Rock Island Native Lissie Releases New EP, Has Dec. 19 Livestream Show
The 38-year-old, internationally acclaimed singer-songwriter recorded five of them for a new EP of covers, “Thank You To The Flowers,” out now via Cooking Vinyl. Listen to or purchase the EP here. It features the new single, “Wrecking Ball” – a stunning take on the Miley Cyrus mega-hit – with a video produced by fellow Rock Island High School alum Ben Chappell.
“Thank you to Miley Cyrus and the brilliant writers who created this unbelievable banger of a song,” Lissie said in late November upon the record release. “There is so much raw power to tap into. As a vocalist but more so as a soul who’s always seeking, searching, loving and sometimes aching, I have watched myself grow like a flower from the decay that truly creates the best soil.
“Of late, I really showed up in a relationship that didn’t work out and this song reminds me to cherish and be heartened by my efforts and openness,” she said. “Vulnerability is strength and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”
Each song on the EP was recorded as a form of therapy, using Lissie’s powerful voice to infuse each track with her own emotions to simultaneously lift her spirit and celebrate the women that inspired her to do so.]
In addition to “Wrecking Ball,” the record features “Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole” (Martha Wainwright), “Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?” (Paula Cole), “Change” (Lana Del Rey),” and “Nothing Compares 2 U” (penned by Prince but made famous by Sinead O’Connor).
It’s been an epic, challenging year for everyone, in so many ways, Lissie said in a Friday interview.
“On top of that for me, I went through a breakup this summer, kind of a surprise,” she said. “It took me a lot of time to process and grieve that relationship ending. For me, it was not only the pandemic and the politics, and news of all these black men getting murdered by police. Just this barrage of cruelty and pain that was just I was interpreting and taking in this world around me.”
“It was a summer of a lot of grieving and going for walks, taking care of myself, keeping my shit together,” she said. “For the EP, I was listening to a lot of music, and as songs played a lot of them by female artists on the playlist, I found a lot of my story in the songs on the EP of different phases of my process.”
Lissie started singing the songs, and by July, there was so much out of her control, including not touring or writing for a new full-length album. “I need more time to pass, so maybe I could cover some songs and quietly put them out into the world,” she said.
In July, she went to Minneapolis (a few hours from her rural northeast Iowa home) and met an engineer she knew through a friend, where she recorded the songs in one day. Lissie sent them to a producer she’s worked with in Los Angeles, who called in two musicians to add their tracks on top of her vocals and guitar.
“As the summer was going by, I had planted all these flowers – I had these sunflowers growing on my hillside, I was feeling a lot of metaphor for life. To plant a garden is to have hope for the future,” she said. “I was seeing these flowers blooming, there was this hope, you’re going to keep going.
“I had this gratitude, like thank you to the flowers,” Lissie said of the EP’s title. “The flowers really got me through those moments of emotions coming, overwhelming me. I’d take my dog for a walk at sunset and look at these flowers, and be filled with so much kind of peace.”
She covered songs from incredible female musicians as well, so it felt as a creative person – “you just need to get things out of you, to the world, to process and release,” Lissie said. “It all came together naturally, by calling on friends to help me put it together.”
The beautiful thing about art is to help us deal with grief, pain and loss, she noted.
“I’m comforted by a lot of artists, that helps me through a lot of my emotional ups and downs,” Lissie said. “You feel like no one could ever feel as deeply as what you’re feeling, but the truth is so much of that is universal. Everyone has gone through that at some point in time. So a
song that I write, it kind of stops being mine once I put it in the world, because I think it could be for other people whatever they need it to be, to help them process and feel their feelings.”
In the tense, polarized state of today’s world, she hopes for better emotional intelligence, where mental illness isn’t stigmatized.
“Everything is just at a fever pitch; where is the anger coming from?” Lissie said. “I think music and art is so important because you have to feel your feelings. If you push them away, they’ll come back times ten. I just was trying, when an unpleasant feeling would come up, I’d let it run its course instead of trying to distract myself.”
“With my music and the covers – it’s like, feel the feelings and know you’re gonna get through this,” she said.
Gratitude is a muscle that you have to use, “almost like fake it ‘til you make it,” Lissie said. “Even for the fact that my eyes see, my ears hear and my lungs are breathing in air. I have my house, this roof over my head. It’s all relative. Taylor Swift is one of the most influential people in the world, and she suffers heartache.”
“Being a human being is hard,” she said. “Gratitude is an exercise; you have to consciously, every day, lift things you are really fortunate to have. Over time, it becomes more natural.”
Letting out anger and new perspective
For the explicit Martha Wainwright song, Lissie explained her reason for covering the track:
“Permitting yourself and others to express anger and defiance through song is such a gift. Earlier this summer, I was moved to sit down and learn this song,” she said. “I was working through a breakup but as the months passed, it became so much bigger than my own heartache and
“The expletives are necessary for the hugeness of the moment! To rail against those who invalidate our lives, experiences, our emotions and feelings, gaslight and bully us, if only in this moment with my one voice, I will wail and I will howl!”
“And hopefully through expressing the anger, healing can start to crack it all open, letting the fire, shimmer and light move back into the injured spaces,” Lissie said. “However and with whomever this song resonates for you, maybe you need this song right now as much as I do.”
Its unique video – featuring stunning footage from outer space and life on Earth – was produced by Talain Rayne (who made Lissie’s “Peace” video, among others). “He’s kind of the master of finding footage and crafting these beautiful videos,” she said.
