On most days, Liam Lis is a typical 14-year-old kid living in New York City. The eighth grader at The Browning School is on the basketball team. His mom reminds him to do his homework. He’s a big brother to sister Zarielle, 8, and brothers Quinn, 7, and Liev, 5.
On other days he’s hard at work creating a name for himself as a singer-songwriter, walking the red carpet at the MTV Video Music Awards, taking the stage with “Trap Queen” rapper Fetty Wap at Stage 48, a New York City nightclub, or opening for such acts as Fifth Harmony and fellow teen Silento, whose .
Weekender first met Liam at his sound check on Oct. 30 at the Kingston Armory. He opened for Silento, whose “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)” single took the world by storm. He was on stage when we arrived, looking relaxed, focused and familiar with his set.
Off stage, Liam’s mom, Melissa, said they drove in from the city that morning, and they’d be traveling back after his performance. She said Liam missed school for the show, and expressed appreciation for his principal for being supportive of his music. It’s important to Melissa and her husband, Harry, who works in real estate, that Liam balance music with being a normal kid in school.
“You can never go wrong with a good education,” Melissa said. “Learning to balance his music with being in school teaches him to work hard, and he’ll need to work really hard to make it big in music.”
When Liam’s sound check was over, he rolled up to introduce himself, gliding on an IO Moonwalker, one of those self-balancing mobility devices.
He said he’s excited to perform an unreleased song for the audience, “Number One Girl.” The song is a collaboration with Fetty Wap and will be released in January.
Our greeting was short. Liam was running behind schedule, and had to rush to 98.5 KRZ for an interview.
Following his radio interview, we met with Liam at Pizza Bella in Kingston. Liam mentioned how his path to prominence crosses with Northeastern Pennsylvania often, because his tour manager, Bob Mehalick, lives in Hazleton.
“I perform here a lot,” Liam said. In March 2014, he performed at The Mall at Steamtown in Scranton. In July 2014 he took the stage at the KRZ Summer Smash concert at the Scranton Cultural Center.
In January, he performed a benefit show for Aubrielle Marsicano, from Hazleton, at West Hazleton Elementary and Middle School. He said that was his biggest accomplishment as a performer.
“I read this story online about this little baby girl who had (a bacterial infection) and had to have her legs and some fingers amputated,” Liam said. “Because Bob was from the same area, I asked him what we could do to help her out. So we threw a benefit concert. We raised like $6,000. I sang this song for her that I wrote called ‘If You Fall.’ It was very emotional, but really cool, to share that with her and dedicate the song to her, and to know my music could really help someone.”
When it comes to his music, Liam said he knows he’s likely to be compared to Justin Bieber. “He’s very talented, but I’m not him,” he said.
Liam said he’s determined to find a sound of his own that mixes pop, urban and trap music and uses his skills as a classically trained pianist, drummer and songwriter.
As he folded his pizza like a true New Yorker, Liam talked about his future goals. He dreams of playing Madison Square Garden and winning an MTV Video Music Award. He attend his first VMAs in August.
“I got to see artists that I listen to that I never thought I’d see in person, like Selena Gomez, and Taylor Swift, and Nicki Minaj, and it made me want to do what they’re doing and work hard to be where they’re at,” Liam said.
Back at the armory, Liam practiced with his backup dancers, Charles Espinoza and Norbert Reyes. Charles confirmed they share a tight relationship.
“There’s a lot happening to him and he stays humble with all of the big things coming his way,” Charles said. “A lot of people in this business are so busy that they get detached from their family. His mother is always by his side to keep him grounded.”
Liam took the stage to hype the crowd for Silento. His on-stage persona was enthusiastic, polished and commanded attention from the crowd.
Moments after his performance, Liam’s mom called him to the car.
“Let me just say good-bye to one more person, it’s really important,” Liam said.
“I said let’s go, now,” his mom demanded.
He may be a big deal on stage, but when the lights go down and the music stops, Liam is just another 14-year-old kid who has to listen to his mom.
Reach Justin at 570-991-6652 or on Twitter @TLArts. Follow him on Instagram and Snapchat @justinadambrown