Well I just hated it when people would say Liz Vice Liz Vice Liz Vice. I just wanted to crawl up into a hole and hide. Yeah. And two years later I recorded my first record. There's a Light,
Rodney Olsen (14:49):
And this seems so opposite to to most of what we see in culture where people are grasping for fame. And we've seen lots of talent shows on television where people who obviously don't have a gifting will get up because they're so convinced and they're so grasping for it. But you are very hesitant to to put yourself in that spotlight. And I guess that again gives us a key to why you continue to collaborate so well with others. This is not something where you're wanting to put yourself in the spotlight.
Liz Vice (15:20):
I mean, and honestly it's even interviews like this or I would have pastors like one pastor in particular kind of like pulled me to the side and was just curious as to why all these doors were opening up for me with music if I was so hesitant about it and asked if I fear that my hesitation would come off as false humility. And so that was just another added insecurity that I could never be honest about my stage fright and my doubts as being an artist. And my doubts is doing anything that I felt called to and the life of an artist is not a secure life. It's a very risky life. Yeah. I mean, you do see all these talent shows. I know so many musicians where they love being on stage. They feel like they were made to be on stage and I've never had that confidence.
Liz Vice (16:18):
Oh yeah, that's me. That's how I feel. And so I can be pretty quiet about my music career. There are some people who have no idea what I do until someone else mentions that I'm a musician because I just don't really talk about it because I still struggle with this, this, this thing that is natural that I keep getting invited into multiple spaces. Not an, and that's the other thing is like not only am I singing you songs in church, but I'm singing these songs in spaces where people would never enter into the church. I once had a guy interview me and say, your music feels very familiar and nostalgic. Like, I know it, but I don't like that it mentions Jesus. Or I've had an article from Portland, Oregon, which is a very quote unquote non church city and particular very liberal newspaper said that if, if you can make it singing about Jesus in Portland, Oregon, you can make it anywhere.
Liz Vice (17:27):
And so I'm like getting invited into these spaces that have a strip club upstairs, but I'm singing about Jesus or getting invited to these festivals or getting invited to sing with these bands that are not associated with any faith practice. And I just say yes and I like, I am meeting people that Jesus loves too, regardless of what the conventional church would teach from the pulpit. I do believe that I get to experience Jesus in so many different kinds of people. And I pray that my idea of salvation is way smaller in comparison to Jesus's plan of love and redemption. And that's why I say yes to collaborating with a lot of people's because I feel like I need other voices to create a whole picture. Otherwise it's just one sided and I only have one piece of the puzzle and someone else has another piece. And then we work together and it makes something beautiful that I don't think I could have done on my own. And if I did try to do it on my own, I would drive myself insane and it would take years, years to accomplish anything.
Rodney Olsen (18:49):
And initially a lot of the music you were playing wasn't your own music, so to speak. It wasn't music that you were writing and yet you very much made them your own
Liz Vice (18:59):
Yeah. There's one song that I saying, yeah, Enfold Me. I mean, that's like the catalyst song to where I am today. I honestly don't even remember what it sounds like from the original artists because I've just sang it my way for so long and, and even moving into my second record Save Me, those songs arose from being on tour and self doubt and talking about health issues and, and rising up from dark nights of my soul and meeting other people and, and standing up for people that may not even believe the same things that I believe, but I believe that they are created beings and they have just as right to be loved as I do by Jesus. And so it's, yeah, believe me, I'm just as surprised by my career as most people. And when I say it, it just comes off as maybe false humility, but that's why I don't say it very often. I'm still in the process of this unfolding story and just to character,
Rodney Olsen (20:19):
How does it feel for you knowing that your music is heard right across the world? You've had tracks that have been streamed at over a million times. That must seem quite surreal for you.
Liz Vice (20:31):
Oh, it's so surreal. But if my music has a reflection of who I am, then the fact that it's reaching all over the world is exactly what I want to do as a human being. I love traveling. I love stepping into other cultures to learn new ways of seeing people, food. Storytelling, music. I love it. I love traveling so much and yeah, it's an honour that my music has travelled this much and I don't, not that I don't work hard for it, but I don't try to force something if it doesn't naturally on fold or if it's not naturally accepted. Like I'm not gonna I can't make anyone love my music. And so it surprises me every day when I get a message from someone saying that they just discovered a song that came out eight years ago or just discovered a new single, I don't know how it happens. I literally released the music and then I have to continue to live my life. So it's really cool that my song is all the way in Australia, blows me away. It's really cool. I hope to make it there in the flesh one day.
