The best in Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Music

Liz Cavanagh

Liz Cavanagh is a Melbourne-based singer studying music at the Victorian College of the Arts. She also happens to be the first Aboriginal person to be accepted into the music school.

Focusing her studies around jazz, Liz blends many different styles of music, including Aboriginal sounds, to come up with something quite unique.

“I try to incorporate Aboriginal composers into my music, but arrange them in a different way compared to the traditional styles. For example I like to use Latin grooves,” says Liz.

Liz has always been fond of music, thanks in no small part to her background.

“I grew up as a small girl in a church. Music was always around me and I’ve been practising it for a long time. It has a long line in my history and also in my family’s history.”

Liz hopes to release an album at the end of the year that reflects both her love of jazz and of Indigenous culture.

“I’d also love to tour overseas and then I’d like to spend a bit of time with my own people and study with my own traditional mob.”

Liz has won a number of awards including the Queens Trust Foundation for Young Australians in 1998. She was also nominated for NAIDOC’s Female Artist of the Year in 2000.

We wish Liz the best of luck for the future. We’re sure everyone will enjoy her music as much as we do.

“I hope people enjoy my music,” she says. “I’d like to give them a different insight to how a contemporary Indigenous artist can evolve. I’m not a typecast and I hope my music reflects that.”


What is your full name? Liz Cavanagh.
How old are you? 31.
Where are you from? I’ve lived in Melbourne for about 17 years, but my family is originally from northern Queensland.
Where were you born? I was born in Babinda, Queensland.
What do your friends call you? Liz.
What is your earliest memory? Asking my dad if I could get up in front of the church and sing a song I was learning. I would have been about three or four at the time.
When did you first start singing/playing an instrument? I can’t remember not singing.
Have you studied music or are you self-taught? My mother taught me how to read music, so I guess that’s how I got interested in it.
If you could form a band with your choice of musicians, who would they be and what would you call it? The Liz Cavanagh Quartet would feature David Jones on drums, Luke Howard on piano, Ben Johnson on double bass and myself on vocals.
Name a song that most describes who you are. “Save Your Love for Me” by Carmen McCrae.
What’s the funniest thing you’ve ever done onstage? I always play pranks on stage ” you could say I’m a clown.
What CD do you have in your CD player at the moment? Anisha Fitzgibbon’s new CD.
Big headphones: cool or try hard? I don’t wear them.
Most fulfilling experience in your life so far? My singing.
What would you most like to change about yourself? Nothing.
Who’s real deadly in your eyes? Pat Dodson, Mick Dodson, Lowitja O’Donoghue and Noel Pearson.
If you could have anything printed on a T-shirt that you had to wear for the rest of your life, what would it say? Be Proud.
What’s your favourite footy team in either or both codes? Collingwood.
Who’s your favourite footy player? Leon Davis.
What’s your favourite part of Australia? The drive down the Great Ocean Road.
You’re invited to a fancy dress party. Who or what do you go as? A very exaggerated cowgirl.
Michael Jackson: genius or freak? Professionally he is a genius.
What animal are you most like? Frog.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time? Still singing and sharing my music with my family.

Liz Cavanagh is sharing her love of music with an ever-growing audience.

Melbourne-based singer Liz Cavanagh can’t wipe the grin off her face. Why? She’s just released her first recording, a jazzy EP simply titled Liz Cavanagh.

It’s a dream come true for someone who’s always been passionate about music. Hardly surprising, either, as Liz grew up singing in church and had professional training from age 18 onwards.

“I don’t ever remember not singing!” laughs Liz. “When I was about four I asked my dad if I could get up in front of the church and sing something I’d been learning. So my dad walked me to the front of the church and put me on a chair and I sang for the whole church, which is something I’ll never forget.”

The EP contains covers of four songs by well-known Australian recording artists: Coloured Stone’s Buna Lawrie; Deborah Conway; James Reyne; and the band Hunters and Collectors.

First cab off the rank is “Dancing in the Moonlight”. “Coloured Stone were musical role models for me and Buna Lawrie is someone I have respected for a long time,” she says.

Next is Deborah Conway’s poignant “White Roses”. Says Liz: “She was another of my role models because of the fact that she’s female and a beautiful composer.”

James Reyne’s “Reckless” is also featured, because “I just liked the ballad and I’m a sucker for romance”. The EP is rounded out with Hunters and Collectors’ sultry “Throw Your Arms Around Me”.

Liz is the first Indigenous person to have graduated from the Victorian College of the Arts, an achievement of which she is justly proud. “Now I just hope that other Indigenous people can look at what I’ve done and do the same thing.”

Amazingly enough, the EP only took a couple of hours to record. “We started in the morning and finished by lunchtime!”

To date, Liz has only performed in Melbourne, but would dearly love to travel further afield. “I really want to perform around Australia and overseas too. But I’m still in the early stages of my career and I’d just like to see what’s available in terms of festivals.”

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