At home in Wanstead

Liza Finn in Wanstead. ©Mike Hughes / Dress supplied by Hoss IntropiaLiza Finn in Wanstead. ©Mike Hughes / Dress supplied by Hoss Intropia

Following her recent move to the area, singer-songwriter Liza Finn – who lives just off Wanstead High Street – released her first single entitled Home last November. Here Liza talks about Wanstead and what home means to her.

What is home? Is it a place or a feeling? For me it's more of a feeling, a sense of belonging – something that I've found in Wanstead after a long period of moving from place to place.

I grew up in London and went to university in Exeter, where I studied music. After that, I moved around a lot. Michael, my partner, and I lived out in Colchester for a while, but we felt isolated from family and friends. When we came back to London we rushed things, and we ended up in Leytonstone. It was very multicultural, which I loved, but there was not much to do and its thriving rental market means that people quickly move on, or get moved on. Too often you'd see the entire contents of houses dumped in the street. I wanted to get to know people and to put down roots, but I couldn't see it happening there.

We soon found ourselves coming to Wanstead most mornings for breakfast and to mooch around the shops. The more time we spent here, the more we realised how good it is: there are restaurants and cafes, there's the tube, there's loads to do on your doorstep without having to travel and the area is thriving, even during a recession. Many businesses seem to have been here since the Sixties, as you can see from the dry cleaners and the corner shop. There's no need for them to modernise – they know their market, and people know what they do and where to find them.

People tend to buy here and stay here. I can see how you could grow into it as a person and how I might end up, which I appreciate – I like some idea of what tomorrow might bring. There are good schools, it's child-friendly and the older people seem happy, too. For me, that's really stimulating in terms of songwriting and getting creative ideas.

My piano room faces the street and I love to sit in there doing nothing, watching the world go by, observing people going about their daily business – just seeing the little things, the things you would miss if you were rushing past. There's a minicab company further down the High Street and the drivers sometimes park in our road while they're waiting for fares. They take such enormous pride in their vehicles, cleaning them out, polishing them, making them look their best. That's the kind of thing I love to see – the minute details of other lives that it would be so easy not to notice.

Home album coverHome album coverAs much as I love being at home – and I really do; I often postpone going out and make myself late – I'd go mad if I stayed in all day, so I often take my laptop and go and work in the Larder. It's a meeting place, a hub (and a hubbub) for people of all ages and, like my room, perfect for people-watching and for getting songwriting ideas. The food is great, too. I've often sat in there from 11 in the morning until seven in the evening, but never once have I been made to feel I'm hogging a table or getting in the way. The staff reassured me that lots of people go and work there, so now, one day a week, I head to the Larder to deal with the practical side of music – the email writing, the organising, applications for festivals and gigs, website adjustments and so on. There's a phenomenal amount to do in addition to the music itself and discipline and organisation are crucial.

A lot of people find it hard to grasp the idea that creative people need routine, structure and order, but they probably need it more than anyone. If you're going to have the quiet, meditative space you need, you have to make sure you create it. You have to plan it, arrange life so that nothing gets in the way of it. There must be nothing that interferes, so you need to make sure you deal with other aspects of your life at designated times, hence my weekly admin day.

That said, I can't just decide to sit and a wait for a song to appear. It doesn't work like that. A song is something that comes up inside, something I can't understand or control – a feeling or an energy. If it happens when I'm near a piano, I'm lucky, because then I can sit and let it all come out. But I have to be organised to make sure I'm not disturbed.

I wrote some of my best songs, including Home, at a time when I was very unhappy and nothing in my life was constant. While it's true that misery and uncertainty do breed creativity, I now realise that you don't need to seek them out in your own life – you don't need to live life on the edge, overthink or overanalyse. Those feelings are there all the time, in the way your brain functions. So you need stability, you need normality. You need a daily structure.

You also need routine and structure to bring you down gently after a live performance. At one or two in the morning, after a gig, you can't sleep – it doesn't matter whether there was an audience of 10 or 1,000 people, you're on a high for a few days and you need stability to avoid a subsequent low. Having a routine keeps your feet on the ground.

You need other people, too. This can be a lonely business, but since releasing my single I've been very conscious of the impact other people can have on a musician's success. To raise the money to make my video I ran a pledging campaign, where I promised things – a private gig, a T-shirt, tickets and so on – to people who contributed to the cost. It was amazing, I found I had pledgers I didn't know and I was no longer relying solely on family and friends, who have supported me for so long.

People think you make success overnight, without realising how much you rely on them to spread the word. So if you hear something you like, buy it and tell your friends about it. That's the only way musicians will be able to carry on doing what they do.

Liza's single Home is available on iTunes. For more information, visit www.lizafinn.com


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