Rodney Olsen (21:50):
That would be wonderful. You're saying that your music seems to be accessible by people who would not normally walk into a church and there's a combination in your music that I find quite rare. So for instance, even going back to that first album, a song like Empty Me Out where I've played that to so many people and immediately they're drawn in by the music even right from the intro. Then they hear your vocal, they're swept away with that. But there's a deepness to those lyrics that we don't even hear in church these days.
Liz Vice (22:23):
Yeah. Well believe me, I have my opinions about that.
Liz Vice (22:29):
I'm like, y'all, we cannot be cowards. I feel like a lot of like the church body plays it safe in a lot of ways and I don't really think that we're meant to play it safe. Although I physically would like to live a life of stability and safety, there is something that's deeply ingrained in also my loyalty to a promise that I made when I was 15 that if the Spirit leads me somewhere, I say yes, even if I'm kicking and screaming. And I think that this music transcends because it connects to humans. Everyone has a story. Everyone has struggled and had to overcome something. Everyone has doubts, everyone has joys and I, and I hope that my music continues to connect with all people in that way. But the root of it is my relationship with Jesus. Even in my own doubts, in my own wrestling and my own frustrations, that mustard seed of faith is mighty strong inside of me.
Liz Vice (23:43):
And I mean, even with the pandemic I, I was, I have been so burnt out from doing music. I was literally going to go to Switzerland to go to on a spiritual retreat to be in the mountains and also tick off a country on my bucket list that I wrote when I was on dialysis and then walk away from music because I was tired, burnt out, brain fried. The politics of music is exhausting and ready to be done. I made my two records, pat on my back. Let's move on to something else. And even with a pause, I've been doing music nonstop, but it's different. There's no pressure to sell tickets. There's no pressure to convince people to listen to my music or to like me. And yeah, I'm just in awe. You would think that I would see this as an obvious, duh, this is what you're supposed to do. But it is a wrestling inside of me that I don't know if I'll ever overcome, but I will always choose to go where I know I'm supposed to go and I might be on stage and that might be in a nice chair and an office. I have no idea.
Rodney Olsen (25:03):
Your music, as you say, touches on things that we sometimes don't hear about in church. And that brings me to a great song that you released about Christmas and a very different take on, on a refugee king. Tell us about that song.
Liz Vice (25:19):
Oh man. So like I said, sometimes I get invited into these spaces with songwriters and I'm sitting there feeling like a chump. Like what do they not know that I don't know what I'm doing? Yeah. And we were challenged to rewrite Christmas songs that were more culturally accurate because the birth of Jesus is pretty tragic. A lot of children were killed due to this prophecy that Herod was told that there was going to be a new King in town. And so just to tell the story of Jesus literally with no agenda, it's just like cultural context. His parents had to leave their country to keep this baby safe. The strange thing about this story is that they left their home country to go into a place that their ancestors were once enslaved and this was a place of danger and torment and oppression. And that was where they found safety.
Liz Vice (26:29):
Right? And so you think about people coming to America to find safety and refuge and fulfill this so-called American dream that they've heard through the grapevine and their land. And they come here knowing that they will receive oppression because it's just a given. Your skin colour is your portion in America. And it, it might, it's going to be your curse here. That's just the foundation of America. But I didn't want to release that song with an agenda of, see this is just like immigration. No, it is just the story of Jesus. No place for his parents, no country or tribe. And they ran and they ran and they ran. And I wanted people to interpret the song for themselves. And I definitely have my interpretation of the song, but just laying out the facts as is, people will assume whatever they want about the story and some people will choose to be blind because Jesus in a lot of places is this blonde haired, blue eyed sheep totin' all American hero who's gonna redeem and oppress the bad guys and lift up the good guys. But you have to follow these rules where Jesus really is this country boy, this Jewish country boy from the sticks who had been called a bastard child because they knew Joseph wasn't his real dad. I wonder if he didn't look like a Joseph. He looked more like Mary and they were poor, but he was smart as hell. And they're like, how does this 12 year old know the scripture so well? But no one wants to worship that Jesus. I don't even want to worship that Jesus, but that's the Jesus that I deeply, deeply connect to. Growing up low income, single parent home, one of five kids with the mom that worked multiple jobs. And as a child I made a promise to myself that I would surpass the stereotypes. I am not. And I, I never wanted to be a statistic. And I think because Jesus didn't play by the rule book, that's why he was killed by the very people who should have been respecting and honouring him. So yeah, Merry Christmas.
