Elizabeth Wyld is a NYC-based singer and songwriter from rural Virginia. Two years ago, Wyld was suffering from a paralyzed vocal cord that left her unable to sing, and recovering from a derailed summer romance. Many of her intimate indie-folk tunes spawned from that period of silence and loss. She has since played in venues all over New York City, including Bowery Electric, Rockwood Music Hall, and Mercury Lounge. Her first two singles, “Strange Love” and “Child,” were produced and engineered by Zach Jones and Oscar Albis Rodriguez at Russell Street Recording in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. They are now available on all platforms. Wyld will be back in the studio in August to record a third single.
What is your inspiration and why?
I have sang all of my life, but two years ago, I found myself completely unable to sing or speak for several months. I was diagnosed with a paralyzed vocal cord, and I was told I may never sing again. Simultaneously, I was dealing with a passionate but confusing summer romance. Because I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t work or really even hang out with friends, so I hung out in my New York apartment and I wrote and played my guitar—it was out of a desperation to use my figurative voice since I was unable to use my actual voice. All of the passion and the grief from that derailed summer romance came out in poetry, and thankfully, I got my voice back, so I got to turn all of that into song.
It was falling in love and the frustration of silence that gave me the inspiration to write in the first place but now I am endeavoring to write about things beyond my romances. A lot of inspiration is drawn from the struggle of pursuing art in NYC.
Why is music important to the queer community?
There is still such a dearth of queer material in mainstream media. I identify as a lesbian and I am actually amazed at how few lesbian celebrities I can actually think of. We don’t have enough people like us to look up to. When I was growing up, if I could have heard a love song for a woman by a woman, it would have helped me immeasurably.
What do you hope to achieve as an artist?
I would love to gain some more visibility for the queer community. Even with my awesome new pixie cut, people often come to my shows and assume I am straight. Then, hopefully, they listen to my lyrics and think, “oh, she’s singing about a girl.” I enjoy seeing that moment of realization. My love songs are about women, which perhaps takes people by surprise, but they contain very universal themes of heartbreak and confusion and fear within a relationship, and I hope that people will listen to the lyrics and identify with them regardless of their orientation.
On a personal level, I am writing to get at what my own truth is. I was a child of the theatre world and I was always diving into some role. When I went through the vocal paralysis and stepped away from all of that, I realized that without a character to hide behind, I didn’t really know who I was. Songwriting has been a great way to explore who I am and exploring who I am has been so therapeutic and freeing. I recommend it to everyone.
Did music play an integral role in your coming out? If yes, how so?
For me, it took getting away from my hometown and going to a liberal arts college with like-minded people that gave me the courage to come out. I also fell so hard for a girl in college that I simply couldn’t deny myself anymore.
I don’t think I ever really listened to the words of a song until I accepted my own sexuality. Once I came out though, I became fascinated with lyrics. Ani DiFranco was someone I really looked up to because she is such an iconic feminist and she is openly bisexual. I was listening to her music a lot when I was beginning to explore and embrace my sexuality. She seemed to have a song for all of the things I was experiencing for the first time. As freeing as coming out was, it was also a bit isolating as I recognized and claimed the fact that I was different than the vast majority of people. Music became my respite during that time and it continues to be.
Given challenges facing our country and community, in your opinion, what is most needed for the queer community now? How can the music scene further that goal?
The queer community faces a lot of uncertainty in the wake of our current political climate. I know that we have come so far, and I am grateful to be alive at a time when it is more widely accepted, but I worry that with our current administration, we may take steps backward. I want to be able to love in an open way: to marry a woman one day and without fear that my marriage will not be recognized everywhere and to be able to hold hands with my future wife and not have to look over my shoulder. The music scene can certainly help with that. It can create more opportunities for women, for queer people, for people of color, for marginalized people. It can create more visibility for those people.
You have a new music video out. Tell us a little about that.
Yes I do! I wrote “Child” last fall, while I was playing around with some drum beats and making up words on top of it. It spawned from the memory of a wonderful night with the woman I would end up falling in love with. I needed to express how childish I felt next to this woman. I was (and still am) this scrappy artist in thrift store clothes, surviving off of babysitting and temping, and she was this “grown up” who seemed to have it all figured out. As I got to know her, I began to see us on more equal footing. Everyone is a baby, when you take away the nice job and clothes.
I wanted this video to have a lightness about it, to epitomize that exciting feeling of falling in love, and to tell the story in flashes of imagery that the lyrics suggest. The filmmaker Erin Collett did an excellent job bringing all of that to life.