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Laura Lizcano, "Major Tom"
A scene from Lizcano's most recent music video drop, "Major Tom." Photo: Matt Keppler

Laura Lizcano previews her “most ambitious project,” ‘Daughter of the Sea’

The Colombian-American singer-songwriter sat down with AL DÍA back in August to talk about the album’s scope and its lead single, “Major Tom.”

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Last week and over the weekend, Philadelphia’s Cannonball Festival, which runs through Sept. 30, offered three intimate performances from Colombian-American singer-songwriter Laura Lizcano. 

With a guitarist, cello, and Lizcano on the ukulele, the shows offered a sneak preview of the singer-songwriter’s new project, Daughter of the Sea, due out on Oct. 14.

“We just want to give people a taste,” she said of the performances in an interview with AL DÍA back in August.

If Lizcano were to describe Daughter of the Sea in one word, it would be “big.”

“The vision for this record for me was just enormous,” she said.

A COVID-19 creation

Its story begins back in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lizcano, like other artists and independent contractors at the time, had major question marks around the future of her work with the world being isolated from one another and holed up at home.

But with that isolation also came a time for intense self reflection and creativity. Lizcano experienced both, as most of Daughter of the Sea was written during COVID-19’s isolation period for the world. Also a discoverer of collaging during the pandemic, she called the end product her “version of a musical collage.”

“I came out of that isolation period as a completely different person,” said Lizcano.

The pandemic also eventually came with funding for artists like Lizcano through various government relief programs and grants. She cited getting Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUP), Pandemic Paycheck Protection loans (PPP), and SBA advance grants to help her hire a team of people and make her new album a reality.

“Ultimately, that allowed me to spend a lot of money on this project and hire a bunch of people to be able to do this,” said Lizcano. “That was awesome, and shows the importance of unrestricted funding for artists.”

Once vaccines were unveiled to the world, Lizcano and her team hit the studio to build more legs and momentum behind the project.

History, water and family

The name Daughter of the Sea has a three-fold meaning.

First, it’s an homage to the start of humanity in the ocean, where the first cells multiplied and eventually spawned complex beings over billions of years.

Second, on a personal level, Lizcano said she’s always been drawn to water as a safe space, no matter its form.

And third, it’s referenced in the album’s lead track, “Blood is Thicker Than Water.”

“You say blood is thicker than water, but I am the daughter of the sea,” reads a line from the song.

The saying itself is used in reference to putting family above all when it comes to relationships, but Lizcano expands that meaning and also offers a counterpoint

“I think that also applies to not just your own family, but the circles that you’re in,” she said. “While sometimes that is beautiful, I also feel like sometimes that can be very toxic.”

Her immediate inspiration for the sentiment came from Colombian author Laura Restrepo’s Delirio (Delirium), which Lizcano read during the pandemic.

The main character, Aguilar, spends the book attempting to rehabilitate and learn more about the past of his wife, Agustina, who is struggling to maintain her grip on reality after an unknown event triggered traumatic memories of her privileged past in Colombia. During that time, Agustina was forced to sweep a lot of her family’s issues under the rug, leaving her permanently affected.

It’s also an experience Lizcano said was very true for all of Latin America, but especially Colombia, where she was born and raised in Bogotá until coming to the states at age 10 with her parents.

“There’s things we don’t talk about,” she said, also referencing the now-global hit “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” from Disney’s Encanto, also an homage to Colombian culture.

Despite the secretive and initially negative sentiments towards the cultural practice, Lizcano’s lead track ends on a hopeful note, much like the entire album itself.

“I was born to be free. You were born to be free, and we’re all born to be free,” the song ends.

“It’s more of an invitation to myself and to everybody to acknowledge that’s not how it has to be,” she said. “Maybe it’s painful and hard and sad, but all of those feelings are valid.”

Remembering “Major Tom”

Another song to end on a positive note despite its initial inspiration is the album’s lead single, “Major Tom,” which dropped alongside Lizcano’s first-ever music video on Sept. 16.

The song takes inspiration from David Bowie’s classic “Space Oddity,” which tells the story of an astronaut named Major Tom, who misses a call from ground control about a malfunction on his spacecraft. As a result, Major Tom is left “sitting in a tin can, far above the world,” likely preparing for a lonely death.

Lizcano’s song picks up the story, as people back on Earth learn to live with the absence of Major Tom. Specifically, she honed in on Major Tom’s wife, who is referenced in another line towards the ballad’s end.

“What happened to her?” was Lizcano’s initial question.

On a deeper level, the song explores loss and how everyone deals with it in their own unique ways.

“I think it’s hard for us to accept that people are gone,” said Lizcano. “We want to live with pieces of them still.”

She went on to relate it to how the world felt when Bowie died in 2016. He went out an icon for the music world to remember forever, including in songs like Lizcano’s “Major Tom.” That reality of eternal remembrance is what she pulls on to bring the track to its end. 

“In many ways, his artistry very much still lives,” Lizcano said. “For me, that’s very hopeful.”

Bowie’s influence also takes root in the music video for the song. Lizcano plays the role of Major Tom’s wife, and in homage to the English singer-songwriter’s last music video “Blackstar,” members of the Almanac Dance Circus Theater embody her emotions as the video progresses.

“Major Tom” is out now.

Lizcano’s third album, Daughter of the Sea drops on Oct. 14.

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