Liam Kazar makes joyful rock songs so irresistible they feel timeless. Just ask Jeff Tweedy. “I love everything about Liam. His voice, his songs, the way he plays instruments, his smile, his cooking… Everything,” says Tweedy. ”Whenever I hear one of his songs for the first time I almost immediately start thinking to myself, ‘oh yeah! This song! I love this song.’ It’s a magic trick very few people can pull off: making something brand new sound like a cherished memory.” But on Kazar’s debut album Due North, out August 6 via Mare Records, the LP’s 10 tracks are full of so much charm, wit, and heart it can’t be a sleight of hand.
The Kansas City-based, Chicago-raised musician and acclaimed chef/founder of the Armenian pop-up restaurant Isfahan, describes the making of Due North as a personal revelation, where the more he wrote the more his songs showed what kind of artist he’s always wanted to be. While he’s consistently been a dream bandmate over the past several years, performing with artists like Tweedy, Steve Gunn, Daniel Johnston, and more, making his own songs presented a chance to finally find his own voice. But figuring out how to step out was a rewarding challenge. “This record kind of all stemmed from a conversation I had with Jeff,” says Kazar. “I showed him some of my earliest songs I was working on and he told me, ‘It sounds like you’re writing for the people in your bands, you’re not writing for yourself.’ He was completely right. I was not writing songs for myself.” With that needed insight, Kazar decided to start from scratch and write songs that felt like himself.
Single “Shoes Too Tight” was a clarifying moment for Kazar in this journey. Originally a slower acoustic ballad, Kazar slowly tinkered with a synth sound and happened upon the song’s bouncy chord progression. “That was probably the closest to an aha moment that I had of ‘Oh, this is me and this is what I’m into,’” says Kazar. The finished product is an undeniable jam with a swaggering exuberance that channels Richard Swift and David Bryne. Soon after, Kazar switched gears for the yearning and delicate “On a Spanish Dune” which showcased his emotional resonance as a writer. With lush synths and wistful acoustic guitars, he sings, “Everybody’s asking me / What you gonna do, gonna be / I couldn’t tell you if I tried / I’m just a poem with an open line.” Though completely different songs, Kazar used these two earliest offerings as guides for what would come next. “ Those two songs were my North Star that I was following for this album,” says Kazar. “This is what it sounds like when I write for me.”