Millville Songwriter Shares About Life, Love, and Staying True to her Passion Despite Adversity

Last Edited: Nov 22, 2016 08:45 PM

All photos courtesy of Lizz Sooy.

By Taylor Henry

Lizz Sooy carries a notebook and pen wherever she goes. Lyrics hit her when she least expects them to, and she must be prepared when they do. Sooy is a 20-year-old singer-songwriter from Millville who has just released her first album, “Catch Me.” It debuted in October after two years of writing and recording.

The collection of songs she had recorded was supposed to be an EP, but eventually, the project turned into an 11-song album.

“It hasn’t really hit me yet,” said Sooy. “Everybody’s like, ‘Congrats on the new album!’ and I’m like, ‘Thanks, I forgot I wrote it.’”

Sooy cites Sarah Bareilles, Ingrid Michaelson and Mary Lambert as her songwriting inspirations. Their influences are audible on “Catch Me.”

“The way that Mary Lambert writes- especially- is that she puts all of her heart into all of her music,” Sooy said. “You can hear it in her words.”

The tracks on her album were all based on experiences in Sooy’s own life. “Just Friends” is about falling in love with a friend who doesn’t return the feeling. “I Should Have” is about regretting not taking a risk. According to Sooy, everyone goes through heartbreak so she wrote songs that she felt anyone could relate to.

Sooy had always wanted to be a singer and began voice and piano lessons at about five years old.

When she saw “American Idol” on television, she had made up her mind: “Dad, I wanna do that!” Her father, Millville City Commissioner Joseph Sooy, soon became her manager, despite having no former musical experience. To this day, he rarely ever misses one of his daughter’s recording sessions.

Also at age five, Sooy started dancing at Children’s Ballet Workshop in Vineland. The first time Sooy went to the dance studio, she was too nervous to dance in front of others. When she went home that day, she performed the combination she learned in front of her parents.

Sooy recalled how dance teacher Sandi DiLeo taught her students to not just dance, but sing as well. Sooy attributes DiLeo, who recently retired after 41 years of teaching dance, for helping Sooy build her confidence enough to perform in front of others.

"Lizz was one of my all-time favorite students," said DiLeo. "She was always a hard worker, dedicated in everything she did. But, in addition to that, she is one of the happiest, kindest people I know. I was always watching her and crying while she sang. She was that good."

Sooy performed at Children’s Ballet Workshop until she graduated high school.

Sooy also credits her great grandmother for encouraging her. As a child, Sooy sang songs for her great-grandmother, who would clap along.

“That’s definitely a lot of why I’m here today,” Sooy said. “Because of her.”

A student of the Millville Public School District, Sooy’s education contributed to her musical talent. From Holly Heights Elementary through Lakeside Middle School, she sang in choir. In sixth grade, Sooy recorded music in a studio for the first time. Her Holly Heights music teacher was a friend of music producer Chris Orazi, who needed voices for a recording of children’s song “Buckle Up For Safety.” Sooy was recommended by her teacher to Orazi, and produced “Catch Me” a decade later.

However, even an up-and-coming performer like Sooy was a victim of school bullies. “A lot of people would laugh at me in middle school because I would sing all the time,” Sooy recalled. Some students created a Facebook page aimed at Sooy titled, “Why are you taking choir seriously? It’s not American Idol.”

Sooy later auditioned for American Idol, America’s Got Talent, and The Voice, but didn’t make it past auditions. Once again, Sooy didn’t let rejection or bullying discourage her.

At Millville Senior High School, Sooy joined jazz band and madrigals.

“Jazz band was especially difficult for me. I was raised mostly playing classical,” Sooy explained. It was her first time playing in a band with other people, and she learned a variety of chords that now help her to keep her own music fresh.

Joel Vazquez, Sooy’s childhood friend, neighbor, and fellow choir singer described Sooy as supportive and always smiling.

“One madrigals practice, I was having a very bad day, and Lizz was singing and making silly faces to get me to smile,” recalled Vazquez, a 22-year-old Rowan University student. “That has always stayed with me.”

Sooy graduated high school in 2014 and began studying musical theater performance at the Westminster College of the Arts of Rider University. Outside of class, Sooy continues to write songs.

"She will go very far in her career," said Dileo.

“Catch Me” can be purchased by download or CD at CDBaby.com. “Catch Me” features vocals, lyrics, and piano by Lizz Sooy; keyboards, drums, percussion, and bass by Chris Orazi; bass and cello by Wilfredo Rodriguez; ukulele by Kaitlyn Hoffman; saxophone and clarinets by Gene Lanette; accordion by Jacques Pellarin; and drums on “Loud” by Bob Terry.

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