Monday, October 7, 2013

Lissie interview: Bonus bits

Saviour of FM rock Lissie Maurus releases her second album, Back To Forever, next week. While the record doesn't break any boundaries (Pat Benatar could have won a Grammy for it in 1982) it's also excellent - a fist-pumping, singalong, bundle of joy.

The new single is Sleepwalking - a dreamy breakup ballad that, thankfully, sheds its similarities to The Stereophonics' Have A Nice Day after the intro ends.

Already on Radio 2's A-list, the video has just premiered on YouTube.

Lissie - Sleepwalking

I interviewed Lissie earlier this year, a couple of days after her UK comeback gig. We discussed break-ups, summer jobs and being "big in Norway" - and you can [read the BBC article here]. But there are always some quotes that get excised due to the 1,000 word limit, so here's a few bonus questions.

It's strange that we're speaking in April, but the album doesn't come out 'til September.

I think there's a strategy to it. If the album didn't come out in the spring, it made more sense to put it out in the fall than the summer. Those are things that they [the record label] know through market research and things.... The stuff that luckily I don't have to think about, because I'm business-minded, but not to that degree,

Why didn't you spend the extra time recording a Christmas song?
I should probably think about writing a Christmas song one of these days. Write some hits and let the cheques roll in!

How do you go about writing lyrics?
You have to consider 'is this going to be a pain in the ass to sing?'

On the album, there's the song I Don't Want To Go To Work: That phrase is very jarring, so you have to sing "ay-on-wanna" instead of "I. Don't. Want. To." It sounds silly, but I have to think about whether I can sing something night after night without destroying my vocal cords.

One thing I noticed with this new record is that some of the songs have really high notes. I was like, why did I write this song so high?

The thing is that high, strained notes give a song a sense of urgency, don't they?
Yeah, but take my song When I'm Alone - we never play it in the key it's recorded in. You record in chunks sometimes - so I can sing a really high note when I'm just starting at the chorus, but when you're singing the entire song it's a real workout.

Do you prefer playing live?
Everything grew from loving to perform live. I was in musicals as a kid. I was Annie! And so I think that performing is my forte.

You've really captured your live sound on this album.
Thanks - but I don't think you can ever bridge the gap completely, because in the studio it's too tempting to want to do overdubs. So there's four guitar parts on the record, but on stage we can only play two of them.

What was recording like?
I wanted my band to play on it – because I didn't know them when I made my first record. I didn't really want it to be electronic. I've seen a lot of great bands who use laptops, but I wanted to do something that four people can get on stage and pull off.

I love when my guitar player Eric Sullivan does his solos - and it doesn't maybe always work on record, but I fought for it on a few songs. Like Romance Police – it didn't have that guitar build in the middle, but I said "we've really got to put that moment in the song".

There were more times when I'd be like, "let's put a two minute guitar solo at the end" and the producer and the label would go, "hmm, I don't know about that".

Lissie - Romance Police

It's a more straightforward album than Catching A Tiger. The songs are all broadly country rock.
I wanted it to be more cohesive because the first album felt like a sampler of all the different things I do. They're still in me. I can still pick up an acoustic guitar and play a folk song. I write folk songs for myself that I don't play for anyone. But I wanted there to be that cohesion. For people who liked In Sleep and When I'm Alone, this album from start to finish is in that world.

When I saw you play in Shepherd's Bush in 2010, you were very excited to have two guitars on stage for the first time. How many do you have now?
Still just two. I used to have to tune my own guitar. I can still do it, but it's just awkward when there's that space between each song where it's like, "alright, you guys talk amongst yourselves for a while!"

So what's the goal with this record?
I want to be as successful as I can be, I should say that first. There's a part of me that's slightly afraid of success. I can kind of sabotage myself. But I would love to be recouped. I would love to sell millions of albums and to be able to play to 5,000 people anywhere I went in the world. I'd love to be on Saturday Night Live, on Taratata in Paris or to play Jools Holland again. But I'd also like to be low key. I have to figure out how to do both.

So how do you get away from it all?
When I'm touring I'm on a schedule but then when I'm home I get to decide what I want to do for the day. And I feel like doing nothing!

Get up and go for a hike, then I'll have a long lunch and sit outside a read a book, then I'll have a bath and I'm going to watch Game of Thrones and have a bottle of wine.

I know a lot of people don't have that luxury but I have friends who would be driven crazy by that!

I have months where I don’t really have much to do. But I'm a planner – I know how to use downtime wisely.

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