Q&A: Lissie Talks Covering Metallica, Living in the UK and How She's A Very Complicated Person

Categories: Interviews
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Lissie, the Midwestern girl who is now one of the U.K.'s favorite adopted songwriters, understands the value of unpredictability. What many see as unpredictable, Lissie views as a natural need to adapt--at least when the situation, or her feelings, requires her to do so.

When her EP, Why You Runnin'?, came out last year, many had her pegged as a soulful folkie. But with the recent release of her first full-length album, Catching a Tiger, it's clear that pinning Lissie into a safe, easily-defined genre is anything but.

And that goes for not just her musical style, but for just about anything else pertaining to her overall philosophy on life, relationships and the kind of music she enjoys herself.

As Lissie swings through Texas thanks to a prime spot at the ACL Festival, she will also be making her Dallas debut at the Granada Theater this evening. We recently chatted with her about Metallica, England and how complicated she is.

Read the full Q&A after the jump.

At one of your many SXSW performances in 2010, you played a cover of Metallica's "Nothing Else Matters." That was a surprising choice. Is that a regular part of your show?

If there's a song that I particularly like, then I'll teach it to my band and we'll play it a few times, until the novelty passes. I'm a huge Metallica fan, really. In high school, I listened to the Black Album over and over again. I knew my guitar player had the skills to handle the solos, so we just thought it would be fun, really.

You grew up in the Midwest. Are there any particularly Midwestern traits that make themselves known in your writing?
I try not to analyze myself too much. More than anything, specific values that I gained from growing up are a part of my personality. Things like: how family is important, being polite and treating people how you want to be treated, and just being open, without a bunch of pretension or mystery. I'm a pretty straight-forward, cut-the-crap, what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of person. In my songwriting, I think I'm straight-forward and I don't hide any of my sentiments behind anything too flowery, and that comes from my Mid-westerness.

Since growing up, though, you've been quite the globetrotter. Along with touring in Europe, you have been living recently in London. Do you find inspiration in living and working in Europe?
It wasn't really a conscious decision on my part to be in the U.K., but it just sort of worked out that way. I'm signed to Columbia in the U.K., so it made sense for me to be there. It's really grown on me as a second home. Also, I don't know what really inspires me about living there, other than the relationships I have. I could really be anywhere in the world and it would be about the people I meet, more than it would be about the particular locale. The human nature that I encounter is what really inspires me.

Your debut EP has a very comfortable, folk feel to it. How intentional was that?
The EP was the stuff that Bill Reynolds (Band of Horses bassist) and I had worked on over various chunks of time. We didn't over-think it or over-produce it, and Fat Possum was excited to put it out. It didn't even come out overseas. I was going out on the road with Ray Lamontagne and I just wanted something to give to the people that came to the shows.

Unlike the EP, the new album displays a great deal of sonic variety. What thoughts went into putting the record together?
I was a bit more subtle with Bill and the EP. I wanted a bunch of variety on the album, and I get asked about that a lot because every song is in a different style. I didn't really plan out what was going to happen. I recorded 25 songs and then I picked my favorite 12. I worked with different musicians and different producers, so I let each song become what it needed to be and give them the life they were asking for.

Did your record label ask you to put some of the songs from the EP onto the new album since you had such good response to the folky stuff?
The label really let me be myself. I'm a complex person and there's more to my personality than just one thing or another. I mean, I like listening to both rap and country music. I'm a complex person. (Laughs.)

It sounds like you place a greater emphasis on emotional and thematic cohesion than you do musical cohesion?
I write songs about how I feel. One day, I feel a certain way, and the next, I feel a different way. I think you can listen to my songs and know that I mean what I'm saying and know that it comes from my heart. Songwriting, for me, is a way to process my feelings and it doesn't matter what genre it is. I don't think there's a genre for what I do. I think it's just storytelling.

Lissie performs Monday, October 12, at the Granada Theater

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