Accidents happen. You're dead tired, have just made a major, life-changing decision, and just want to follow a dream that has nothing to do with the previous dreams you have been following. That's the story that seems to be at the heart of Midwestern-Turned-Californian-Turned-Midwestern-Again, Singer-Songwriter, Lissie Maurus. My Wild West, Lissie's newest album was the unexpected byproduct of a life change. "I moved back to the Midwest," Lissie recently told us. "I had always wanted to have a farm in Iowa at some point in my life, so last year I just thought now's as good a time as any."
Up until that point, Lissie had called various parts of California home...that is, when she wasn't touring the world and winning over fans like Ellie Goulding and Snow Patrol. But her roots called her home, and with it a different approach to her music. "I'm going to take a break, I'm going to start solo touring, I'm NOT going to make an album." Ah, but that time-honored, "best laid plans of mice and men" saying seems to ring true here. "Well, I actually haven't even lived on my farm yet. I've been touring...and really between March and June (last year) I ended up making an album that I said I wasn't going to make in a very relaxed fashion. With the album coming out, I started band touring again with different musicians." Oops.
That album is titled My Wild West and is an ode to her second home in California. It's dotted with tracks titled "Hollywood", "Wild West", and "Ojai" and the non-stop promotion cycle recently brought her by our Industry City lookout for a Baeble NEXT session. And though a lot of the material on the new album is inspired by the Pacific Coast, if anything, our session proves she is one country-bred, vocal powerhouse, ricocheting off picturesque, Midwestern silos and echoing across the heartland. She's the product of her upbringing...so it's natural that she would return home for a little life inspiration.
But, Lissie still has plans...big big plans! "There's an old dairy barn on the property. It's not in any shape to be a studio yet, but my long-term plan is to turn the dairy barn into, not only a studio, but a guest space/cozy den-like space. To have this little creative oasis, because I am on the road all the time. And I am in cities. So to be able to have that contrast of having a peaceful place where I can be creative on my own. I have a pond on my property. Let's go swimming! Let's have a cook out. Let's make a song. Have it feel like a leisurely creative space." Sounds like an open invitation to us Lissie! We're on our way.
Hi, I am Lissie, I am in New York to do some promo. I just finished up about month long tour couple of days ago and so now I am kind of traveling around, doing things like this, interviews, and singing for offices of people, really anything anyone needs me to do, I am here. music I moved back to the Midwest, I had always wanted to have a farm in Iowa at some point in my life and so last year I just was like, now it is good time as any like I am going to take a break, I am going to start solo touring, not going to make an album, bought this farm in Iowa. Well, I actually haven't lived in my farm yet. I have been touring, so basically I said I was going to take a break and not make an album. Really between March and June, I ended up making an album that I said I was not going to make like very, like in a very relaxed fashion and then you know with the album coming out actually then started band touring again with like different musicians. Yeah, so I have this land now and I have been fixing up a house and there is an old dairy barn on the property that is like not in any shape to be a studio yet, but my long-term plan is to turn the dairy barn into not only like a studio, but like a guest space/cozy den like, have almost just little like creative oasis, because I am on the road all the time and I am in cities, so to be able to have that contrast of having like a peaceful place where I can be creative on my own. I have a pond on my property like lets go swimming, lets have a cook out, lets make a song, have it feel like leisurely creative space. music I had written some of the songs that are on My Wild West like at the beginning of 2015, there is a few songs on it that are like older than that. I had said, I'm not going to make an album, I am just going to finish up a couple of songs that I had started. I went to LA to Kurt Schneider after I decided I'm moving and preparing to leave California and go back to the Midwest, I am just going to finish up a few songs and with that kind of being my only goal, I didn't even have a release in mind. I just wanted to not like let these songs get lost. I wanted to finish them, then I started writing new songs and coming into the studio like, okay, I will. Now, we finished these songs. I said like one more song I want to do and musicians would come in and we just track it live, My Wild West took on this, concept album reveal to me in the process, it wasn't really conscious at that time, but that I was reflecting on 12 years I spent on the West Coast in California. And, you know, calling it My Wild West, it was a kind of a way for me to process and reflect on and move on from the 12 years that I did spent in California, which someday I will look back and say those are some of the best years in my life, for sure I had so much fun. music I just wanted to be able to get into a studio and see what happened, but that's expensive, so I wasn't really allowed to get in a studio and see what happened until a handful of people signed off on my songs. I didn't have songs yet. Actually, this new album My Wild West,Don't you give up on me, which is the single that's actually done better in the states than I have ever done before on radio, was the song that many people told me was just not a very good song. I mean I was basically given the impression that the chorus just wasn't any good and that it needed to be a better song and I cared and then I stopped caring, and then I made it anyway. And now, there you have it. It's doing all right. Don't you give up on me Are you swimming in the stars? Breathing in eternity Don't you give up on me Hi, I am Lissie and you are watching Baeble Music.
Lissie Maurus is from here, this rounded part of the Land of Lincoln that most people still believe to be another part of Chicago because their mental map of Illinois ends at the suburbs, as that Aurora outlet mall fades into the eastern distance. Rock Island, Ill., probably gave her those carameled freckles that dot her cheeks. The blue collar town that shares the Mighty Mississippi River as a border with Iowa definitely fused into the young, natural blonde: her sass and her inability to be phony, to be anything other than a talker, a good hug, a warm and affectionate sweetie pie, a light-hearted sprite, a girl who hits the municipal pool or the freshwater lake frequently when the weather's right, a girl who eats cheeseburgers, drinks when she's happy and is sort of a son of a gun in sundresses and with a smoke between the fingers. Here is where the winters make you seek shelter for months because there are near unbearable situations like wind chill factors of 50 degrees below zero and summertime often brings with it such a thick humidity, fat with mosquitoes, that it melts people in half. It's where the U.S. government makes a ton of bullets and guns and it's a place that used to make way more farm implements that it does now. The floods that come down the river in the spring are epic.
All of these details and more are Lissie and the songs that she writes, that she put on this debut EP, Why You Runnin', on Fat Possum Records. Produced by friend Bill Reynolds, who just happens to be the bassist in Band of Horses, Lissie couldn't be more enchanting, or more of a person explaining the mystery of how she came to be full of that muddy river water, which along with it come the whiskered muskies, the bass and the bullheads that all swim through her body like the dark clouds and the passing driftwood. The five songs are stacked with the kind of billowing and rustic sentiments that come from broken hearts that have been patched as well as they can be, gaining that scar tissue that never makes them like new again, but gives them a refined personality, one that's subtle and powerful all in one fling. Lissie has all kinds of love in her heart and it comes out in resplendent and oaky waves, like the insides of a campfire doing a lot of talking, a lot of jumping leaving its smoke burrowing into your skin and clothing, where it reclines for days.
There are all these things that make these songs and her spirit possible, some of it in deference to that spirit: having a grandfather who was an international barbershop quartet champion, having a great-grandfather who was a train-jumping hobo on this famous Rock Island Line (the Cash song of the same name Lissie has played in hometown gigs), a father who delivered her at her birth, getting kicked out of high school, selling honey for living money upon coming to LA and an inability to separate herself from this Midwestern city where many just raise their families, get fat and die satisfied.
She lives by herself, with her dog, in a farmhouse in Ojai, Calif., where she tends to drink wine and will, on a whim, go to the store to buy paint for her rocks so she can construct a medicine wheel in her big backyard. She has all the time to listen to what's happening in her inner chambers, what's turning on and off her lights, what's giving her goosebumps and where she thinks she'll be led tomorrow. - - Sean Moeller, Daytrotter