ILI Fellow liza garza and ILI Fellow Alum Eli Lakes form the mother/son musical duo GROW. In 2018/2019, they embarked on a tour of “living room shows” - connecting with like-minded communities to share their original music of Love and Healing. liza shared her experience, thoughts about interculturality and what she holds most dear as meaningful and valuable.
Please tell us about the context for the tour. Why now? Were you promoting a specific body of work? Where did you go and why did you choose those locations?
Most present in my mind right now is our recent performance in Hawaii. It was my first time there for the ILI Hawaii intensive and it was a really special time. We were honored to be able to share our program and book a performance through a friend who lives there. The way we were hosted, the connection to the land and water of Hawaii - it fit well with what we’ve been trying to do.
Right now, we are sharing our work under the title of GROW. As independent artists, we book all of our own shows and really want it to be with people and communities that share what’s most important to us. We’ve been playing together for a long time - since age 14, Eli has been joining me as a guitar accompanist. Last year, we decided to write a project together - write as a duo, and present as a duo. It’s been so amazing and beyond what either of us could have imagined. Our goal has been to try to honor that every step of the way as we share our music with others.
It all happened very fast. In February, 2018 we started an Instagram page and in July 2018, we had with a release event in Atlanta. Then we set out on a tour of intimate spaces with communities of friends and family across the country.
The intention of our music is what drove the tour and the locations. It is centered on Love - and where we learned and were inspired to share it through music. Eli learned to play guitar from my mother at a very young age. My father was a musician. We love to share our work, but what’s most important is love and connection.
“I wanted to have transparent conversations surrounding love. I am fascinated and inspired by that. Why don’t we have those conversations together?”
We decided on “living room shows” because they are more personal. We reached out to our community and asked if they would like to host us. We went to so many places. Being on the road so much, we made it an intention to stop and be with nature or sacred sites wherever we went. The Redwoods in California, the Ocean in San Francisco - they were so amazing. We saw Petroglyphs in Albuquerque. Those living monuments got me thinking about history and the ancestry of the land. This was the second time I was in Muir Woods - and it was Eli’s first time there. When you walk into the woods you really feel the presence of ancestors and spirits. It all fit together with the vision of the tour. I wanted to have transparent conversations surrounding love. I am fascinated and inspired by that. Why don’t we have those conversations together?
Please tell us more about GROW. Why that name? What does it mean to you?
There are a lot of things I’ve had the opportunity to experience, but never like this. Creating together as a duo is a real growth experience. Sharing space with other people and seeing how it blossoms into something every time is really sweet. It can be terrifying too. Love in its purest and truest form. You have to have faith that everything is going to be alright.
I watched a documentary recently on being Happy. It was a good reminder about cultivating happiness. Love is one of the last topics of workshops, forums and conferences. But, we have to choose love and cultivate it.
“When we communicate in the middle of a song - we have to lean in. You see people lean in too and lean into each other during those times. It’s magical how that happens. They are witnessed and mirroring affection.”
What were your “living-room” experiences like? How did it compare with what you set out to do?
The music is a gateway for conversations. It doesn’t matter if it’s people we know or don’t know. Music makes the connections to let people lean in and ask themselves questions about their own relationship to love. People also see a Mother and Son and reflect on their own family relationships to love. When we communicate in the middle of a song - we have to lean in. You see people lean in too and lean into each other during those times. It’s magical how that happens. They are witnessed and mirroring affection. Mother/Son duos are rare and a lot of people tell us how special that is. We honor that this relationship has given us blessings for other relationships - in other areas of our life where it isn’t always so easy.
How does “interculturality” weave into your work?
Interculturality was already part of our values and view of the world. It’s important to us. Considering the type of art we create, we see it as an opportunity to be in community of others who are passionate about it too.
Eli was an ILI Fellow in Year 1 and I’m now in Year 2. The convenings are showing us that we still have a lot of work to do, but that we are surrounded by others who are ready and willing to do that work together. That’s love in itself. Dismantling oppression takes a lot of forgiveness. Humans don’t make the best steps all the time. A lot of what happens in the ILI convenings are very intimate hashing out of difficult things. And then we eat dinner together! There is healing coming out of that.
How do you see this project as related to your own leadership in arts & culture work?
One of the things we are gearing up for now is writing. We have some time at home now. Because we are independent artists, we are very sensitive to our resources. Thinking creatively about what we can make that is still within our means but is meaningful and deeply rooted takes intention. I’m looking forward to sitting, reflecting and writing. And then we’ll get on the road again.
“That’s another example of love in action. I just wanted to share that thought - to lift others up with affirmation. And then a whole community of people affirmed it right back.”
What else is on your horizon?
I really just want to work on things that affirm love. I’ll always make music. I also make hand-crafted earrings that tell the story of heritage and ancestry. And I also work to get positive, affirming messages out in other ways - I’m amazed and so happy to see so many people wearing “My Ancestors Are Proud” t-shirts. That’s another example of love in action. I just wanted to share that thought - to lift others up with affirmation. And then a whole community of people affirmed it right back.
Emmy Award nominated liza garza is a lightworker, mother, activist, poet, vocalist, healer and facilitator who is passionate about Oneness. From the soulful sounds of Mexican folk tunes with the intricacy of Hip-Hop rhyme schemes, to her handcrafted adornments inspired by indigenous textiles, she bridges the ancestral with the modern. With performances that include The Lincoln Center, The Apollo, NALAC, HBO Def Poetry and numerous stages world wide, diverse people find a home in her voice.