Ridgefield singer/songwriter to headline NYC show

Ridgefield musician Elza will perform at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center on Oct. 25.

Ridgefield musician Elza will perform at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center on Oct. 25.

Elza / Contributed phot

Ridgefield’s own Elza will be headlining at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center in New York City on Oct. 25, after winning the grand prize of the International Music Licensing Contest and making a name for herself with her songs on TV and in commercials.

A product of divorce, she grew up spending time in both Germany and South Carolina, and followed her dad’s passion for music. She was exposed to a lot of different styles of music — classical, jazz, blues, etc. — and knew she wanted to do something in the industry herself.

It was a live performance of the Indigo Girls that really inspired her to follow her dream. Keith Loria spoke with her ahead of the show.

Keith Loria: What was it about that Indigo Girls concert that made you realize this was a career you wanted to pursue?

Elza: I was in the 10th grade at the time, and I just knew. I traded in my flute, quit ballet and taught myself guitar. I started writing songs immediately and really saw myself more as a songwriter than a guitar player. And I always sang. I memorized the scat singing from my mom’s Ella Fitzgerald records when I was just 4 years old.

KL: I understand you studied opera as well?

Elza: Yes, I got a scholarship to study in New York City. My parents didn’t really approve of me doing pop music or folk music, so I studied classical. It wasn’t until I was in Italy singing opera in a young artist program that I saw Andrea Bocelli singing classical pop and thought, “why am I doing opera? This is not me at all.” I quit opera and picked up my guitar again to do what I wanted to do.

KL: How did you start to get your songs heard?

Elza: I started my own record label with Chris Ann Sepkowski, who is still with me. She was just a fan and a mom of four. I was playing colleges and festivals and things started happening. Every time I would play, it would open another door. Before I knew it, I was making a living as an original singer/songwriter with no official record deal. It was really exciting.

KL: What do you consider to be your big break?

Elza: At the height of this all, I had a song of mine featured on “Smallville.” I emailed my fan base and asked if anyone knew anyone who puts music in TV, and someone had seen me live and somebody did. They got me in touch with the music supervisor of the show and they loved the song.

KL: You’ve played a lot on the East Coast. What have been some of your notable performances?

Elza: The booker for the Cutting Room in New York City booked me for an opening spot for Train during a media event. It was a sold-out audience and that helped me get a lot of exposure. I’ve also opened for Jessica Simpson at the Orange Bowl Beach Bash in Miami.

KL: You had twins, which kept you from playing live for a while. How did that impact your career?

Elza: It was all baby world for a couple of years. Then I went through a health crisis and got healed with medical-grade essential oils when Western medicine seemed a dead end for me. I started studying essential oils because I wanted to understand how this all happens. I wrote a really good song but I wasn’t touring anymore, so I reached out to a producer I knew in California and asked him what I should do with it.

KL: And what was his advice?

Elza: He really thought it was different and good, and told me about this contest — the International Music Licensing Contest — because he thought it should be in a movie and this would open some doors with some of the people involved in that industry. Six weeks later, I got an email, text and call all at the same time telling me I was the grand prize winner. The biggest part of the prize was Gary Gray, who writes and produces music for CSI, would produce the song. We’re really hoping to get this song in a movie.

KL: Is that your ultimate goal? Are you looking to do more in TV and movies?

Elza: Yes. I did go out to California and signed with a company to write music for TV shows, but my goal is to write and produce music for movies. My music has so many different moods because I like to get into a character when I write.

KL: What got you back to performing live and the upcoming Tribeca gig?

Elza: Last January, I decided I was ready to do a live show. I have already written all the music for my next album and I wanted to test it out. I played at the Theater Barn in Ridgefield and it sold out in two days. It was awesome. The Tribeca booking agent heard about the show and asked me to come back, so I’m excited about that. I’m going to be playing not only the new songs to test them out, but pulling songs from way back — even some people may not have heard.

KL: How else do you stay busy today?

Elza: I am also a sought-after voice teacher/producer and singer/songwriter artist mentor in Ridgefield and New York City, and my students have gone on to secure full and partial scholarships at the top music schools in the U.S., and secured agents, labels and music placements on ABC TV. Also, through my health crisis, I became an essential oil expert and I truly enjoy sharing my knowledge to benefit others. Every penny I make from helping others with my oil knowledge goes directly into my recording fund.

For more information about Elza and her music, visit Elzamusic.com.