Giving it her all, Elizabeth Zeder during a performance in Cortes de la Frontera. Karl Smallman
Elizabeth Zeder: From the city of grunge to the Serranía de Ronda

Elizabeth Zeder: From the city of grunge to the Serranía de Ronda

The American jazz singer arrived in Gaucín in 2014 and has since established herself on the thriving local music scene

Tony Bryant


Friday, 25 August 2023, 17:07


The province of Malaga has long had a thriving expat live music scene, fuelled by hundreds of musicians from all over the world, and numerous venues of varying capacities where they can perform. The majority of these performers, and also the venues, are located along the Costa del Sol, but, unknown to many, the Serranía de Ronda has also become a popular haven for expat musicians, many of who are content to perform in local venues, only occasionally venturing down to the coast for a gig.

One of these is Elizabeth Zeder, a 48-year-old American jazz vocalist who moved to Gaucín in January 2014 and has since established herself among what is fast becoming a thriving music community.

Elizabeth was born and grew up in Seattle, home of grunge music (sometimes referred to as ‘the Seattle sound’), although her musical awakening came with jazz, blues and Motown, which she says was “played non-stop in my house”.

“Because of the music that was played at home, I was introduced to singers such as Dina Washington, and Eta James, who I thought was the coolest person ever. This was not the sort of music my peers were listening to, but it spoke to me more than the grunge music that was around in the 1990s in Seattle,” the bubbly vocalist tells SUR in English.

Elizabeth says she was “lucky enough” to go to a high school that had a “tremendous” music programme, although she decided not to enter into a musical career. Shortly after graduating, and even though her teachers believed she should consider going to music college, she steered away from music and studied history and religion instead.

“I feel like I must have been insane, but I thought who will I be if the only thing I know about in life is music,” Elizabeth says.

However, after receiving her degree, she decided to enrol in the Berklee College of Music (Boston) to study music management. It was not until Elizabeth was in her mid-thirties that she began to take singing seriously. At the time, she was running a fundraising bash for a museum in Connecticut, and she had to hire a jazz band for the event.

“I got chatting with the band and told them that I could sing a few songs, and they said that they would love to have a female singer. This was the first time that I had had a group of musical companions. To be in a band is a tremendous thing, and it was really good fun as well,” she explains.

An instant decision

Elizabeth and her husband, Jonas, left Connecticut in 2014 to start a new life in Europe. After travelling around France and northern Spain, they decided to head to the Serranía de Ronda, where they made an instant decision to buy a property, which she describes as “the perfect house” – “no neighbours, except the Griffon vultures”.

Her introduction to the local music scene came about while the couple were renovating their house, as Elizabeth loved to sing while working. One of labourers who was helping with the renovations was local musician Klaus Stubbe. Through Klaus, she began to meet other established musicians in the area, like Marcus Myers and Neil Armstrong, and this opened the door to the “mountain folk’s” music community, something of which Elizabeth is very much part of today.

“There is this weird well of musicians in this area, and this creates a strange confluence of opportunities,” Elizabeth declares.

As well as performing as a solo singer and participating in projects with the aforementioned musicians, Elizabeth is also a member of a rock group called The EZ Band. Along with her busy performance schedule, she is also involved in a musician’s writing group, which is held in a local recording studio during the winter.

“Having this group to experiment with and mentor each other is really quite inspiring. I feel like there is karma in music, like when you meet someone by chance and there is a synergy. It’s kind of like finding a lover, because you have to have chemistry,” she concludes.

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