1. As a tribute to David Bowie's unique genius and otherness, I
thought that it would be fitting to begin with a quote from him, where
he once described music as his "doorway of perception." Do
you view music in a similar way?
"Yeah, I would say that that's a BRILLIANT way to put it and when
I make music, it's just a way to process my feelings you know? Whether
it's relationships with other people, or myself, or the world around
me, I've always been making-up songs since I was really small. So, it's
just sort of a way of practising at communicating my emotions. When
I listen to music, I think it's similar, as it helps you feel things
that you maybe can't always talk about. You either have to do it
or feel it through music. So it's all about feelings I think."
2. With the increasingly popular Music Autobiography market
e.g. Bruce Springsteen has just announced that he is soon to publish
a memoir entitled 'Born To Run' if you were ever to write a book
about your life story, what do you think you may call it?
"I don't know (laughing). You know, it's funny, because I realised
right now on this last album that my label is called 'Lionboy Records'
and in the United States, I'm on a label that's distributing through
my label called 'Thirty Tigers' and the guy that does my music videos
is called Obear. So when you put those all together, it's like (chanting),
"Lions and tigers and bears! Oh my!" from The Wizard Of Oz
(laughs heartily). So, maybe something like that, something with an
animal in the title (laughing). But I don't know for sure (smiling)."
3. I absolutely LOVE your voice and understand that you think of
yourself as a singer first and foremost, even finding singing calming.
But as your vocals are so integral to your sound and stamp your identity
all over the songs that you create, I wanted to ask you if (as some
singers put it) you feel that your voice "blossomed" at a
"Hmmm... Well, I've been singing since I was a really little kid
and I was in Musical Theatre. I starred in Annie when I was 9-years-old
and I had this big belty voice and I sung night after night, so my voice
was really strong as a kid. Then maybe when I was about 12, I took some
singing lessons, to learn how to take care of my voice. But since I
hit my 20s, I think that for me, the more I stretch and learn to warm-up
my voice, and the more I tour, it just gets stronger and stronger
it's like a muscle. So, I can't tell you the exact age that I feel my
voice "blossomed", but I do think my voice is better now than
it's ever been. I'm sure when I get older though, it will change even
4. In terms of honing your songcraft, do you now know exactly how
a track should be treated sonically, length and feel etc?
"I think on this album (My Wild West), I knew a lot more about
what I wanted the other instruments to do, and what vibe and rhythm
these songs were going to have. Whereas in the past, I was working with
a lot more people who were helping me to interpret the songs. So, I
would say that as I get older and more experienced, yes, that when I
write songs I have a pretty clear idea of what I think the life they
need, or deserve, is where the drums are going to come in you
5. It was of utmost importance to Motown producers, that each and every
song should 'grab' a listener from the first few bars. Is this something
that you ever think about?
"Well, I know exactly what you mean and I think that's maybe why
I almost hit a rut a little bit at one time. Before I started making
my second album (Back To Forever), I think I was a little too concerned
/ had been led to believe that I needed to be concerned about things
like the first note 'grabbing' a listener, having a killer chorus or
having the structure be radio-worthy. I think thinking about that stuff
kind of got in my way. But I do think now that if I just try not to
think about it, that hopefully, sometimes it happens naturally on its
own so that I don't have to psyche myself out (laughing). So, I think
it's important, but for me if I think about it too much
it makes it less creative and honest somehow."
6. On a similar note, whereas some artists / bands make music with
a specific audience in mind, I read that you're happy for any radio
station to play your songs and hope that as many people enjoy listening
to your music as possible. But, does it ever bother you if your tracks
are edited for radio airplay or given a new mix to meet certain criteria
as happened with Everywhere I Go especially as you are
particularly fond of that song?
"I really love the original album version, because it was created
in a very pure, open and emotional context it was like the first
attempt and it wasn't thought about really, it was just heartfelt creativity.
But, I was made to create a radio version of that song. Then, I went
and did it and the radio didn't even play it! That even happens now!
