Female First - Interview
Lisa Marie Presley has been away from the music scene for seven years but this week marks her return with a new album Storm & Grace.
I caught up with the singer/song-writer to chat about the new album, the new sound and what lies ahead.
- You are about to release your new album Storm & Grace so what can fans expect from this new record?
I think it is just more of a broken down, stripped down, organic record than I have done before. It is less produced and it is more of a rootsy and Americana album; it was written in England ha-ha.
- As you say the album is more stripped back and there are soul and folk elements to this record so how does this album differ to what you have done before? And why did you choose to go down this path?
I didn't really choose as I just came here (to England) for inspiration to get as far away as I could. I worked with different people to experiment and see what would happen - Richard Hawley Fran Healey, Ed Harcourt and this sound this sound just naturally evolved.
I wasn't listen to anything and I didn't try it just started happening and this very organic and rootsy record just rose and began a phenomenon. And no matter who I wrote with it was just kind of there from that point on.
- You have written with all of these great writers, most of which are British, so how did those collaborations come about? And how did you find working with them?
I was friends with Simon Fuller and I just asked him if he could help me get away. He was set up over here and I just thought that I could find some new inspiration if I came this far away and completely separated.
It was like starting my life from zero because I got rid of a lot of things that were around me and that I had lived with for a long time. I needed to shake things off and was ready to go far away.
So he helped facilitate me coming here and getting with different writers and they were, of course, all English. As I was a lover of English music I knew Richard Hawley well and I kind of suggested that.
It was like doing experiments; it was supposed to be for two months but it lasted for eight and nine months and I wrote about thirty songs with all of these people.
- T-Bone Burnett has produced the album so how did that happen?
After I wrote the album I went back to the States and sold everything and was about to move to England. Simon Fuller was managing me at the time and he sent over some demos of the songs that I had written to T-Bone - I kind of mentioned in passing that working with him would be a dream of mine.
The next think I knew I got an email saying that T-Bone had heard the songs that I had written and really wanted to meet with me and talk about doing a record.
- You have said that this was a dram collaboration for you so how did you find meeting him for the first time and then going on to work with him?
Initially meeting him I was in awe because I have been such a big fan of his work for such a long time. He is about 7ft 5in, I am exaggerating but he is very tall, but he is very enigmatic, grandiose, dynamic figure and I was in awe of him.
But he is a sweetheart and we got along just fine right off the bat. He said 'I don't want to do a big song and dance I like the record and the sound that it is heading in and this when I can do it'. So I was excited and we arranged to collaborate.
- He has had a very long and illustrious career so what does his experience bring to this album?
He has his musicians that he loves to bring into different projects and then he authenticates it in his way.
He was very sweet to say that the sound was there already and the seed was planted but then he comes in and puts his own water and flowers on it, as he does with everything he works on. We recorded it live; sixteen songs in twelve days.
- How did you find that recording live process? And have you ever recorded like that before?
No I hadn't. I was really nervous because the musicians that he uses are outstanding and it was something that I hadn't done before so it was something that I had to get use to.
But it was something that really challenged me and made me up my game quite a bit I would say.
- This is your first record in seven years so why have you been away from the music scene for so long and what made you ready to return?
I have been through a lot of different things and changed what I was doing and who I was around as well as having some rude awakenings.
I needed to change my life and shake off some barnacles, that is a good way to put it, and start again. So it was a process of deconstructing everything and then moving into the middle of absolutely nowhere in a different country and starting from ground zero - but I just needed to do that.
During that process I was writing and so the record came during the period of reconstructing my life.
- I suppose this is the kind of album that many people will have expected you to make many years ago so did the folk/blues/Americana sound come quite easily to you when you were writing?
Yes it came very easily and it was very natural. I think a little bit of the first two albums was about me trying on different outfits and trying not to do what was expected - for better or for worse rebelling is in my DNA.
When left to my own devices and given the freedom I tend to do the right thing and being allowed to be free and do and write what I wanted I just naturally wrote the right record for me voice.
- And how have you seen your writing develop over the years - this seems like the most personal record you have ever made from a song-writing perspective?
I always feel that my song-writing is the same in terms of exercising demons and situations in my life. I feel like the process is the same no matter who I am with; we agree on the melody and then they leave me alone and I write all of the lyrics and figure out the words for five or seven hours and walk out with a demo.
I have always been consistent in the way that I song write. I would say that when I wrote this record I was in a more vulnerable, organic, naked state emotionally and spiritually so that is definitely different than the previous angry songs on other records.
- How have you found the response to the record so far?
It has been incredible. It has been overwhelmingly good in terms of reviews and the critics and the feedback has been incredible.
This is not a mainstream record for me or a pop record and so the response from people who really love music has been incredible. That has been great.
- You became a mother again three years ago to twins so how do you find balancing work and being a parent?
That has been tough because it is something that means a lot to me - everything is around their schedule. I am doing all of this stuff for the album at the moment and while I love doing it I worry that I don't get to see them or I am running off. It is tricky but it needs to be done.
It is a constant effort to make sure, as much as I can, things are planned around their schedule and around them being with me and near by - so it is definitely a juggling act.
Plus I have two older ones who are still not in any less need of me and I also need them. So my two older one travel in and out constantly. So it is definitely juggling.
- Earlier this year you opened Elvis... Through His Daughter's Eyes so can you tell me a bit about the exhibition and how important it was to get that up and running?
Mostly we like to change things up and this was just an idea to add into the mix that is not so much focused on the iconic part.
It changes up the tour a little bit and focuses a little more on the personal side and on him as a father any my relationship with him.
The point was to focus more on the human side of things and that was important because it was very much a part of who he was - it was a nice thing to put together.
- Back to your music and are we going to be seeing you play any live shows?
I played a couple of weeks ago at Ronnie Scott's and we are hoping to set up something over the next few weeks. But then I head back to the States and I am performing there again.
- Finally what's coming up for you between now and the end of the year?
More performances; I will be playing at Carnegie Hall and a few different stops in between, It is kind of unfolding week to week and it could all change tomorrow. I am really hoping for a big Fall tour.
Lisa Marie Presley - Storm and Grace is out now