It clicked for her as she watched his footage. “I really feel Mother Nature could be singing this,” Lissie said. “It’s sort of like the way in which our Earth is bucking right now. With the pandemic and global warming and so forth, I felt like I could feel the words of that song coming from the lips of Mother Nature – in protest, like stop mistreating me.”
“The song ended up feeling much bigger than my own experience,” she said. “It was this statement about our Earth and our planet. Every living thing deserves respect.”
The “Peace” video was a five-minute compilation of others’ submissions – set to her soulful 2018 song – released Aug. 11, and Lissie did a CNN International interview on the project from her family’s Rock Island home on Aug. 15.
“What a year it has been; it’s been unbelievable,” she said Friday. Lissie has been friends with Ben Chappell for years, who’s also done videos for her. They met up after the March 2, 2020, Nashville tornado killed 24 people and destroyed the beloved live-music venue Lissie played then.
She was one of 20 artists performing at Basement East in east Nashville.
“Thank goodness they were OK,” she said Friday of Ben and his wife Jordan, who live in Nashville. “I went down there (recently) to do some songwriting, mostly outside.”
Lissie was back for a couple weeks in November, spending time with them, and collaborated for the “Wrecking Ball” video, shot there. “Ben has so many cool old cameras and gear, and such a cool style. His wife as well is super creative, so really I went by their house and he got out this camera that you have to crank.”
“It ended up looking super cool.” Lissie said. “Rather than making this big, complicated video, this is a cool visual and I did feel like the contrast of the black and white, the extremes, the duality, the dark and the light – all those things I think we all are struggling with.”
“We actually went to high school together and reconnected as adults, through a dear mutual friend. I’m continuously impressed by Ben’s style and artistry,” she said. “We wanted to keep it simple…I wanted the performance to feel raw, intimate and casual.”
“When I was in Nashville, a couple of his other friends from the Quad-Cities had come by for this bonfire,” Lissie said. “It was funny being at a bonfire in Nashville and more than half the people there were from the Quad-Cities, so we just ended up talking about the Quad-Cities.”
Performing in Minneapolis
She included “Wrecking Ball” in August, during a livestream concert with her band from Minneapolis’ Parkway Theater, which you can watch here. It was less than ideal without an audience, but everyone was so relieved to have a new project, Lissie said.
“So much of being in the music business is putting on shows and performance, but it’s also the teamwork – the group of people that can come together, with their different skills and make something go smoothly,” she said. “Between the venue and the crew that filmed and recorded it,
we were all masked up. We’d step outside, trying to be Covid-safe…Being able to play with my band, I was getting choked up.
“My eyes would well up with tears, it kind of shocked me how much my whole system was like, oh my gosh – I’ve missed this, I’ve needed this,” Lissie said. “We’re all playing in unison, it was very emotional. Just being able to play with other people. And it was just cool, since that was the first livestream I’d done with a real high-quality audio and visual, having a team make that possible.”
“I felt like it was a way to get people back to work to support the venue financially as well,” she said. “Also for myself, to pay a few bills and feel somewhat normal.”
Lissie hasn’t been back to the Parkway since August, but she’s done some small livestreams over the year, with different setups and different locations.
In October, Lissie did some outdoor, socially-distanced shows in Minneapolis, at Icehouse. They had 60 guests per show, sold out for five performances.
“We got lucky with the weather,” she said. “It felt so good and again, like August, getting up there and playing. It was emotional; people in the crowd and us, I’ve got to keep it together because I’m gonna start crying. I felt like everyone has just been hanging on for so long, to just keep your head down and get through this.”
“To have that day when we could get together outside, it felt like a lot of people could breathe a little sigh of relief – let out some of that bottled-up emotion, for at least a day before we put our tough stuff back on,” Lissie said. “We could exhale and feel a little bit normal. It felt amazing. It reminded me, I never want to take it for granted moving forward, when I can actually do normal shows again.”
“How absolutely essential it is for me to connect with people and play music,” she said. “I think I did take for granted. At the end of last year,
I was kind of burned out on touring, and so now, I’ve seen what the opposite of that is and like, I just can’t wait to tour again and play shows, and be with friends, and make music and connect with people.”
Lissie will be performing tracks from the new EP live at the Parkway Theater in Minneapolis on Dec. 19 at 2 p.m. As well as celebrating the new EP, she’ll revel in the Christmas spirit and play some of her favorite festive songs alongside her biggest hits and many more surprises. Fans will be able to join Lissie via live stream with tickets available now (starting at $15) via StubHub.
“It’ll be a classy Christmas; a stripped back band performance, with as handful of Christmas and holiday songs,” she said. “We’ll stay safe and mask up.”
Her band will include drums, keyboard, bass and lead guitar.
Lissie last visited her folks in the Q-C in the week around the Nov. 3 election, but may not return there for Christmas. “I’m hoping to get back to the Quad-Cities for a while,” she said. “I have many family and friends I’d love to be able – even if I can’t hug them, to be able to see them.”
“I feel like all of us, to just get through the winter and the transition with politics and the vaccine,” Lissie said. “It’s one day at a time.”
Her studio album “Castles” debuted at #11 on the Current Alternative Albums chart in the U.S., with her previous studio albums all making their way into the top 20. Her debut album ‘Catching A Tiger’ has sold over 50,000 copies in the U.S., and more than 300,000 worldwide, and Lissie has racked up over 200 million streams across her entire catalogue.