Violet Bell is an innovative duo from North Carolina with new album "Shapeshifter" that is set to take the Americana-Folk world by storm (to be released in October). Their latest teaser single "Meet Me in the Garden" is a tantalizing mix of luscious vocal harmony and fluid, roots-flavored groove that serves as a worthy hymn to the love and the pain tucked away inside our deepest relationships. We were lucky enough to get a chance to ask them a few questions about their music, so be sure to read to the end for a Q & A with these two amazing performers.
Lizzy Ross and Omar Ruiz-Lopez draw from very different musical backgrounds—together, they are able to tap into a thread of untamable energy and natural magic that extends from both their commitment to the craft of storytelling and a shared reverence for the traditions of roots music. This beautiful track mixes a rollicking standup bass, a soaring Leslie-tempered organ track, delicate acoustic guitar and lively riffs from the fiddle while striking directly at the heart of what it means to love and be loved.
"Meet Me in the Garden" openly acknowledges the shatterproof and timeless bonds of true romantic connection. Even as lovers drift apart the fading light of what once has the power to reveal new experiences, and to this end Lizzy Ross purrs with a sultry conviction that is nothing less than soul-stirring. This song is about forgiving, accepting change, and letting the love that has gone before have a final treasured moment.
As a kid, Ross bounced from the Chesapeake Bay to New York City after her parents divorced. Her young brain took inspiration from a wide array of musical influences like Coltrane, Patty Griffin, and a broad spectrum of 90’s pop-rock. Fifteen hundred miles away, Panama-born Ruiz-Lopez was growing up in Fajardo, Puerto Rico and soaking up the sounds of Caribbean folk, bachata, traditional salsa music, and the occasional American classic-rock. Meeting by chance in North Carolina, their musical connection was immediately evident. Violet Bell emerged.
At their live show, both Ross and Ruiz-Lopez flow effortlessly from guitar to banjo, to fiddle, to acapella while incorporating a host of other instruments along the way. "Meet Me in the Garden" showcases this impressive musical versatility and virtuosity while also making a nuanced statement about the importance of human attachment. Look out for their full album release in October which is set to be a strong contender for best roots album of the year.
A Short Q & A with Violet Bell
Q: You are both multi-instrumentalists. Do you find that this versatility impacts the songwriting process?
Lizzy: Totally! I (Lizzy) often hear a seed of a song, or get an initial lyric/melody/chord progression, then I bring it to Omar to flesh out. He’s a crazy multi-instrumentalist (violin, viola, cello, mando, guitar, keys… the list goes on), so it’s always interesting to see which way he’ll go. It’s funny to see him get excited and jump from one instrument to the next. I often have ideas or parts I’ve “heard” in my head, but it’s always a give and take - his inspiration yields surprising and beautiful complements to my instincts. When I come to him with a new song and we find the core arrangement, it’s like experiencing that song with a whole new dimension.
Omar: Aww, thanks Lizzy! Lizzy is a powerful singer and songwriter with rock-solid rhythm. When she brings in a tune, it usually comes with a pretty well-defined pulse and lyrical flow that makes it easy to float over and complement. I think we bring out each other’s strengths, for sure.
Q: Can you describe a little bit of how "Meet Me in the Garden" was written?
Lizzy: I wrote this song after I was coming out of one of the darkest times of my life. People I loved really showed up for me and helped me get out of an addictive cycle. As I began to return to myself, I realized I had deeper self-knowing, but I also had left destruction in my wake. I knew I needed to get back on a balanced creative and life path, and do less taking and more giving.
This song reflects the gratitude I felt for the people who held me through that time, and gratitude to have resilient relationships that could take that kind of struggle. It’s got seeds of grief, hope, and longing in it - any time we know we need to move on or make a change, it means letting something go and stepping into the unknown. I’m grateful for the growth, and I’m so glad to say that those relationships survived that difficult season.
Q: Do you tend to write your lyrics first, or the other way around? Can you share any details about that process?
