Lisa Marie Presley turns to her roots for new album
GUARDIAN NEWS SERVICE
LISA Marie Presley’s Storm And Grace is the album she was born to make – a raw, powerful country, folk, blues collection that finds her embracing her Southern roots and family name.
Making the record’s Americana pedigree stronger is production by Grammy-award winner T-Bone Burnett.
But the direction of the album was established well before Burnett came on. Presley travelled to England, where she collaborated with songwriters like Richard Hawley, Ed Harcourt and Travis’ Fran Healy, to find her roots.
Presley spoke about the album, why she felt more comfortable making an American record in England, how Burnett restored her faith in music and not fighting herself anymore.
Q: It’s such a raw record, was it tough to make? A: It was easy to make, but I had to go far in order to make it. I went to England; I was kind of uninspired and tapped out creatively from certain experiences previously on other records, so I just really needed to remove myself far away and get in a whole different setting.
And I spent eight months getting used to being around there writing and it just really easily unfolded and really naturally and organically happened.
Did you know T-Bone would be coming to the project when writing? No idea. It all happened with me telling Simon Fuller (her manager and CEO of XIX Entertainment), “I really don’t want to be in any typical situation anymore, I want to just remove myself entirely, go far away as I can.” And thankfully he’s set up over there, so he just put me with different people. We wrote 30 songs in eight months between me and the writers. I had it, but I wasn’t in a hurry. I told Simon early on, a dream come true for me would be T-Bone. And I told him I loved Raising Sand and the whole thing. After I’d come back and I had the 30 songs written, I got a phone call, “TBone heard it and he wants you to go to his house at 5 pm and meet him.” .
What is so fascinating is you went to England to make a quintessential American record.
I know, it’s completely crazy, isn’t it? I was supposed to be writing some kind of a synopsis about it today and I kept thinking it’s just so ironic – finally the earthy, organic, rootsy, bluesy record comes out of me in England with English writers. I can’t tell you how many times people would say, “Go to Nashville and write with these writers and do this and do that,” and try to push me in that direction. And it just didn’t feel right for me. It wasn’t contrived, the songs were already there, they had their tones, their textures.
It is ironic, but maybe not that surprising given there is a long history of English musicians embracing and understanding A m e r i c a n music.
It’s true, they happen to k n o w American music history probably more than Americans do. They’re very welleducated on it. And this record’s always been in me – I am where I’m from, I’m never going to not be from the South. So it’s in my nature, it’s just that in the past there have been times where someone was deliberately trying to push me into the Nashville scene or scenes that just felt so contrived and unnatural to me.
Do you feel more comfortable with your roots as you’ve gotten older, or was it finding the right people? I’m always feeling a bit like I need to fight and kick, I don’t know why. But all I ended up doing in the past was stepping and tripping on my own feet. It didn’t prove anything to anyone to do something completely different that had nothing to do with anything. It was always against myself and hurting myself, though I was thinking I was fighting other people. I had to go through those phases, I did. So then, yes, I’m not doing that anymore. But it was also being around people I knew weren’t going to do that with me. The writers I was with weren’t trying to push me in a direction, they had no agenda, some of them had never written with anyone before.
This record strikes me as being intensely personal.
So how important was T-Bone in creating distance for you from the record and serving as a sounding board? Just the fact that he wanted to do it fed life into me.
My light was dimmed, the way the music industry had gone, I was disheartened. And about the second or third day in the studio I pulled him aside and said, “I just want to thank you, by doing this and believing in me and doing this record with me you’ve really given me some light again.” What do you take from it when you listen to this album? In the past, by the time the records came out everyone heard them, everyone said, “Oh, this is nice, this is great, oh, I love the record, blah blah blah.” I could never really get perspective on it and this time no one’s heard it, my mother hasn’t even heard this yet. It’s so personal that I haven’t really played it for anybody.
T-Bone really puts himself into a project. Will he be involved in any other capacity like in live shows for example? I’ve adopted him as a paternal presence in my life, so any way I can have him around I would love to have him around. I just adore him, so I’ve definitely adopted him and let him know that. If I can have him on stage and it’s in the cards I would be really happy about that. The thing I wanted to say too was just the fact that I didn’t know we were gonna record it live. In the past you would do it a certain way, so it was a little bit out of my comfort zone but it was great. He told me like three days beforehand, But it was really great to do it that way. It pushed me a lot.