An EXCLUSIVE Interview With Folk Singer-Songwriter Extraordinaire, LISSIE!!
Posted On 17 Apr 2015
Tag: All Access, All Access Music Group, Anne & Mitt Romney, Artist Interview, Austin City Limits, Back To Forever, bad romance, Best Breakthrough Artist, Best New Solo Artist, Bestival, Bill Reynolds, Bobbie Gentry, Bonnaroo, Catching A Tiger, Coachella, Covered Up With Flowers, Did That Hurt?, Dido, Dimmi Shoes, Everybody, Fleetwood Mac, Further Away(Romance Police), Glastonbury, In Sleep, Isle Of Wight, John Prine, Kendrick Lamar, Kid Cudi, Lady Gaga, Laura's Legacy, Lissie, Lollapalooza, Metallica, Morgan Page, Nothing Else Matters, Ojai, Paste Magazine, Pursuit Of Happiness, Rolling Stone, Secret Garden Party, Shepherd's Bush, Snow Patrol, SXSW, Tonight Show With Jay Leno, Townes Van Zandt, V, VH1, You Oughta Know
“I gotta keep my identity and focus on what I can do,” goes the chorus of “Shameless,” the first single from Lissie’s album, Back to Forever. “I don’t want to be famous, if I got to be shameless” she sings with equal parts strength and insecurity.
It’s less of an introduction to the Illinois-born/California-resident’s second album and more of a laying out of her entire ideology in a three-minute song. It’s classic Lissie, which is to say, every bit as frank as the songs on Catching A Tiger, her 2010 debut album. Catching A Tiger has sold over 250,000 copies worldwide, been certified Gold in the UK and Norway and led to Paste Magazine naming her Best New Solo Artist. VH1 tapped her as a You Oughta Know artist and she has received a Q Awards nomination for Best Breakthrough Artist.
She has performed at every festival (including Coachella, Glastonbury, SXSW, Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits, Bonnaroo, V, Isle Of Wight, Bestival and Secret Garden Party). She’s had various television appearances and film/TV song placements plus a live CD/DVD of her sold-out show at London’s Shepherd’s Bush. Lissie has even released a five-song EP called Covered Up With Flowers that features her take on songs like Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance,” Kid Cudi’s “Pursuit Of Happiness” and Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters”. She’s even begun developing her own blend of mezcal (that’s booze made from the agave plant).
As if all this wasn’t enough to get you interested in Lissie, here’s an exclusive interview with her:
Thanks for answering a few questions for All Access! I am a HUGE fan of yours so this is a real treat! So where does this interview find you today?
Why, thank you! I’m on a flight to Chicago for my cousins wedding!
Did you make any new years resolutions? Have you been keeping them?
Yes, I made some! I have been starting my day with sun salutations (yoga), a 20 min meditation, a smoothie & vitamins. I also try and get at least 30 min of physical activity in everyday and also 30 plus min of reading. I also meditate in the afternoons. I’ve managed to keep this up. It helps I’ve given up drinking for a while! 🙂
Do you still live in lovely Ojai? What’s life like there for a musician? With all the touring that you do, how often do you just get to sit back with a glass of wine at home?
Yea I do, but I think I should stop talking about it because it seems to be hip at the moment and I have mixed emotions about that! Haha
I like to stay at home & get some hikes in too. There’s a music scene but I sorta keep to myself. Being home is a pretty solo experience I enjoy. I’ve been off the road since Sept so I’ve had lots of time of late to enjoy!
Can you remember the moment that you wanted to be a musician or rather what was the moment you knew you could do this successfully for a living?
I’ve always loved to sing & write songs and just sort of assumed from a young age that I’d be a performer! I can’t remember a time that I didn’t feel that way.
How do you think you have you grown as a musician since you started? How has your sound changed since your albums, Catching A Tiger and Back to Forever?
I’m not sure if it’s growth” and it’s hard for me to analyze myself. In a simple sort of way, I’m writing a lot less about romance and more about my relationship to the world around me. For better or worse, I’m a bit harder & more cynical than I might’ve been. I work on keeping my innocence & optimism though!