I'm reluctant, but as you mentioned, I want as many people to hear my
music as possible, so even with my new single (Don't You Give Up On
Me), you kind of have to do a radio version, because if it's too long,
they won't play it. Which I've said at times to, "Well, then they
won't play it!" Like (dismayed tone), "I'm not going to change
my music!" But then I think that's naive to think and I'm not well-known
enough to be that stubborn (laughing). Maybe some day I'll get really
stubborn (jokingly + laughing)! But if other people were to remix my
song, like a Dance DJ, I would love it! But in terms of trying to keep
recreating myself the same song I don't really want to
do that, because it waters it down."
7. When penning a new track, you've spoken of how you hum a melody
to begin with and then start adding lyrics after this, jotting words
in a journal and recording ideas onto your mobile phone. But are you
happy to revise lyrics if this means that they'll flow better, or even
shorten verses so that they're more concise and will enable you to reach
a chorus sooner?
"I do tweak lyrics, because I think some words just don't sing
well you know? You're trying to rhyme something (pausing), like I can
write a poem and think, "Oh, that's really nice" and then
you try to sing it and it just doesn't flow. I mean, yes, I will try
and think of how I can say the same thing with words that are more easily
sung, so that you can understand them better like my decision
may be based on whether it's an 'Eee' sound or an 'Aah' sound (laughing).
So, I do consider those things sometimes, as well as the length of a
verse, but I wouldn't make it my first concern."
8. Of all the musicians, co-writers and producers youve worked
with, which one did you have the most in common with / had the biggest
influence on you + have you gleaned lots of useful tips and new skills
"I've worked with so many great people, that it's hard to choose.
The producers of all my albums up to now, have been wonderful and have
taught me so much. But, I would say though fresh in my mind
is working with Curt Schneider who executive produced My Wild West.
You know, I quote unquote executive produced because I funded it and
I oversaw it, but he really pulled all of the elements together and
helped me make this album and finish it. I would say that working with
Curt is probably one of the best experiences that I've had in the studio,
because I just felt so supported and relaxed. Like, he was real patient
and optimistic and he was open for anything that I wanted to try, then
I'd go away and he'd make it better probably (smiling). But, I just
felt really supported when I went in and told him that I was doing this
independently and I have a vision, like, "I don't even want to
release it but I'll pay you to help me finish it." And he in his
most gentle but genius way, kind of gave me the confidence that I needed
to succeed. So, I'm really grateful to him and then of course he was
glad when I was like, "Actually, I am going to put it out!"
I was just looking at my phone now and it's like # 8 on the iTunes Chart
and it was # 4 in the UK Midweek Chart (excitedly). I've never gotten
that high in The Charts even when I was on a label! So, it's
kind of cool (big smile), but I really have my fans to thank! They pay
attention to what I'm doing, even if I don't have all of the marketing
money and budgets to put my face everywhere (laughing)."
9. Have any of your songs been created from scratch in the studio?
"You know, I LOVE that and it's rare that that happens. I did something
like that recently some songs that I'm hoping to sort of maybe
release as an addition to My Wild West."
10. Is it correct that you have lots of unreleased material in your
vaults, such as a College long player, acoustic folk songs and tracks
recorded in Nashville?
"Yeah, and this also leads on from my previous answer. In October
of last year, I went to Nashville and got together with some great songwriters
and musicians and their plan was like, "Let's write and record
4 songs in a week." And we did. One of the songs was ok, but two
of the songs are just brilliant and some of the best songs that I've
done (excitedly), so moving forward, that's what I want to do
let's just write and record in one go!"
11. As a listener, if done tastefully, I think talking in a song
can really add gravitas to a track and deepen the impact / memorability
of the meaning behind the music. Some of my favourite bands who I feel
have done this to great effect, include Black Rebel Motorcycle Club,
Glasvegas, The Long Blondes, Placebo, Pulp and Suede, and I would easily
add the clever use of spoken-word dialogue in your song, I Bet On You,
to that list. So, I wondered if you can tell us more about this, and
also, do you have any treasured tracks that have interludes with speaking
"I genuinely wouldn't have thought to do that and I almost giggle
a little bit when I hear it, because it's just kind of so different,
but, I like it! I couldn't come up with a good melody for a middle 8,
so I just said, "Well look, maybe I'll just talk these lyrics."
