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story.lead_photo.caption Photo courtesy Brandon Aguilar "While the new songs are unapologetically darker than previous material, they manage to capture Carry Illinois' unique synth-pop sensibilities better than ever before," one critic writes of the band's latest album, "Work in Progress." Another says band leader Lizzy Lehman "ultimately resolves to save herself, lugging out of the dust and dirt and into fresh water."

Everything Lizzy Lehman does musically is very personal -- including her band name: Carry Illinois.

"The first time I remember singing in public was in Cary, Ill., at my family's ... summer picnic," the singer/songwriter relates. "I was 5 or 6 and sang Bette Midler's 'Wind Beneath My Wings' at the karaoke booth. This was the first time I remember feeling truly passionate about singing. Paying homage to this wonderful memory and my home state, I decided to name the band 'Carry Illinois' because I want to keep my roots with me no matter where I go, despite any painful memories of my youth."

FAQ

Carry Illinois

WHEN — 9 p.m. July 13

WHERE — Backspace, 541 W. Meadow St. in Fayetteville

COST — $5

INFO — CarryIllinoisBand.com

That pain is the heartbeat of her lyrical, evocative songs, particularly on her most recent album, "Work in Progress." Not all of it is entirely hers, however. Carry Illinois' original bassist, John Winsor, took his own life in March of 2016.

"After John committed suicide, I decided that I no longer needed to shy away from the real struggles that I face," Lehman says. "I decided that writing about it, singing about it, and performing with utmost strength and courage is what I need to do."

Lehman took time to answer some questions for What's Up! prior to her band's performance July 13 at Backspace in Fayetteville.

Q. What is the first music you remember? How did it shape your desire to be a musician?

A. The first music I remember is The Beatles' "Yellow Submarine" and Carole King's music from Maurice Sendak's cartoon musical "Really Rosie." When my parents left me with a babysitter, they would put on one of these movies, and I was instantly soothed. Both The Beatles and Carole King became instant favorites of mine and inspired my love for singing at an early age. Their powerfully honest and emotional music also inspired me to share my own unique voice through songwriting.

Q. I saw an interview where you talked about how supportive Austin is. Where did you grow up? And how did that affect who you are now?

A. Indeed, Austin has an incredibly supportive music community, and I am so happy to be a part of it! I grew up 20 minutes north of Chicago in a suburb called Evanston. Growing up in Evanston helped me to become a tolerant, open minded, community-oriented, creative and caring person. It was a great place to explore my individuality within a safe and supportive atmosphere.

Q. You wrote: "I have spent many days filled with doubt, self-hatred, depression, and anxiety. It was scary and sometimes difficult to find the right words, but writing about my deepest fears was the best way for me to move towards self-love, self-acceptance, and healing." Tell me about your personal journey.

A. I have always struggled with being uncomfortable in my own skin, battled with my mental health, and had a difficult time loving myself for who I am. I was bullied when I was in high school, and that painful experience reinforced the negative feelings I had about myself. Finding friends and a wife who love me without judgment, along with therapy and writing/performing more personal music have all helped me work towards embracing my unique beauty. It is a tough ongoing journey, but I am committed to doing the hard work to become the whole and happy person I wish to be.

Q. When you're writing, recording, performing, is your audience on your mind? Your music is quite likely saving lives. Awesome reward. Awesome responsibility!

A. When I write, my main focus is often on expressing my personal experiences. I use writing to better understand myself, so that's where my mind usually is. I do think a lot about my audience when I record and perform. My hope is that my audience will be able to emotionally connect with the music, feel like they are not alone, and be inspired to begin processing some of their own pain and struggles. I want them to know that it is OK to not be OK, to find the support they need, and that we can grow stronger if we work together.

Q. What's next for Carry Illinois?

A. I would love to begin writing new songs for a second full-length album! We'll also be planning more tours and releasing a new music video soon.

-- Becca Martin-Brown

bmartin@nwadg.com

NAN What's Up on 07/08/2018

Print Headline: Five Minutes, Five Questions Lizzy Lehman

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