American singer-songwriter Lissie has been crafting beautiful songs for over fifteen years, she started her musical career in 2006. But it was in 2010 when the Illinois-native started gaining the traction she deserved when she released her critically acclaimed debut record, Catching A Tiger. Since that moment the award-winning artist has produced four albums, multiple EPs and performed countless headline shows around the world. Alongside all of this, the now-Iowa-based singer has appeared in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, Peter Farrelly’s Loudermilk and has performed at rallies for Senator Bernie Sanders. To top it off, Lissie has garnered nearly a quarter of a billion streams. Undoubtedly, her music so far has made a big impact.
But now during a societal grey area where we slowly return to normality, back to a world pre-covid, Lissie is reflecting on her past before she can move forward into the new world that is taking shape. She’s revisiting her past by offering fans a nostalgic trip down memory lane with the release of the anniversary edition of her debut record, it also includes a brilliant selection of unreleased tracks taken from the album’s recording sessions.
So to celebrate the release, House Of Solo chatted with Lissie via zoom to discuss the Catching A Tiger anniversary edition, her career so far, Bernie Sanders, and the future.
Hi Lissie, thanks for chatting with us, congratulations on releasing the anniversary edition of your breakthrough 2010 LP Catching A Tiger. How nostalgic did it feel to revisit that period of your musical career?
Yeah, well originally I was always going to do a ten-year anniversary for Catching A Tiger because we had these songs that we had recorded for the album but they didn’t you know, for one reason or another, make it onto the track listing. So it was fun to revisit these old songs, photos, journal entries and so forth. But then no one could have predicted obviously a global pandemic and with covid and just all of the extra time, there has been to just be at home and to be introspective and reflective on the past ten years of my life. I think that added a lot of extra layers of gratitude and kind of also happy memories for the people who loved this album in the summer of 2010.
It was a really joyful summer that I think hopefully for those people too, it will be really nostalgic. There have been people I’ve encountered who were young and single when they loved Catching A Tiger and eleven years later, they are married, have kids and have jobs. So they might hear “When I’m Alone” my big song from that album and it transports them back to this kind of fun and light-hearted time in their lives. So I think hopefully not just for me but for everyone, it will just be fun to kind of revisit that summer.
The fans who have been with you from day one will definitely appreciate it!
The album features a few previously unreleased tracks such as “I Don’t Know What I’m Doing Anymore” and “It’s Not Me”. Amazingly, “I Don’t Know What I’m Doing Anymore” was written eight years before Catching A Tiger was released, you said this track was probably the first good song you made. Why did this track stand the test of time for you? Why did you want to include it in the anniversary edition?
I wrote that song when I was a sophomore in college, so I was nineteen or twenty at the time, this was back in 2002 or 2003. So I think that song is pretty much the same chords throughout but I feel like it was kinda like, as I had started playing the guitar and writing songs at fifteen/sixteen years old, I felt that song always kind of stood out. It really has a catchy chorus and it was like I was starting to get the hang of how to structure a well-written pop song or something, you know. It was the beginning of understanding how to really write songs I think.
Additionally on the topic of songwriting, all throughout my life, I still think it pertains for anybody, It’s like you know, half the time I don’t know what I’m doing anymore, we just kind of have to persist whether we know why we are or not haha. In the case of that song, it was about a guy that I was in an ill-defined relationship with. That’s the thing about making a debut record, I had a whole life of songs to pull from. Now, I’m working on a new record and I’ve written all the main songs in the last few months, so a debut album is like you can pull from these songs that you had been waiting to share with people for your whole life.
When we were listening to all the songs we had recorded for Catching A Tiger, at the time whether it was right or not, I just thought that “I Don’t Know What I’m Doing Anymore” didn’t sit quite right in the list of songs on the album. But it never meant that I didn’t love that song, it just didn’t feel right at the time that it sat well with everything else. So it’s great to have this opportunity now, not just because I’m proud of that song, but you know it was one of the things that we were working on at the same time as Catching A Tiger.
