Popping Up: Eliza Doolittle

Erika Brooks Adickman | April 20, 2010 2:20 pm

Popping Up is our recurring look at new artists making noise on the music landscape. Because, hey, Madonna and Britney were once unknown, too.

Eliza Doolittle, a 21 year old singer-songwriter (wait, stay with us), writes cheerful tunes with deliciously prickly lyrics and a rich, soulful voice that you would never believe came out of such a cherub-faced gal. With hair that’s longer than the dresses she dons and a shoe obsession to rival Justin Bieber’s, Eliza is as sunny and colorful as her music.

Here’s what you need to know about Eliza:

HOMETOWN: Camden, north London

REAL NAME: Eliza is her real first name and “Doolittle” was tacked on as a nickname back when she was a tyke. “I love my real surname, but it isn’t very pop-starry,” she says.

HER PEDIGREE: Eliza’s father is the famous English stage director John Caird. He may be known best for co-directing the first-ever London run of a small production called Les Misérables. (Oh, you’ve heard of it?) Her mother, Frances Ruffelle, starred as “Dinah” in the original London cast of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Starlight Express a musical that revolves around performers on roller skates (we’ll get back to that in a minute).

MUSICAL BACKGROUND: Ms. Doolittle has been singing and writing music since the tender age of 12 (considering that she’s only 21, that’s nearly half of her life!). She told her mother that she, “really wanted to be a singer” to which her mother replied, “Okay, then you’ve got to start writing”.

INFLUENCES: Eliza’s list of influences is as long as her curly brown locks. From Beyonce and Destiny’s Child, to (more recently) the Arctic Monkeys, though Eliza notes that her sound is nothing like the British rockers’. She has also been inspired by the likes of Aretha Franklin, Minnie Riperton, and Stevie Wonder. The “Skinny Genes” singer is also a huge Prince fan, and her favorite concert experience ever was seeing the Purple One live at the O2 Arena in London.

HER BIG BREAK: All that songwriting her mother encouraged sure paid off. Eliza signed her first publishing deal at 16.

HER BIGGER BREAK: Eliza is currently on tour with the smash pop group Alphabeat and will be opening for Jamie Cullem come May. She’ll also be performing in July, along with another Popping Up artist Alex Gardner, for MTV Presents in London. Her single “Skinny Genes” was also deemed catchy enough to be used in the latest commercial for very.co.uk — and just this week entered the UK Top 40 at #22.

WAIT A MINUTE—ISN’T SHE JUST ANOTHER LILY ALLEN, KATE NASH, (INSERT FEMALE BRITISH SINGER)? Eliza notes in an interview with the show 5:19 that she’s well aware of the comparisons people like to draw between her and her predecessors, Lily and Kate. It’s easy for people to clump them together, since they sing pop tunes with a British accent, but as she says, it’s not like Lily and Kate were the first to do so either.

Perhaps their success opened the door for for Eliza to rollerblade through. After a spin through her tracks, her sound is more soulful than Kate Nash’s and with a more mellow vibe than Lily’s.

Here’s a music video for Eliza’s single “Skinny Genes” — she’s explained that it’s about not liking someone, but still having a good time with them in bed (yes, that’s what the whistling is alluding to):

Here’s a live performance of “Rollerblades” (we told you there was a connection between Eliza’s mother performing in Starlight Express and her current success) for BBC Radio that has the ability to melt you into a puddle:

It’s pop with soul. A sound Eliza herself has described as “sweet and salty”.

OUR VERDICT: Excuse us while we bust out an old pair of rollerblades from the garage and take them for a spin. We’re sold on Eliza.

And if you’re like us and can’t wait for her June 28th UK release date, here are a few Eliza covers to hold you over:

Eliza pays homage to one of her favorite bands, Radiohead, with her acoustic version of “Creep”.

Here Eliza does a fab unplugged version of Whitney Houston’s “It’s Not Right But It’s Okay”.