Lissie talks to Steve Loftin in this exclusive GIGsoup interview. Edited by Fraisia Dunn.
Back in December, Lissie was in the middle of a small UK tour to promote her upcoming release ‘My Wild West’. The date she was due to play at Manchester Academy 2 became a logistical disaster due to a recent storm. Stranded on a train, she had to cancel the interview we originally had planned, and almost the gig itself. Fortunately, she made it to the gig (you can read our review here) and we even got to have a chat over the phone the following Monday, when she’d just arrived in Bristol.
The night in question saw her run from the station to the venue and straight onto the stage. Of course we completely felt for her, we’ve all been in that travel situation, just without the added extra of almost a thousand people awaiting our arrival. Being the professional, she handled it with complete and utter grace, “I like ran up to the dressing room and burst into tears for a second and then I was like “pull yourself together!” [laughing] I gave myself like a quick pep talk and downed a glass of wine…it just took a few songs to get in the flow where I was finally like alright, everything’s ok!”.
This solo tour was a product of Lissie trying to take a step back from the whole music industry cycle, she’s even moved back to the Midwest. This was her way of finding something fresh in a stale situation that had lost its excitement almost:
“It’s almost like quantum physics, as wacky as that sounds. There’s this principal in physics that through the process of observation [it] alters that which is being observed and sometimes if you take something and you put all this energy on it and you just stare at it, it’s like you change what it is…This year I actually decided to take a break and I didn’t want to make an album. I just felt like there was this pressure of people that I was working with, who were, rightfully so, being like, “What are you gonna do? You should make an album”. I felt like it was forced and just not fun anymore, so I’m gonna take a break, I’m gonna buy a farm in Iowa…and sort of take a break.
“In order to make money I’ll just get in my car and i’ll drive around the states and play concerts. I felt like I could tour manage myself and just like go back to the basics, it’s actually pretty badass, I’m like reclaiming my life. So that was sort of what started the solo thing and it was going so well that i figured well I should go over Europe and do a similar thing.”
This planned break wasn’t originally to work on music, but as with all musicians, this plan didn’t stick, “While I was deciding to take a break, and once I took the pressure off, I still had some songs that I started and I didn’t want to not ever finish them so I went to this producer in LA, Curt Schneider, and I just brought him like a couple of songs…and when they’re done i’m just gonna put them on the internet, that was the whole premise…but once you took all this pressure off and I was having so much fun…it turned into this thing like ‘wow I’ve got an album!’ Once I had that, my manger was showing it to people, he was really patient with me through all this…we got such great feedback and a handful of labels were like, we want to put this out but I wanted to stay indie, I wanted to own my record, so i’m teaming up with Cooking Vinyl and Thirty Tigers to distribute and market it…so it’s sort of a balance between being independent and having a team.”
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‘My Wild West’ is a triumphant return, with the album being both one of her strongest and actually being a medium for her to realise her future plans, “I wrote ‘My Wild West’ (track) and it’s this song about stepping out on your own, taking a risk and believing you can have anything. Like i’m going rogue in the wild wild west, [laughing] it just sort of came to me and at the point when I wrote ‘My Wild West’ I had no idea that I was going to move to Iowa, it wasn’t even on my radar.
“One day I had to move back to the Midwest. I wanted to buy something, I’m getting older, I want to be closer to my family and I want land. I’ve always had this dream of having a farm and why not just go for it? I didn’t decide that till after I’d written a lot of these songs that almost kind of like predicted this shift, it was like the songs were writing themselves and pointing me in the right direction subconsciously. We have the song ‘Hollywood’ and this song ‘Ojai’ . I spent 6 years in a small town in California called Ojai and it was like these are like bookends, this is kind of a concept album almost, it starts with ‘Hollywood ‘and it ends with ‘Ojai’, here’s the California years…and now i’m like ‘what’s next?’”
Realising a dream for anyone is a major milestone, moving back to Iowa has given her a new release, something she can direct her time on other than music, “I’ve got plans, not really to farm but i’m gonna put my land into conservation, there’s like this state program where they’ll pay you to like grow habitats for pollinators because the bees and butterflies are struggling right because of all the crazy chemicals that they use instead of conventional farming.”
It’s clear that Lissie has found happiness. She’s established in the music industry enough to be able to independently release a record. She can, through no fault of her own, be late to a gig by almost two hours and still have the entire crowd not only still present but interacting and encouraging. Now, finally back home, she’s making sure that she always remembers that happiness comes first, “I don’t really want to be famous, I just think i’m good at singing and I have something to say and that’s enough, as long as I can pay my mortgage and eat, I’m fine!”