You have an amazing voice. I assume you take very good care of it. How have you maintained that tone and sound through the years?
Thank you. I have always had a big, loud voice that’s grown stronger with use. The best thing I can do for it is to warm up and keep it in shape to get the endurance & power I need. Unfortunately I smoke so that’s bad but I’m quitting that nonsense for good any day now haha I also steam, go on vocal rest & drink throat coat tea when I tour!
What’s your songwriting process like? Where do you find the inspiration for songs? Is that always changing?
There’s lots of ways to write a song. My favorite songs are the ones that just come all at once when I’m not even trying. Of course that’s not always the case! I’m constantly humming and singing melodies to myself though. I actually sing-talk to my dog around the house. It’s unconscious and I come up with a lot of good melodies that way! Haha. Other times I’m reacting to some overwhelming emotion or if I cowrite, trying to be a bit more clever than just purely emoting.
What are your favorite songs to perform?
“Everywhere I Go”, “Back to Forever” and “In Sleep”.
How do you choose what songs to cover?
Random! It’ll just occur to me “hey I like that song” & I’ll learn it on the guitar , maybe change the key to fit my vocal range & show my band. It’s usually gotta have a lyric or energy I relate to.
More times than not, influences tend to bleed through. What artists have consistently inspired you? Who are some of your all-time favorite bands?
I’m sure there are many. I don’t clearly know who they are though. I really admire songwriters like Bobbie Gentry, John Prine & Townes van zandt and could only wish to be that great at lyrics!
You’ve worked with many incredible artists like Morgan Page, Bill Reynolds, Snow Patrol and more. Who has really stood out to you? And who would you still love to work with in the future?
Yeah I’ve gotten to work with lots of different kinds of artists & it’s always flattering when they seek me out! Bill Reynolds and I are working on a new album now! I’d love to go all Dido/ Eminem and get a song of mine’s chorus/ hook on a rap song! Kendrick Lamar perhaps!
Thus far, what’s a favorite memory or something quirky that’s taken place (in-studio, onstage, or elsewhere)?
I still giggle when I see the photo of our bass player, Lewis photo bombing Anne & Mitt Romney when we were on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
Do you have any pre-performance rituals? What do you love best about performing live? What’s been a favorite venue to perform at?
Steaming my vocal cords, warming up, I was doing tequila & red wine but I’m not sure if that’ll be the case when touring picks up again. I love when my mind stops & I just sing and it’s so cathartic. When the band and I are in sync, just feeling the energy and having fun! That’s the best! Norway is always awesome in general. They are down to earth fun loving folks and we have great shows there!
We know what an amazing singer and musician you are, but a lot of people do not know about your connection to the medical community and awareness of ALS. Can you tell us a little bit about this? Last summer kept you busy with concerts for this, correct?
I lost my Aunt Laura to ALS in 2010. It’s such an awful disease with no known cause or cure. My cousins, family & I took part in a walk to defeat ALS and our team name was Laura’s Legacy. We then started an annual concert in my hometown of Rock Island, Ill. to raise money for the ALS division of our local MDA. This year will be the 4th annual event. We’ve raised over $20,000 so far! It’s a way to celebrate my aunt’s memory while engaging the community. I still can’t believe she’s gone and it’s been such a tragedy for my family & I. My heart goes out to anyone who’s experienced this terrible disease. I’ve also teamed up with Dimmi Shoes who sponsored our event last year to create a Laura’s Legacy boot, ball caps & totes whose proceeds go to ALS related organizations.
How cool is it that Rolling Stone considers your song “Further Away(Romance Police)” one of the 16 Best Fleetwood Mac songs not performed by them? Do you agree with it?
It’s awesome! Fleetwood Mac are brilliant & I love the Stevie comparisons I’ll hear sometimes too. Of course it’s a huge compliment! Agree? I dunno, it’s their list! Haha. I don’t think much about that stuff.
Is there anything in particular that you’d like people to take away from listening to your music?
I hope it’s a release, is moving and soothing. I put a lot of heart into what I do, say & how I sing. I hope that feeling is felt and comforting / uplifting! And I’m grateful to those who listen! You allow me to do what I love for a living!