Rodney Olsen (29:12):
And it's interesting the narrative you're talking about there of this, this, this white blue eyed Jesus who is coming to, to overthrow and take political power is exactly what was expected back in the day. And yet we haven't learned that lesson.
Liz Vice (29:28):
No. Oh my goodness. That is like a whole other podcast that I honestly don't even feel like I'm smart enough to engage in other than speak from my own experience like I, why didn't Jesus overthrow the political powers that be? Why did he allow them to kill him and allow his people to be oppressed? What was it about Jesus where these men were willing to be tortured to death because they loved him? I think about the moment Jesus died on the cross. I would have been heartbroken and absolutely just what was all of this for, to see my very hope dead on the cross, and honestly as I, I've gotten older, I'm like, you know what? I don't blame Thomas. I want to see these scars too because I watched my hope die on a cross and I need to touch these scars because there's, I've never heard of resurrection.
Liz Vice (30:28):
I don't know what redemption of a body means or looks like, even though they saw people come back to life and people healed. So I don't know. And I've seen beautiful things too. I have definitely been blessed in my life. I know I'm in a pandemic, but I have enough savings to survive for as long as I need to, and yet I'm still like, eh. You know what? It really would be nice to just like see some kind of glimmer of hope that Jesus is here involved in this political nightmare and involved in the injustices of my black brothers and sisters involved in people oppressing me when they see me in a grocery store and following me to make sure I don't steal anything. Like what is my role as one who says she follows the Lord but also constantly reminded that I am other and there will never be justice for people that look like me or Brown people in general.
Liz Vice (31:27):
And yeah, it is. It is definitely a, I'm in that place right now wondering like the great prayer of Psalm 13. Oh, how long Lord will you hide your face? Yeah, it is interesting. A cross to bear and, but it's so deep in me like I'm not ready to throw in the towel on Jesus just because I've also seen too much doing music and just in life. Hell, I'm a miracle right now that I'm alive. And I had a pastor remind me that if we were to truly live like Jesus, in essence we would be crucified. So I don't think it's a lot to ask for justice and love, but it is. It is. Not only am I a black person, I'm also a woman. So it's like, Whoa, double portion, Lord, double portion.
Rodney Olsen (32:30):
So even though you, you've almost come to music kicking and screaming and you've done it against this sort of background of this cry of the heart for in mass through you in some way to know that your music is actually bringing people closer to Jesus and not the cardboard cut out Jesus that we see presented so often, but the, the real Jesus who he really is.
Liz Vice (32:53):
Yes, it's easy for other people to see that. But I promise you, I've been so burnt out from this quote unquote call to sing these songs that create a space for all people to come together. Like I remember the first show I ever played, a woman came up to me and said, you almost made me believe in Jesus. Or I've seen grown men cry at a bar saying, I haven't been to church in so long. Or I've had people ask me if my politics and my religious beliefs clash against one another because they didn't understand how I could be so kind to them. And I'm just like, Lord, what have we done? And I don't have any answers other than my own experience. And I don't always feel like I'm actually playing a role in advancing the kingdom. So it's people like you and people who send me messages every single day on social media that kind of give me an idea that maybe I'm a part of something that exemplifies Jesus, but I don't always feel it. Especially now being isolated in an apartment. It's like, what is my role now? Like how do I, is music enough? Are the songs enough, me reposting things about injustices? Is that enough? Is my story enough? I don't know.
Rodney Olsen (34:43):
Liz, it's, it's absolutely a delight to, to chat to you. Thank you so much for, for taking so much time to sharing your heart and that's really what you've done. Thank you so much for the music that you have produced so far and we look forward to, to hearing a whole lot more from you. I know it's a struggle, but I'm hoping that you continue with that struggle because it does a lot of good for people who are yearning to hear the realness of Jesus. So thank you for your time today.
Liz Vice (35:13):
Yeah, thanks Rodney. Thanks for your desire to hear what I have to say. Yeah, I think that's the only way that I'll keep moving forward is people being willing to hear.
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