Lizzie Esau has a plan, and she’s sticking to it for as long as it takes.

Since she was a small child, she’s been singing (check out her Instagram profile photo for evidence), entertaining friends, family and anyone willing to listen. She can’t have been bad, because her dad still comes to watch her perform; in fact, tonight at Rough Trade in Nottingham he’s acting as her roadie, guitar tech and main cheerleader.

The gig (her first ever appearance in the city) was part of her Future Icons tour, a co-headline series with George O’Hanlon, plus local supports. It also coincided neatly with Independent Venue Week, and took in some iconic smaller venues around England, including Record Junkie in Sheffield, The Black Prince in Northampton, and Louisiana in Bristol.

I sat down – literally, on a sofa – with Lizzie before her confident and memorable set (where to find out a bit more about what got her here, and where she’s going next. What became clear to me was how grounded and focused she seems.

A highlight of 2022 was being chosen to play at Radio 1’s Big Weekend. That was “really incredible”, Lizzie says. “We felt really lucky to be picked for it – it was a completely punching-above-our-weight experience . I didn’t even have 2,000 followers. We hired a minivan – it was a mad weekend!” Lizzie and her band played at A Stone’s Throw Festival in Newcastle before appearing on CBBC and then the next day performing at the Big Weekend.

2023 began strongly too, with a play for her new single ‘Jellyfish‘ by Jack Saunders on his Radio 1 Future Artists show. “I really hoped he’d pick it up because I thought it was the kind of thing he’d like – and he did.”, Lizzie says. “It felt really good and very reassuring that we did the right thing by putting the right one out at the right time.”

What struck me is the positive attitude Lizzie and her band have towards these kinds of opportunities, and how grounded they have remained. “We just embraced it and didn’t even bother getting imposter syndrome. We just went with it, and it was so fun to be there,” she says of their Big Weekend experience. “Already we’ve got a few festivals this year, but we realise we’ve been quite lucky at the start, and we still have to go back and do the grafting at smaller venues and with smaller audiences. But we’re prepared to do that.”

Compared with some artists in her position, Lizzie seems to have a real strategy and a definite planned approach to what she does. I asked her if she had at some point sat down and thought it through – perhaps created a 5-year plan? “Not a five-year plan!” she answers. “I think we do have a planned approach, just like the consistency element of it, and not for any of us is it a back-burner kind of thing. It’s really important to us that this is in the forefront of our minds.”
But – “sometimes the plan is unpredictable, because you don’t know for sure what gigs, or support, or festivals you’re going to get.”
Her advice? “You’ve got to be on it all the time – the plan is: always be shouting about something.”

Lizzie and her band played to some pretty big crowds in 2022; in 2023, they’ve decided to return to some smaller venues. This tour has included the Black Prince in Northampton and The Louisiana in Bristol, as well as Rough Trade in Nottingham, where I meet her. Those types of places clearly mean a lot to her. “If we only had arenas, literally there’d be no new music. It’s so important to have those smaller venues, as much as local radio and all the kind of grassroots stuff of music, because it all adds up,” she tells me, naming The Cluny and Bobiks in Newcastle as important elements of her musical journey.

Although big festival slots and huge venues are part of her dream, Lizzie also explains that she doesn’t want to miss out on the more modest parts of her development as an artist. “I’m excited for all the stages! You’ve got to enjoy every bit of it. I’d love to keep working up and up and I’m looking forward to keeping going for as long as it takes.”

Finally, Lizzie lets me know about her recording plans in 2023: “It’ll be the year of the EP – it is going to happen!”






Words and photos by Phil Taylor