Lizzie Cates is beginning a new chapter in her career by releasing her latest single, “I Like the Way.” The singer-songwriter has been on Undiscovered Nashville’s radar since first seeing her play Nashville Tour Stop at Belcourt Taps. When you see Lizzie on stage, you immediately like her infectious personality. Once you hear her music, you cannot help being a fan. We were thankful to have to opportunity to chat with the Reno, Nevada native.
Lizzie Cates has Always Been a Songwriter
Lizzie Cates seemed destined to move to Nashville. Country music has been part of her since she was a little girl. Cates said, “Country music was embedded in my brain since I was born. My mother and grandmother were obsessed with it. When I was a baby, I had a hard time falling asleep. My mom would rock me and sing Garth Brooks to me.”
Songwriters all have different stories when it comes to the first songs they wrote. Lizzie said, “I wrote my first song on my fifth birthday, but I am pretty sure I ripped off Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. When I was young, I would take songs and change the lyrics to them. My twin sister hates country music. We shared a room and birthday parties. I would make my friends and her friends sit down while I performed a concert. I would play Karaoke tracks and sing different lyrics to them. My parents knew I would end up being a songwriter.”
Like many young girls, Taylor Swift had an impact on Lizzie. Cates said, “My sister and I went to a private Catholic school for middle school. We were somewhat of an outcast since we were the only ones into music. All I did at recess was write songs. After I saw Taylor Swift open for Brad Paisley, I felt I wasn’t alone. I thought she is me, and I was very inspired. I had to learn the guitar, and that was all I would do when I got home until I fell asleep. After Love Story came out, then suddenly, it was cool to make music and write songs.”
The Decision to Move to Nashville
Most songwriters who move to Nashville can point to the moment when they said that’s it; I am going. For Lizzie Cates, it was after attending college for a while. The singer-songwriter said, “I went to college for one semester, and I failed all of my classes. I had told my dad that I didn’t want to go. I had two semesters to make it up, and I ended up .02 off from not getting kicked out. So, I focused on music for a year. At the time, I was working with a company, but they weren’t doing anything for me, so I left them. I was twenty-one and had just gone through a break-up. I wondered what I would do, so I decided to move to Nashville. In my mind, I just needed to go.”
Lizzie Cates hopped on a plane and flew to Nashville, but she wouldn’t make a move yet. Cates said, “On my first trip out, my mom was supposed to come with me, but I ended up coming by myself. It was the first time I had been on a plane. I did a vlog of my visit, and it’s just me dancing around Nashville by myself. People were staring at me. I wanted to move to Nashville, but I wasn’t sure how I would do it. So, I went to community college for a semester, and I took a poetry class. That class changed my perspective of writing. That’s when I wrote “Strangers.” The song started to get people’s attention, so I decided to move in the middle of the semester.”
Adjusting to Life in Music City
It is easy for a singer-songwriter to experience fear and intimidation when they arrive in Nashville. However, Cates was fearless. Lizzie said, “I found a place to live, and moved here with two boxes, two suitcases, and my guitar. It happened quickly, but I wasn’t scared at all. The second day I was here, I played an open mic at the Commodore Grille. I felt I was great, but I didn’t get that much applause. That experience motivated me to get better. I realized I wasn’t as good as I thought. During the first month, I was in town, I went to shows and watched. I asked myself, how can I be that good? I began to co-write with everyone I could, and I learned.”
Learning the Craft of Co-Writing in Nashville
Before moving to Nashville, most songwriters have only written by themselves, but Music City is a town built on collaboration. Your first co-write can be a little awkward because you must be vulnerable. However, for Lizzie Cates, her first experience was different. Cates said, “My first co-writing session was back home in Reno for “Strangers.” I had written the entire song, and it was ten minutes long, so he helped me improve it and shorten the song. I learned quickly co-writing meant writing a song from scratch.” Cates has grown as a performer and writer during the three years she has been in Nashville. In the year and a half that we have followed her career, we have witnessed it.
Lizzie described her experience co-writing “Such a Mess,” the title track of the last EP. The singer-songwriter said, “One of my first real co-writes in Nashville was with Davis Branch. We wrote “Such a Mess,” and we wrote it quickly. I had wanted to write an upbeat song that day. At the time, I was working at Starbucks, and someone threw a drink back at me through the window that day. It was an awful day, and I was in a horrible mindset. We get into the room, and we are trying to write an upbeat song. I was struggling and didn’t like anything. We took a break, and I started singing this melody. Davis said, what is that? I broke down and said, I am sorry. I am such a mess. He said, well, that’s the song we are going to write.”
As a music fan, the lyrics of a song speak to me. It is those heartfelt lyrics than can give me the chills when listening to a song. Lizzie Cates is a storyteller in her song lyrics, and as a child, she also wrote little novels. Lizzie said, “I love storytelling. I am not good at talking about my feelings, so I write them down. Writing my feelings down is something I have done since I was a kid. I have always loved imagery songs too. The lyrics are so important to me, so writing lyrics is my favorite part of songwriting. When I want to feel something, I will go into my writing room and turn on the Coffee Shop playlist.”
If you go back and listen to Lizzie’s “Such a Mess” EP, you can hear that storytelling and imagery that she loves. “Satellites” brings up an image of seeing a satellite in the sky, thinking it’s a shooting star. Lizzie’s 2019 release, “Spring Break,” makes me think of spending time with someone on the beach. Her latest single “I Like the Way,” is full of imagery from spilling her ice coffee to driving a Corolla like a Maserati.
Lizzie Cates Releases a New Single, “I Like the Way”
At the end of last year, Lizzie Cates had stopped playing out for about six months. Cates said, “I wanted to grow, and I knew I wouldn’t if I was out playing the same songs. I have cut down the number of people I write with too.” As a fan, I missed seeing Lizzie perform, but I am excited about the new direction she is taking her music.
Lizzie co-wrote “I Like the Way” with Josh Beale and Kate Hasting of Hasting & Co. Robby Artress was a co-writer and producer of the single. The singer-songwriter said, “When we first wrote the song, it sounded much different. However, as soon as we had finished the song, I knew this was the new sound I wanted. I am so proud of “such a Mess,” but the growth that you can hear in the new project is amazing. I knew “I Like the Way” was the beginning of the next chapter of my life and career.” On July 31, 2020, Lizzie Cates released “I Like the Way.”