So just for the sake of content, it was like pulling out anything and everything that was relevant to that period of time when I was making the album in the studio. I had a friend who reached out to me who remembered that song from all those years ago and they said: “oh man, I always thought that song was so great, I’m so happy it’s finally out in the world.” It was a good song and that’s the thing as an artist, you have so many songs, even now, I’m just sitting on songs that I’ll probably never put out.
That’s the thing with art, you might write something that was inspired by a certain point in your life but when you go to write a new project down the line, you might decide that song is no longer right for the new body of work as things have changed.
Yeah, there is also the “Early Works” album coming out shortly as well and I mean that album too is a bit of a slippery slope because you don’t really want to put out old music all the time. For example the song “Hey Boy” I wrote when I was nineteen and as an almost forty-year-old woman, it’s not really a song that I would write now. It’s not my reality, it’s not my experience of the kind of what my life is like right now. So there is that thing, I use music to really process my experiences and the things I’m going through. But it might be when you’re through that thing you are no longer concerned about it and you’ve moved on but the songs remain.
So it’s trying to find that way to get things into the world but also have it be understood that it was a snapshot from a different time. Even now I’m writing a new album and as time passes, my perspective on life is changing so rapidly. It’s like I don’t really relate to that song like I previously did haha. Time moves faster than the songs can keep up sometimes.
Besides revisiting your earlier work, what else have you been up to during lockdown?
Like everybody, I’ve really had to centre myself and surrender and have a lot of gratitude for all the things that are really great in my life. I feel very fortunate, that being said, there was a lot of grief that I like so many people, I’ve had a lot of things to grieve in the pandemic. From the initial shock of it and then my partner left me early on in the pandemic and I sort of spiralled out from that, which was challenging. But I think someday that I can look back on all of this. I think I’ve used touring, moving, drinking and staying busy as a way of… I’ve used my lifestyle sometimes to avoid facing some stuff that is core to like who I am that I’ve avoided dealing with.
So I think like over the last summer especially I was pretty sober, I was doing a lot of walking, gardening meditating and journalling. I really think this year has made me realise that even when things aren’t ok, you still have to be ok in finding those ways to connect to others but also take responsibility to take care of yourself. So that being said, there was so much going on that I didn’t even think about writing a song for so much of the pandemic and in the US with all the political stuff and the murder of George Floyd and just how divided and scary things have felt here, it was like where do I even start.
There’s the breakup, the world, and last November I took a trip to Nashville and then I really suddenly had this prolific burst, mostly around this breakup, but I was finally able to start wrapping my head around what I wanted to process and share. So I’ve probably got ten songs that I’ve written and I’ve recorded eight of them. I’m heading to Nashville next week to put some vocals down and so I’m pretty earnestly fully in the midst of maybe having half of the new album done. So it took a while but through this pandemic, I sort of finally feel like I’m coming out the other side of it to where I actually know how to share what I’m feeling and thinking with anybody.
Thank you so much for sharing and sorry to hear about the hardships you’ve been going through, it’s great to hear that you’ve been taking this time to self-care and heal.
Yeah and again I think there are people who have suffered far more than I have throughout all of this. I think for some people it’s been strangely good and for other people, it has been absolutely devastating. So I had to keep perspective, I still have a really great life and there was some hard stuff but I do a lot of gardening and I always sort of think: without the shit you don’t get the flowers.
A lot of times it’s really that awful stinky stuff haha that provides the most fertile of ground which then creates something beautiful. I think almost all of my songs were probably born because of something challenging that I was hopefully able to turn into something not only beautiful for myself but that was healing and relevant for other people too. I just think that’s part of life.
You’re set to perform a show in Norway at Oslo’s prestigious Opera House, this is going to be your first proper show back since the pandemic right? It’s surely going to be an emotional evening!