That's a song that I've sort of let go you forget about some
of your songs and then people remind you and I'm like, "Oh yeah,
I love that one." As for some of my favourite tracks that have
spoken-word interludes, I like Lana Del Rey and she talks in some of
her songs. Who else talks in their songs (thinking)... Janet Jackson
talked in her songs sometimes right? I don't know (laughs heartily)."
12. As a guitarist, do you take many guitars on the road with you and
do you like to customise / modify them with pickups, certain brands
of strings etc?
"You know, I'm going to sound really sexist right now, but I noticed
that all of the guys that I play music with are really into their gear,
and their really into the names of things like the pickups and the effects
pedals. Whereas I'm generally (pausing), probably because I feel like
I'm a singer first and a guitar player second, but I mean, you could
just hand me some crappy guitar that's out-of-tune and sucks, and I
kind of feel that I could make it work you know? I don't think I'm very
knowledgeable about my gear and stuff, so no. But luckily, I have other
people who I respect and admire to kind of guide me. Like on this tour,
there's a guitar tech in the band and he sets everything up and makes
sure it all works that's his role, he loves that and that's what
he's passionate about."
13. Why do you think there are so few musicians celebrated as 'Guitar
"I think there are some people at least right now
that say rock is dead. I went on this cruise conference thing and there
was this expert on The Music Business, and he was saying in his talk
that at this moment in time, 'Rock Music Is Dead', which isn't true.
But in terms of commerce, music's changed so much. Like my guitar player
in my band from the last 5 or 6 years, Eric Sullivan, I mean, he's a
virtuoso for sure and I know a lot of really, really great guitar players,
but I just don't think that that's what's 'in' right now. I'm not sure
if this was more in The '90s, but Jonny Greenwood from Radiohead, he's
probably considered to be a 'Guitar Hero' right? I think it's just because
that music isn't popular right now, but I think it will come back again."
14. I saw that the first concert you ever attended was a Neil Diamond
show, but growing up, did you sometimes wait after gigs to try and meet
artists / groups?
"Oh, YES (excitedly + big smile)! When I was in High School, I
tried to meet Eminem I got free tickets when he played in this
arena and his performance was just so intense and powerful, that my
friends and I were like, "We have to meet him!" But, we didn't
get to. Then, when I was in College, I did a semester in Paris and I
felt like I was violating her privacy, but this girl who I knew took
me to see Liz Phair who I completely love and this girl
who I was with was kind of wild and crazy. I can be wild and crazy,
but I can also be kind of shy... I know it doesn't seem like it right
now (laughing), but she grabbed my hand and said, "We're going
backstage to meet her" and pulled me with her. I hid behind the
curtain because I was so mortified and I was like, "This is a violation
of her post-show privacy." I knew it then, but now I REALLY know
it, because when you perform you need your space and you want people
to respect your boundaries. But Liz Phair was so nice about it and after
my friend talked to her, I was kind of like, "Sorry" and she
said, "Don't worry about it, it's totally fine." She was super
sweet and because we sang along to every word, she asked us if we were
singers. So Liz Phair was really nice, even though I snuck backstage.
But I wouldn't do that anymore, because after you've given so much of
yourself onstage, as much as you want to talk to people and thank them,
there just aren't enough hours in the day to recover emotionally and
mentally (laughing). Like when I finish my shows, my manager wants to
come backstage right away and I've been like, "Can you just give
me 20-minutes?" Maybe just to even sit down and text my Mom or
something you know... to be alone."
15. Has anyone that you admire ever requested to meet you?
"Well, David Lynch came to one of my concerts and he's brilliant!
That was like such a huge honour he'd been tweeting and talking
about me in interviews and liked my music and ended up coming to one
of my concerts and coming backstage. I mean, that made me feel pretty
cool (smiling), because I don't think I'm considered quote unquote,
very hip. He's such a cult and classic figure everybody respects
him as just being amazing and the fact of all the people he could love,
that he was very into me, made me feel really good about myself (laughing)!"
