Published on February 3rd, 2020 | by Darren Paltrowitz0
Sweet Lizzy Project’s Lisset Diaz On The New “Technicolor” Album, Working With Raul Malo & More
Every debut album represents a journey, but few have come as far or struggled so tenaciously for the chance to be heard on their own terms as Cuba’s Sweet Lizzy Project. The five-piece rock band built a strong following in its native Havana with scant resources or infrastructure to support them, in a cultural setting where they could never be entirely themselves.
Mavericks founder and lead singer Raul Malo, whose parents emigrated from Cuba in 1960, became transfixed by Sweet Lizzy’s music and story. He sponsored the band for U.S. work visas and signed them to his band’s record company Mono Mundo, starting the process in late 2017. Malo and his family have housed and counseled the members of Sweet Lizzy Project — comprised of singer Lisset Diaz, guitarist and bandleader Miguel Comas, keyboardist Wilfredo Gatell, bassist Alejandro Gonzalez and drummer Ángel Luis Millet — while ushering them into Nashville’s finest studios and a world of music professionalism and abundance unavailable in Cuba.
Simply put, Sweet Lizzy’s musicians love Cuba and cherish its culture and traditions. But they are clear-eyed about its problems and limits, and they are here to advocate for the best of both worlds with their music. They made the bold decision to uproot their lives and relocate to Nashville, starting almost from square one, since they had been well-known in their native country.
The band’s U.S. debut album Technicolor is due out on February 21, 2020. I had the pleasure of speaking with Sweet Lizzy Project frontwoman Lisset Diaz — who may simultaneously remind you of Kate Bush, Natalie Merchant and Paramore’s Hayley Williams — in late 2019. Highlights of that Q&A are below, while more on the band can be found online at www.sweetlizzyproject.com.
As the story goes, Raul Malo found your band and brought you to the States. Do you know which Sweet Lizzy Project song Raul was especially captivated by?
Lisset Diaz: When Betty Malo found out that we were gonna play with The Mavericks at the PBS special Havana Time Machine, she started playing our music, our first record Heaven in the house. Eventually, Raul started asking “Who are these people?” I literally just asked him this question and he told me that our song “December 31st” was the one he loved the most the first time he listened to the demos of the album Technicolor. That one is the last song on the record and it’s a very personal one.
Had you been familiar with Raul and The Mavericks prior to meeting him?
Lisset Diaz: I knew them from a Tarantino movie, but really started digging into their music after Sweet Lizzy Project was chosen to be part of the Havana Time Machine and I found out that Raul Malo was gonna be the host. I fell in love with the song “Here Comes The Rain.”
What were some of the bands or artists that made you want to pursue a career in music?
Lisset Diaz: Heart, Celine Dion, Paramore, Of Monsters & Men, Florence & The Machine… These are some of my personal influences. I grew up listening to some of these and it really inspired me and help me discover how much I loved singing. In October 2019 we opened for Heart and Joan Jett, two of the shows of their Love Alive Tour. I can’t begin to tell you how special that was for me.
Technicolor is scheduled to be released in February. How long did you spend making it?
Lisset Diaz: Counting from the moment we started demoing the first songs till the release date, I would say three years. It was a long time but a lot happened in the middle. Coming to the States definitely impacted our lives in all different ways, personally and professionally. It took us time to readapt and keep moving forward. We had the chance to work with really talented people, so we ended up writing some new songs for the album, re-recording some of the old tracks and at the same time we started touring all around the U.S.
My life has changed so much from the moment I started working on the record until now, and all that change was registered on Technicolor. That is what I love about the album. Each song reminds me of a completely different time of my life, a different emotion comes to my heart, a different place comes to my head and I also love that it has the polished and amazing sound of the Blackbird Studios, but at the same time you can taste the rough and wild sound of that little apartment in Havana where we recorded some of the early stuff.
Do you have a favorite song on Technicolor?
Lisset Diaz: Like I said, to me, each song is special in its own way. I think my favorite song has changed in time — I’ve had three years to change my mind over and over again. Right now, I think my favorite song is “Vuelta Atrás.” It’s one of the two songs in Spanish on the record and it talks about those checkpoints in your life that once you passed them, you can’t go back and you want to make sure you don’t lose your true essence in the process. We wrote that song in Cuba and it makes more and more sense to me as the time goes by. Remaining honest to my true self and keep moving forward without forgetting where I come from are my pillars.
Besides releasing Technicolor, what is coming up for you in 2020?
Lisset Diaz: Well, we have the tour schedule for Technicolor so we are gonna be all over the country sharing our music. Also, during these three years we haven’t stopped writing songs. We have enough material already for the next record. So I can’t wait to start recording a new album.
When not busy with music, where does your free time usually go?
Lisset Diaz: Free time? What is that? (laughs) I love drawing.
What was your favorite album of 2019?
Lisset Diaz: I loved Lana Del Rey’s new album Norman F**king Rockwell and Billie Eilish’s When We All Fall Asleep Where Do We Go?
Finally, Lisset, any last words for the kids?
Lisset Diaz: I was a very weird kid… Obsessed with time and mathematics… Afraid of not being able to do all I wanted to do, or show all I wanted to show, so I was always doing something. Right now, most of the time, I feel happy that I did everything I wanted when I felt like it. I studied Biochemistry and Molecular Biology because I loved science and then, after graduating I started my own band because I loved music and I loved singing.
My advice is always gonna be: Do whatever you want to do and be whoever you want be! Believe in yourself. Feel passionate about something and then put all your heart and strength in it. But… what do I know? I’m still learning…