I’m actually thinking it’s not looking like it’s going to happen unfortunately. We aren’t really sure still with covid, travelling and capacity issues as well as getting support from our promoter and the government to sort of make sure the show can actually happen. So it’s looking like it won’t happen to be honest but yes, in the event that it does happen, it will be incredibly poignant, emotional and powerful. I got to do some socially distanced shows in last October and there were moments where I was so overcome with emotion that my eyes really welled up. When you perform as much as we do, it’s such a part of who you are and how you express yourself and how you go throughout the world and navigate it and stuff. So when I really start performing again, it’s just such a huge part of who I am and of course, Norway is such a beautiful place.
I’ve played The Opera House and it’s an absolutely mind-blowing venue. The idea was to perform Catching A Tiger in its entirety with my original bandmates and some Norwegian musicians as well. In the event that it does happen, it’s going to be magical but I’m also kind of thinking it won’t happen. But I think 2022: new album, lots of touring hopefully and that will just feel great.
We’re slowly starting to go back to normality over here in the UK but fingers crossed things will be far better next year.
Yeah! I’ve started to see some Norwegian festivals for next summer and also some stuff around the UK and Europe. We’re working with people that are already starting to plot summer 2022, so fingers crossed nothing crazy happens to prevent that and we sort of move out of this dark and lonely time into gatherings again.
Who are you listening to at the moment, is there anyone you have on heavy rotation?
Oh you know it’s so funny and it’s kind of obnoxious, I have a friend that says: “you’re one of those musicians that don’t listen to music”. It’s like I really don’t listen to much music, I did a lot when I was in high school and college, I was always going to gigs and listening to mainly jam bands like Phish, The String Cheese Incident, bands that aren’t maybe big in the UK. I was always a real sucker for more kind of instrumental, sort of jam-y, improvisational music and I think part of that was because it was so different to what I did in music. It wasn’t really about the vocals or even the lyrics, it was really just these great musicians kind of all shining in this collective moment.
But I think now as I’ve got older and because I do this for a living, I really don’t listen to much music. I think it’s because I analyse it too much without realising that I am. With that being said, there are some artists I like. There is this artist called Samantha Crain and she put out an album this year called I Guess We Live Here Now and there is a song on it called “Bloomsday” which is incredible.
But I to listen to music less now as I tend to not be able to lose myself in it as much. Even sometimes I think music makes me too emotional, sometimes I just don’t want to go to that place of feeling as much because I’m a feely person. But Samantha Crain is an Oklahoma-based artist and she is just brilliant. With “Bloomsday” it’s a track that I’ve put on repeat if I ever do feel like listening to music, I couldn’t tell you exactly what it is, the melody is great, the lyrics are cool and the music is just grounding and heartwarming, I think she is great. So shoutout to Samantha Crain and I like the new Miley Cyrus album, I got into that for a minute and I think she is a really fascinating artist.
You’ve also done a bit of acting, most recently on Amazon Prime’s ‘Loudermilk’, how did you get involved with the show?
Yeah, that was kind of crazy as I did theatre as a kid but haven’t really acted like an adult. I used to live in a town called Ojai in California and the Farrelly brothers who made ‘There’s Something About Mary’, ‘Dumb And Dumber’ and all these movies… prior to living in Ojai, I think they used a song of mine in a movie called ‘Hall Pass’, so when I moved to Ojai which is a pretty small town in Southern California, I ended up becoming friends with Peter Farrelly and his wife and you know I probably would have been starstruck but they are just so cool, nice, supportive and fun, so I ended up becoming friends with them.
Peter reached out to me a couple of years ago and was like “hey, I have this TV called Loudermilk” which was on kind of a hard to watch the channel, like direct TV which is a television provider in the US which had its own channel that Loudermilk was on. And then that was kind of discontinued, so it was this brilliant show which didn’t really have a home but now it’s on Amazon Prime. So Peter reached out and told he’s going to write this character called Lizzy Poole and it’s going to be great. I was like “I don’t know, I’d hate to let you down, I’m really not an actor” and he was like “you’re going to do it and you’re going to be great, acting isn’t hard, the editors will make you look good. It’s not a big deal” and then I was like “alright, I’ll do it!”.
