Interview: Lissie (On her new album: “My Wild West”)

By Kat Collison

Photography by Heidi Ross

Prior to her O2 Academy Oxford gig, I sent Lissie some questions regarding her new album, her work as an artist and her upcoming tour.

1) Firstly, how did you get into music? I’ve read that you had various jobs including working selling honey, so was music always the bigger dream?

Hello! I have been singing since I was a young child. I took voice lessons, was in musicals, taught myself guitar and started writing songs as I grew up in Rock Island, Illinois. I always knew that I loved to sing, express myself, tell my stories and perform. There was never really a plan b and I moved to LA when I was 21 with the sole purpose of being “discovered”, blindly confident that I would be! Haha but yes, I had some odd jobs along the way to pay the bills!

2) You make your own tequila. Is this your favourite alcoholic drink?

I did a limited run of tequila and mescal.. “Lissie Edition”! A friend of mine already had been importing from Mexico and so I went to meet his producers and thought it would be fun to team up. But I sold all the bottles in the limited run and decided that was enough. I’m not looking to be in the liquor business. The music business is hard enough! Yes, I love good red wine. Pinot Noir is my go to and I drink a lot of it!

3) What was the first album you ever bought? (Bit of a cliché question: apologies!)

I’ve been asked this and when I try to remember, I think it was “Rhythm Nation” by Janet Jackson.

4) Your first album, ‘Catching a Tiger’ was released in 2010. How do you think you’ve progressed musically since then?

That’s a hard question! I can’t quite see myself like that. BUT! in the years since ‘Catching a Tiger’ came out… my voice has gotten stronger and I’ve gained a better sense for what the instruments other than myself add & how and where! Before ‘Catching a Tiger’ came out, I hadn’t really played a lot with a band, so after 5 years of promoting and touring, I guess I have a much better feel for being a part of a group of players. The rhythm, the space, etc..

5) One of my favourite tracks of yours is “They All Want You” from Back to Forever. What was the inspiration behind this song in particular?

Thanks! That song was inspired by a guy that I had dated in LA. He was always “on” for others, for strangers, etc.. but never quite there for me. However, I have been that same person at times. When I was on tour a few years back, a different boyfriend was on the road and I found myself giving so much of myself to others and he was the last in line for my energy. Sometimes we really take for granted those closest to us.

6) The new album ‘My Wild West’, I’ve read, is about you returning home from your time spent in L.A. Do you think this will alter your material in the future?

‘My Wild West’ is really an overview of the 12 years I spent in California. 5 years in Hollywood, the title of the first track and 7 years in Ojai, the title of the final track. It wasn’t intentional but as I was working on the material for this album and kinda going back & forth on whether I was even wanting to make an album, this body of work happened! It then became apparent somewhere in the process, that my California chapter was coming to an end and that I was ready for a new challenge. I bought a farm in NE Iowa closer to my family and back to my roots. I do think that my new life.. as it unfolds, will definitely influence how I write and create! How though, remains to be seen!

7) What do you like, if anything, about touring/ performing in the UK?

I have been really fortunate in the UK to gather a great group of loyal, supportive and enthusiastic fans! I really feel the love when I am over there performing. I have also been lucky to get radio and TV support in a meaningful way and think there’s a bit of a love affair between the UK and myself.

8) What’s been your proudest moment in your music career so far?

Another hard question! The morning that my first album, ‘Catching a Tiger’ came out, it was all so new and exciting. It felt like it was my birthday and Christmas all in one! And then my band and I played a great stage at Glastonbury and people turned up and were into it. I was like “wow, this is all kinda happening”! I felt like all the years of waiting and working were starting to really pay off.

9) One of my favourite things about your music is the use of guitar solo, particularly in “Further Away (Romance Police)” and “In Sleep”. Are these spur-of-the-moment/ improvised or carefully composed?

I love guitar solos! “In Sleep” was played by a Nashville guitar player, Paul Moak. If I remember correctly, Paul played a bunch of takes & the producer, Jacquire King chose from them. Eric Sullivan played guitar on “Further Away” and I think he sat with the song and composed that part. Eric has toured with me that past 6 years and is just a jaw droopingly amazing guitar player!

10) I’ve been lucky enough to have listened to the new album My Wild West already and am especially taken with some of the lyrics in one of the singles: “Hero.” In particular: “I want my forty acres in the sun”. Do you feel therefore, that musically, you can flourish more in the Midwest rather than in L.A.?

It’s not really about flourishing musically. It’s about being happy and finding a life and environment that makes me feel good & fulfilled. Singing and writing are in me always, no matter where I am or to what scale I do it on.

11) Finally, bit of a random one, I’m just interested as to the use of the bird sample on “Sun Keeps Risin’” off of the new album. Can you tell us more about the bird in question?

“Sun Keeps Risin’” is a song I wrote about losing my Aunt Laura. The bird sound is the coo of a dove. I always found that sound comforting growing up & it reminds me of being a kid, of simpler times.

Lissie press shot lo res

Lissie’s 2016 album: My Wild West is available to download from iTunes now. 

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