Lizzy: Words are musical. Lyrics have rhythm, and for me, they typically come with melodies. When I’m meeting a song for the first time, I often hear it in my head with a whole arrangement all at once. Other times, it’s like whittling away and waiting for the next bits to emerge.
Sometimes it feels like the words and the music are dance partners, and they each draw each other out. They’re moving in sync and it’s hard to tell who’s stepping first.
Omar: I am drawn to picking patterns and chord structures that spell out a melody over time as the song reveals itself to me. Sometimes I will be playing a progression in one room, while Lizzy is in another and comes running over saying “I have a melody for that!”. It can get pretty magical like that.
Q: Do you have any other artists or groups that you draw from to inspire your vocal harmonies?
Lizzy: YES!! There are so many artists we love it’s gonna be hard to choose! Beautiful vocal harmonies are everywhere, and they’re my favorite. Libby and Joseph of Mipso joined us on this tune, and you can hear their gorgeous harmonic blend on any Mipso record. I was also inspired by recording on Emily Scott Robinson’s record American Siren, where I had the pleasure of recording several of the harmony vocals. For me, that experience reaffirmed the juicy joy of vocal harmonies.
What else is in the soup? Rising Appalachia, D’Angelo, Brandi Carlile, Delta Rae, Trevor Hall, and of course classics like Joni (need we say Mitchell?), The Temptations, CSNY, the list goes on!! Even if a recording doesn’t have vocal harmonies in it, I often won’t notice because I’m busy singing along… in harmony.
Q: Are there any details you would like to share about how you decided to work with producer Jason Richmond?
Lizzy: I heard someone use the phrase “galactic mind” once, and that’s what I think of when I think of Jason. He’s got incredible ears, and an incredible acumen for people’s emotional state and ability to deliver a take. He is super creative and interested in what’s emerging, rather than trying to control the music. He’s a friend, a empathetic sweetheart and someone who’s a lot of fun to jump in the creative rocket ship with. His resume is impressive, but his love for music and deep understanding of the recording process is even more so.
Omar: Jason is a pretty chill dude. He is kind like a therapist, always asking questions and letting the artist work out first what they think the song needs. He steps out of the way and makes room for the artist to do what they do best. He knows he is there to capture the magic, and perhaps nudge it this way or that, if need be. When we went in to record this album, it was early spring 2021. We had demos and ideas for all the tunes we had worked up, eager to share them with our collaborators. He was pretty insistent that we not share the demos, but rather let the players react and feel their parts fresh in the studio. The result was magical and fresh, with everyone putting their own spin on their contributions, making for a more collaborative experience than we have ever had in the studio.
Q: Was there a moment during the recording process that stands out for you as a cherished memory?
Omar: Those a-ha moments where things click and the band is grooving together, putting forward their best selves. It almost felt like being in a spaceship getting ready for takeoff in between takes! I remember looking over at Joe (Troop) and thinking he looked like command center NASA over in his area, hunched over his banjo, and Lizzy in the next room over making crazy sounds to find the right tones for the song.
Lizzy: We recorded "Meet Me in the Garden" with everyone but the drummer in the same room, and no click track. That meant we wouldn’t have an opportunity to re-record, punch in, or clean anything up. I love recording like that; it feels like walking a musical tightrope.
I remember the moment we got the take. We all crowded into the tiny control room to listen, and there was a collective sigh as we realized it was better than we had even hoped it could be. We saw the song coming into being and surprising us with its beauty.
On a bigger level, we made this record in the same studio where I recorded my first-ever album, which was challenging. Back then I was hearing myself recorded for the first time, mostly playing solo, and struggling with perfectionism.
At some point during the recording process for this upcoming album, I looked up and realized I was surrounded by beloved collaborators, players I love and respect, having a fucking blast recording music I absolutely loved.
In that moment, it hit me - this time, we showed up to the studio to be present with the process of making music. With this album, we arrived at a place in our music-making where we accepted ourselves and how we sound, we let go of the product, and we let the music lead. It was such a contrast from that first solo album, and it brought into focus all the growth of the past 10 years of music making. This album feels like a joyful, living, expression of a beautiful time together making music.