16. Do you carry any lucky charms on tour with you?
"Not really, but I have a moon ring that my Sister bought for me
at a gas station and I also like to wear jewellery that reminds me of
home (big smile). I'm actually due to call my Sister after this interview."
17. Your fans realise just how passionate you are about playing live,
but when performing, do you find that different songs get different
reactions in different countries?
"Yeah, and you know what I have noticed, I did a cover of a song
called Pursuit Of Happiness by Kid Cudi, and in the United States, half
of the people who know who we are is because of that cover! So, if we
don't do it, people freak out they come to the show just to see
that song! We were always doing it in Europe and a lot of people I know
over here are like, "Oh, you know, I can take it or leave it."
So, I've noticed that some of the covers that I've done are so loved
in one part of the world, and then not known about in other parts. But
it's more the covers rather than my own songs."
*Later this evening during Lissie's set, an audience member asked
why her original band weren't with her and she explained that as touring
is very expensive especially when you no longer have money from
a record label to help. That her original group are all in the US, but
that Lissie's support act, The Travelling Band, are also going to be
her backing band for these UK and European dates, having rehearsed with
them the week prior to this tour starting*
18. Referring to how special and life-changing music can be in the
passage of time, a critic once wrote that albums can be like messages
in bottles waiting to be discovered. So, are there any LPs in
your record collection which you absolutely cherish and perhaps own
in a variety of formats from CDs to vinyls to cassettes to reissues
to box sets etc?
"Well, when I was younger, I bought everything that Sarah McLachlan
had ever made and this was right when the Internet started. I was 14
and this was like '97 or something I don't know, I can't do math
(laughing). But I went online and I found everything that she'd ever
made, like her first album and b-sides and I just loved Sarah McLachlan
so much, because she could play guitar, she could play piano, she wrote
great songs, she had a great voice and she was beautiful, but not like
super sensual or sexual about it you know? I would say that I got really
into Metallica too, so that's kind of the opposite (laughing). But as
for records that I have on CD and vinyl, probably Led Zeppelin
although now, everything's just on my phone because my record player
broke. So, I've got to buy a new one (laughs heartily)!"
19. Following on from this, as you're now amassing a back catalogue
which I'm sure takes pride of place in many people's record collections
mine included! I thought that it would be nice to inject some
nostalgia into the interview and flashback to your early years
before you were on the road that you're now on to see if you
can recall the very first song that you were really proud of writing?
"Oh, yeah (big smile)... When I was in High School, I started teaching
myself guitar at about 15, and at around 17, I was starting to get pretty
good at (pausing), there's like 6 chords you need to know and then I
kept learning more, like E minor. So, I'd gotten a pretty good handle
on 5 or 6 chords that I could change between and so I was starting to
get good at the guitar, and I wrote a song called Little Raindrops.
It actually had a killer chorus melody although the lyrics are
pretty dorky (laughing) but I was proud of it because when I
played it for people, they were like, "Wow, that's a really well-written
song!" It had a great verse, a big chorus and I felt like I had
really crafted my first song that was catchy and had a middle 8. So,
the first song that I was really proud of writing was called Little
Raindrops and I was about 17."
20. Lastly, I found it very interesting how you took your famed love
of Tequila one step further after visiting the families who grow, harvest,
roast and create the Mezcal in Oaxaca, Mexico, by then teaming-up with
'MÉTL Mezcal and Tequila' to have your own limited edition line
of the drink (which is available to buy in both Blanco and Reposado).
But, if you could take a shot of Tequila with anyone, who would it be
"Well, I got to meet him once and I just thought that he was such
an Everyman's man like such a class act and that was Bruce
Springsteen. I would also say Jeff Lynne from ELO, because he's my new
obsession, but I have a feeling that he probably doesn't drink (laughing)."
A very special thanks to Lissie, to her Tour Manger
Mel and to Hayley at Six07 Press, for all of their time and help.
Oxford Set List
They All Want You
When I'm Alone
Bully (A cappella)
Sun Keeps Risin'
Don't You Give Up On Me
Further Away (Romance Police)
Everywhere I Go
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
"I could've been a hero, I could've been a zero
Could've been all these things"