If you’ve been reading this blog, or like what may be classed as ‘folk rock’, you’ll probably be aware of Lissie: a thirty-something singer from the US, who has just released her latest album, ‘My Wild West’. Currently, she’s on tour, but stopped to talk to us way back in December. Here, we find out a little more about her career, album, and more:
Hello Lissie, thank you for agreeing to this interview. You’ve previously said that you’ve had a variety of jobs; do you recall what you aspired to be as a child?
Hello and yes! Thank you! I always knew I wanted to be a singer and performer! But I’ve also worked at an ice cream shop, at a pool, sold honey and more!
How did you first become signed as an artist?
The simple version of it is that I was discovered by a woman in LA which led to a production deal which led to a record deal which led to meeting my manager which led to yet another record deal… and from that first discovery it only took like 6 years to put my first record out! Haha! But i loved every minute of it!
Do you recall what was the first record you ever bought?
Pretty sure it was Rhythm nation by Janet Jackson cause I would put on shows in the basement to it! So good!
What attracted you most to the folk rock genre?
I still have trouble figuring out my “genre”. I always sang and had stories that I wanted to tell. Guitar was a way to accompany myself, so being able to do my own thing & not seek out other people maybe led to being a “singer/ songwriter/ rhythm guitar player” ? The production or band dynamic I think, is what defines the genre and I’ve played with a rock band but also have done vocals on dance tunes. So I think the definition will shift and change as I go along.
I’ve also worked at an ice cream shop, at a pool, sold honey and more!
When touring, what would you consider essential to have with you?
A water bottle, facial moisturizer and eye drops! Boring I know! But gotta stay hydrated!
How do you prepare to write an album?
Oh I’ve been thinking about this question a lot. I write when I feel like I have something to say and then I enjoy co-writing with great musicians and writers I’ve met & connected with over the years. But I think the more you prepare to be creative the less heartfelt it can feel. So I’m always considering that balance! With this album, “My Wild West”, it was a different approach. In the past I was on a set time line and had lots of factors to consider, like labels and budgets. Because I was in charge this time around, I really just created as I felt like it!
How did ‘My Wild West’ come to fore?
“My wild west” came together in weirdly connected pieces. I had been writing lots of songs over the past couple years. I started working on the album with some folks and it just seemed like it was a forced “we gotta get out a record” kind of vibe. So I decided to take a break and bought a farm in Iowa. As soon as I decided that I wasn’t really trying to make an album, I made one. I took recordings I’d done with the band and a couple other folks to producer Curt Schneider with the idea of finishing up just a few tracks to throw on the internet. But as we finished those tunes, I started writing and bringing in more new songs. We just playfully tracked and before I knew it, I had an albums worth of material. It was eerie too because I was writing these songs that predicted my move to Iowa before I had even considered doing so. Then with tunes like “Hollywood” and “Ojai” as bookends to the record.. I realized I had laid out a set of stories about my time in California. It was a way to sum up that chapter of my life before taking off on a new adventure and returning to my roots in the American Midwest.
How did you begin writing for it?
Like I said in the above. I just wrote mostly as I felt I had an idea or something to say. There was no set deadline so I took my time to just do what felt natural.
I think the more you prepare to be creative the less heartfelt it can feel. So I’m always considering that balance!
What’s the song ‘Daughters’ about?
“Daughters” was inspired by Leymah Gbowee and this great documentary called “Pray The Devil Back to Hell”, which tells the story of how women in a civil war torn Liberia banded together and peacefully protested. Thousands of Christian and Muslim women came together. They were so sick of the violence and of their male children being armed and their daughters being raped, that they were no longer afraid to die. Through their peaceful protest, they were able to get the president into peace talks that ultimately led to the election of a female president and peace. I think that in these scary times, I’m interested in the role women have to play in bringing resolution where there’s conflict in a non aggressive way.
Often in song writing, you’ve focused on prominent issues; what were ‘Shameless’ and ‘Cold Fish’ about?
For my 2nd full length album “Back To Forever” I wrote “Shameless” and “Cold Fish”. I was seeing the superficial side of the music industry. I think I was a little bitter maybe, that being a good singer with something to say and a good work ethic was not enough. I had been friends with other artists who knew how to climb the ladder & network & play the part. Not only did you need to be talented but also brutally ambitious! I just wanted to be myself and feel like that was enough. After I’ve stepped away though and reassessed my goals, I no longer feel the need to comment on or worry about what others are doing. I feel pretty good about my position and life in general.
What do you think about performing Vs Recording?
I think that live performance is my strong suit. When it’s all in the moment and you feel that adrenaline from a crowd. I’ve gotten better over they years at channeling some of that raw energy in the studio, but its taken time. I enjoy both experiences in very different ways. There’s a lot of waiting around in the studio and I can be a bit anxious.. so I’m learning to embrace it!
When taking time off, where would we find you?
When I have down time, I wanna be at home. I like organising and cleaning. I cook, drink wine, watch TV, go for walks. I pretty much do whatever I feel like. My dog is happy when I’m home!
Who would we find in your record collection?
I feel like I listen to less new music the older I get. I’ve been driving a lot lately though and have gotten into shuffling my iTunes catalog. I like to play this game with it.. like “ok, give me something I need for my current emotional state” and most of the time its spot on! haha. There’s a new Jeff Lynne’s ELO record out “Alone in The Universe” which to me is an instant classic and I cannot get enough!
What attracts you most of all to fantasy literature?
It somehow got written about me / into my wiki that I’m an AVID fantasy literature fan, which isn’t exactly true. I have loved Harry Potter, His Dark Materials and Hurakami’s 1Q84 though, so I suppose it’s kinda true! I like to consider the idea of the multiple universe theory and that all these different realities exist parallel to one another. Keeping my mind open to all these magical possibilities is fun for me!
For people who wish to follow in your footsteps, do you have any advice?
I’m not sure that I do. I think that a lot of what I aspire towards happens in the ways I least expect. Recently I listened to Amy Poehler’s book “Yes Please” as well as Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Big Magic” and some of what they shared is this concept of ambivalence. I’ve been trying to practice this… don’t be invested in the outcome, just do what you’re doing and have faith.
Random: Do you like or loathe poetry?
I like poetry but most of the time I feel like I don’t understand it. Haha. My lyrics are very literal so I’m a bit of a dum-dum to see through all the imagery & metaphors and find the meaning sometimes.
Thank you very much, Lissie, for answering our questions, and Hayley at Six07 Press. To purchase tickets or ‘My Wild West’, click here.