So I went to Vancouver over the course of two different trips and shot all my episodes and now that it’s on Amazon people can watch it! I was a little mortified at first like “wow, I’m really not that good at this.” But As I’ve watched it again, I’m now like “oh, I think I actually did a pretty good job.” I’ve gotten some good feedback from my friends who were like “I had forgotten that I was watching you or knew you”. I think that’s good feedback for an actor where your family and friends can get into the story and sort of separate it from being you. So I think I did an okay job and maybe I will reprise my role someday, you never know!
It’s great to see that you previously performed at a few Bernie Sanders rallies a few years back. What was he like when you met him?
Oh man, I’m a huge supporter of Bernie and his ideas, he was considered radical four or five years ago and I was supporting him. It’s just been interesting to see how many of his ideas really are becoming more of the mainstream left. He’s just been saying what we’ve needed to do for so long, so getting to go and perform prior to his different rallies, I think I probably did four or five of them in Iowa because Iowa is a big state for the primaries, it’s like the first in the nation and we have a caucus and stuff. The caucus got really screwed up and it was super sad.
I was a precinct captain and it went so well and then all our results got messed up but that aside it’s kind of funny, he’s kind of a grump which I understand why. I met him multiple times and he was very gracious and kind but you know, he was like ‘alright, let’s move it along that sort of vibe haha. I can’t say we’re tight, I don’t even know if he would still know who I am because he’s got more important things to worry about but it was just so an honour for me to be part of that movement.
It was absolutely inspiring to get to see him speak and I really resonated with all the things he had to say, I hope things turn around over here, it’s been really chaotic. But yes, he was really inspiring but not a lot of small talk, he’s not a small talk kind of guy and I can respect that, he’s real, not phony.
After everything you’ve accomplished with your career so far, what do you think your younger self would say? Is there anything you’ve achieved in particular that you would be in disbelief about?
For my younger self, I think I was always very brave and naive and I love that about my younger self because I think I’ve gotten a little more pragmatic as I’ve got older. I think the ways in which I have really stepped into positions earlier in my career, there was so much that would go on around me that I was so unaware of. From my money, my schedule to even like people I worked with that I didn’t have any real direct contact with, so I wouldn’t realise all of the people it took to make me succeed in my career, such as my manager talking to publicists or people at the record label. So there was a lot that I felt removed from because that was how the music industry used to be like.
So what I’ve loved learning is just being a lot more… not necessarily hands-on but being more aware of all the important people that play different roles in making an artist’s career possible. I’ve got a lot of gratitude for that too.
Finally, next month you’re also releasing the Watch Over Me (Early Works 2002-2009) project but what else is on the horizon for Lissie?
Yeah, I have the “Early Works” coming out in July. I’d say that the Catching A Tiger Anniversary Edition and the Watch Over Me Early Works feels… like even combined with the pandemic and this liminal space we’re in at the moment where we’re coming out of the pandemic but we haven’t yet, we’re in this purgatory of sorts where it feels like a good time to release the past, so it will feel really good to have a lot of this music out in the world, so then I really am looking forward to moving forward.
And that will include not a lot of shows this year, maybe a little bit of new music if it’s done in time but you know I’m thinking 2022 is going to be a new album, hopefully, a lot of shows and just on the Homefront, I’ve got this forty-five-acre farm and even here it’s really just trying to lay a good foundation in both my career and my Homelife and trying to find that balance.
On a farm, there is so much you need to do, like putting in cover crops so they can take care of the weeds and you don’t have to worry about them every year. So, I’d say kind of using that as a metaphor of like: just kind of being in a place where I’ve gotten the rights back to my old music now, I feel like I’ve just come to this point in my life were after the last ten years of really becoming an adult, being more responsible and being empowered. So hopefully I’m laying some good foundations in terms of my career and Homelife and finding that balance, so as I move forward, it’s from a place that is anchored and grounded.