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Q&A: Lissie talks new album, playing Chicago

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Lissie is the kind of pop musician that doesn't exist anymore.

Her songs are filled with hooks and opportunities to sing along, but don't sound plastic or forced. There's guitars in her music, loud and clear and right up front. She has character in her voice; you won't mistake her for anyone else. Instead of just a sweet shell, her music has a solid core made up of heart and soul. Nothing comes across as fake.

To me, she sounds like a pop artist from the past, and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible. It's not that her music doesn't sound fresh, because it does. It's just that music that sounds like it could be on modern pop radio and get buy-in from the mainstream isn't supposed to also sound as genuine and have as much personality as Lissie's does.

In other words, I'm a fan.

Earlier this Fall Lissie released her second LP, Back to Forever, and will be playing Chicago's Park West on Friday, November 29th, on her tour supporting the record (tickets here). In advance of the home-state show (she's from Rock Island), Lissie took some time to answer a few questions via e-mail. Read on for her thoughts on the new record, the Windy City, and future plans.

FK: I’ve been taken with your songs and your voice since my first play of the Why You Runnin’ EP a few years ago. It was such an unexpected surprise. When you think about all that has gone down between the release of that EP and now, what words come to mind?

Thank you!

Variety.

Tell us about your new second album, Back to Forever. In what ways do you think it’s different--or similar--to your first LP Catching a Tiger?

In the time I was writing this album I think I was reflecting on past relationships and my patterns and thought in saying them out loud I could put some of my worst habits behind me. I was also listening to a lot of NPR and just reacting to the world around me. I was in a more frustrated head space writing this album. In writing Catching A Tiger I was mostly inspired by and very much inside of a fresh breakup and Back To Forever felt more like observing than freshly experiencing if that makes sense? Haha.

Also I didn't know my band when I made Catching A Tiger and having them play on Back To Forever hopefully infused the songs in some way with a bit more of the rockin' energy we bring live. I will say working with a producer always colors the record with a bit of their character as well.

Do you have a favorite song off the record, or one that is especially important to you?

I love "Further Away (Romance Police)" because of the break down and guitar solo, it's just so much fun to play live! Also, "They All Want You" is a favorite because the production is quite spare, giving my voice space and I'm proud of my songwriting and lyrics on that one.

You’ve got your next Chicago show coming up on the 29th at Park West. Are there any particular memories from past Chicago gigs that have stuck with you?

Having my whole family and close family friends packing the balcony of Lincoln Hall a couple years ago. Even my 88 year old grandma was there! Sadly, I always seem to be sick by the time the tour comes to Chicago!

Being from Rock Island, did you make it to Chicago much growing up? What are some of your favorite things about the city?

Yeah, we were in Chicago all the time! I love that Chicago is so impressive and cultured yet still friendly in that Midwest way. The architecture, the food, the beaches on Lake Michigan in the summer, Michigan Avenue shopping around Christmas time, and there's just this class and quality rooted in tradition that makes me feel nostalgic about the place.

You’ve been known to do some great cover versions of other artists’ songs. Are there any songs or artists you’d like to take on that you haven’t gotten around to yet?

It's always a secret! :)

One of the reasons I believe people are captivated by your music is that you come across as incredibly genuine and “real” in what you do. When you explore new music or artists to follow, what qualities do you look for?

I'm pretty out of the loop in terms of finding new music. But I'd look for either a good message/ storytelling and/or great instrumentation/ players. I like a good jam.

Probably jumping the gun, I know, but have you thought about what might be in store for future Lissie releases? Anything you’d like to try that you haven’t yet, or any surprises we should watch out for?

Yes! I'm actually hoping to make another new album ASAP! I wanna simplify, keeping the folk, pop, rock elements sprinkled throughout, but capture the live sound I have with my band while leaving more space for my vocals. And I'd also like to start focusing more on the positive! Haha.

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