Sometimes the best choices you can make are the ones that seem completely unplanned.
Local singer-songwriter Liz Berube can attest to this fact when talking about what led to her moving to Boulder in 2010.
“I had just graduated from Ithaca College in New York, my older sister was moving out to Boulder for work, and I was kind of under the mindset of ‘I don’t know what to do with my life, so why don’t I move to Colorado?’” she laughs. “So we packed up the car and moved out here.”
The move would prove to be good for her creative streak as she began writing songs with increasing frequency after getting settled in. Most of the songs from her debut EP, 2013’s Mountain Road, are based on her life in Colorado or at least were created here. But the closing song on the EP, “When I Was Young,” hearkens back to her days growing up in Vermont. Having elements of her present, recent past and distant past on the EP makes for a well-rounded experience in Berube’s mind.
“The last song is about my roots and my growing up, so it really kind of fit together nicely for me,” Berube says. “When I moved out here, that’s when I really started to explore music more and began writing more songs, but there’s always that part of home that’s a huge part of me.”
Writing for this EP was an interesting experience for Berube. Not only was she striving to learn more about her craft and improve as both a singer and a songwriter, but in some sense, the experience of writing these songs helped her feel more at ease in her new environment.
“I was living close to downtown, but I was living alone for the most part, and for some reason, even though it was this dark cave of an apartment, I didn’t want to leave a lot of the time,” Berube says.
“So I spent a lot of my time writing songs in that apartment, and the experience was really cathartic for me.”
Among the Colorado-centric tracks are acoustic numbers like “Home,” which extols the virtues of that place you can always go back to — but only when you are ready to go — and the ballad “600 Miles,” which speaks poetically about the obstacles we will overcome to be with the ones we love. But the Americana-tinged strummer
“James” is one of the EP’s best.
“I wrote that one about a homeless guy in Boulder who I would see almost every day on my drive home from work,” Berube says. “He was at a traffic light, so I’d be driving home and I’d see him every day and we’d have some brief little conversations.”
And despite the serious, reflective tone that a number of her songs take, “A Man Like You” proves that she is not afraid to think outside the box. While the majority of Mountain Road is classic, laid-back singer-songwriter material, this track goes in a completely different direction. It has a bluesy tone, features heavy doses of electric guitar and harmonica, and showcases Berube’s vocal chops as she alternates between soulful crooning and belting out powerhouse notes. And what’s more, it’s the only song on the EP that isn’t based on her life.
“It’s funny because everyone wants to know ‘Who is that one about?’” Berube laughs. “It was a fun way to experiment and get that bluesy feel going, and for a song that I don’t have a lot of emotional attachment to, it was really easy to let go of any expectations. I think the songs that are more personal to me I’m a little more protective of, but with that one I was really able to let go and have a lot of fun with it.”
And while that track demonstrates that Berube is not above having a little fun and creating fictional material, music is still something she takes very seriously.
“For me, music has always been a pretty personal thing,” she says. “The songs that I write are in no way shy, so it allows me to express myself in a way that is safe and artistic, and that’s something that’s really important to me.”