“Everybody’s asking me, ‘What you gonna do, gonna be?’ ” Liam Kazar sings on his mind-blowingly good 2021 debut album, Due North. “I couldn’t tell you if I tried; I’m just a poem with an open line.”
The 29-year-old singer-songwriter from Albany Park has since answered his own question: He’s one of Chicago’s most promising musicians. After the release of that album — which feels like a next-door neighbor to Bob Dylan and David Bowie and was dubbed a “fully formed, fleshed-out ace debut” by the online music magazine Aquarium Drunkard — Kazar’s profile has steadily risen. Last year, he shared the stage with indie rockers the New Pornographers on the West Coast, toured Europe with Kevin Morby, and opened for Grammy winner Lucinda Williams before doing a sold-out show of his own at the Hungry Brain in Roscoe Village.
Jeff Tweedy has said that Kazar knows how to perform “a magic trick very few people can pull off: making something brand new sound like a cherished memory.” The Wilco frontman has been familiar with those sounds longer than most. Since Kazar was 12, he has collaborated with Tweedy’s son Spencer, including handling bass duties in the father-son collaboration appropriately named Tweedy. He was also a member (as Liam Cunningham, his birth name) of Kids These Days, whose debut album was produced by Jeff Tweedy, and its spinoff band Marrow.
But going solo hasn’t been simple. When the pandemic halted the live music business while Kazar was recording Due North, he pivoted temporarily, opening a pop-up Armenian and Persian restaurant. “Now I sort of do it when I can and when I want to,” he says. “Music is luckily giving me plenty of work.”
Luck, though, isn’t the driving force behind Kazar’s climb. Soft-spoken and meticulous in his craft, he is focused on finishing a follow-up album that he calls “a tiptoe towards melodrama [with] lots of heart-on-the-sleeve moments.” That sounds like the best kind of magic trick — one that keeps the audience guessing what’s next.