Ben: How long have you been making music?
Lisa: I picked up an electric guitar at age 12, when my middle school buddies and I decided to start a band. I was the frontman and our favorite cover song was Nirvana’s “Come As You Are”. The band was called Perjury (I wanted to be a lawyer at that point in my life, so I memorized random words from a legal dictionary). Perjury, in it’s 6 month lifespan, never headlined anywhere; I also never went to law school. I did, however, keep writing on guitar, probably hundreds of songs in lots of different styles. I also stopped memorizing legal words. That was a lot of random facts for you, wasn’t it?
Ben: Do you come from a musical family?
Lisa: I’m not sure if I could say I come from a musical family. Probably because my family never sat around with a guitar and a banjo singing songs – which is what I picture when I hear the phrase ‘musical family’. But, I do come from a jazz-loving dad who, in the deepest sincerity of the word, appreciates music. He just… feels music. Do you know what I mean? He gets lost in it. It’s like he’s in another world, meeting new personalities in the instruments and eavesdropping on their conversations. It’s a little crazy, but it’s always fascinated me. There have been many days where I’d find him in his car after work, just sitting and getting lost in the melody, playing invisible jazzy air drums or singing along to a Quincy Jones rap song. That’s probably where I get it from. Not the playing invisible jazzy air drums or rapping Quincy Jones, but the getting lost in listening and writing and feeling.
Ben: What musicians did you grow up listening to?
Lisa: A lot of Ray Charles, Quincy Jones, Duke Ellington and Stevie Wonder. But that was always on somewhere in the house, thanks to my parents. My own music choices were along the lines of Britney Spears and Backstreet Boys. And it’s suddenly blatantly clear why my dad thinks he has better taste in music than me.
Ben: What was your journey to get to this place in your musical career?
Lisa: (Laughs) That’s like asking a runner in the first mile of a marathon how they got to the starting line. But really, I’ve been standing at the edge of the music scene for about 5 years waiting for the opportunity to really invest in music. And it’s funny because I’ve had numerous opportunities literally handed to me, like being in a band with great musicians, recording an EP, playing on television, being showcased at the Ark, etc. But I never chased it further on my own, never wanted it badly enough, never sacrificed finances or comfort to pursue it. I think that’s what’s different about this point in my life. I’m tired of living safely for the false security of financial stability, I’m so weary of comfort and ease. To answer the question, it’s been a lot of realization to get to this place.
Ben: Are all your songs originals? Did you ever do covers of favorite songs? Which ones?
Lisa: In a set, I typically split it between originals and covers. I think I’ve played “Halo” by Beyonce every single solo set for the last 5 years. It’s not my favorite song, but it’s fun to sing and easy to play. When I first step on stage, my mind is usually running through every irrelevant thing I could think of, so playing “Halo” at the start is like a grace period – it’s like in The Hunger Games when you get that extra 10 seconds at the beginning of the competition to figure out where you are.
Ben: Do you consider yourself as much a writer as a musician? Which is your strength?
Lisa: I guess I do. Or maybe, I don’t. That’s like a chicken or the egg question for me. I’m not really sure which occurred first, or which is my strength. They’re pretty intertwined. When I can’t write the words I feel, then I can’t play the music I want. When I can’t play the music I feel, then I can’t find the words I need. And if I don’t know how I feel, then writing and singing is just like pulling teeth. Loud and painful.
Ben: Is your faith an influence in your writing?
Lisa: My writing is influenced by what I’m filling my mind with, by what I’m feeling, by what I’m worried about or excited about, by gains and loses, by friends and relationships, by what I hope in and what I long for. And in all those influences, God is present. You know the way that Bach composed music to glorify God or the way Michelangelo captured the beauty and depth of God in his paintings or even the way C.S. Lewis displayed the wonder of God in his writing – it was more than an influence. It was their lives poured out into art, and their lives were so entwined in God, that it was inevitable He would be in their work. That’s amazing, right? To talk about their ideas without their art (the purpose of music solely to praise God, Judgment Day and the death/resurrection of Christ/Aslan to pay for treason) puts many people on edge. But to just create something beautiful that has God in it and also so much truth, that would be arriving at the finish line for me.
Ben: What is your goal for your music?
Lisa: My overall goal is to write an album that you want to listen to over and over and over again. Not the fake, “this is so great” but I’m going to leave it on the shelf for a few years, then listen to it when I’m old. I want it to mean something to other people, that it’s used and reused as the background track to figure out what the heck is going on in our lives. That you want to sing to it. That you listen to it when you cry. And that there’s a song to jump around and dance too. I want it to hold a rawness that Death Cab does, and a trueness that Ray Charles kept to, and the scale of emotion that George Gershwin composed in. And I want the words to have substance. That I figure out things about life while I’m writing it. I’m not sure how many albums I’ll have to make until I get the melodies and sounds I’m chasing, or even what style I’ll fall into, but that’s probably part of the journey you asked me about earlier.