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It was not very long ago that I spoke with Lisa Marie Presley for the first time. She was backstage after a show at the Bowery Ballroom in Nashville, TN, in a small dressing room, wearing a large, orange hooded sweatshirt. She was awaiting the fans lined up outside the door for that evenings “meet and greet”, and their chance to score a coveted autograph from Lisa Marie. After the high- energy, high-impact performance she had just given (she’s improved her stage show tremendously since she appeared 2 years ago, as Chris Isaac’s opening act), she appeared small, smaller than I expected, standing there so quietly, and almost…can I say…meek or perhaps, humble might be a better word.

When I introduced myself, she seemed pleased to meet me. She referred to something we had discussed a week earlier, when I spoke to her by phone from NYC. In fact, she seemed completely different than I had imagined she would be, since during our conversation she was often abrupt, almost combative, if she didn't like a question. Now, here in my presence, she seemed warm, open, almost, can I say, sweet. It must be tough to be Lisa Marie, I caught myself thinking, only daughter of the King of Rock & Roll who died much too soon, the ex-wife of Danny Keough, Nicholas Cage, and most notoriously, Michael Jackson- and always in the public eye.

With all her fame and pedigree, and wealth, Lisa Marie Presley does not have to work. But it appears, she does have something to prove. So you must give her credit at age 37 for daring to put herself on the line for a second time as a musical artist-songwriter and singer- by releasing her intriguing 2nd cd What Now. Mother Priscilla has said, “I was afraid for her to sing. Absolutely. And she was so naïve and innocent about the bigness…the bigness of the shoes she had to fill.” Still, Lisa Marie has proved she’s willing to work-and work hard-to prove herself to her fans while exploring the relevance of her music.

On What Now Lisa Marie appears to have gained focus and a lot more confidence in general. That may be because so many things in her life have changed in the last few years. First of all, she has some experience now, and has learned that she does have an audience for her music, and not just because she’s Elvis Presley’s daughter. The moment she realized this came while she was touring behind To Whom It May Concern. It had been a whirlwind experience, flying constantly on a hectic promotional schedule, putting a band together, making her public performance debuts in front of millions on national television and, of course, fielding intensely personal questions from media both tabloid and mainstream.



















In her official bio, she explains what happened. One day, she found herself on stage at the famed Stone Pony in Asbury Park, New Jersey, her first real headline show. “I didn’t know that I had fans, to be honest,” she says, looking back on that breakthrough night. “And this was a sold-out night, which shocked the holy hell out of me. And then it was, ‘Jesus, they’re singing my songs!’ They knew all of them and when I screwed up the lyrics they knew them! I felt that energy for the first time, moving people somehow. I’d kind of got lost in the whooped-di-do of interviews and explosion after explosion.” Soon she found the experience repeated night after night as she continued her tour.

“I got re-inspired,” she says. “I realized this is what this is for – not me talking everywhere and being all over the place. It’s what I was originally doing, being a music lover and putting out music and hoping people would hear it and it would help someone somewhere.”

Also, she now has a team she can trust, which as one might imagine, might not be so easy for a Presley to do. At the core of What Now is the experience gained from making the debut. For this follow-up, Presley once again teamed with Eric Rosse, who had produced most of the last album, to oversee the bulk of the new recordings. Also joining the mix was guitarist Michael Lockwood, who would anchor the recording band and co-write three songs. “I was definitely much more focused,” Presley says of the process. “I already found the team I liked working with. Eric was set.” So when she got a message that Linda Perry – the former Four Non-Blondes frontwoman who, as a writer and producer has been behind huge hits for Christina Aguilera, Pink and Gwen Stefani — wanted to work with her, she was leary. But she did agree to meet with Perry at a Christmas party.

“I was reluctant, but I went there,” she says. “And we immediately hit it off. Really liked her. We hung out and I just happened to like the woman. I played her what I’d already written, about four songs. And we went into the studio and started writing. It was quick and painless and fun. The collaborations yielded statements both tuneful and forceful, including I'll Figure It Out, the pointedly sentimental Thanx (“What’s the matter with you?” she jokes. “You’re writing something uplifting here!”) and the sharply contrasting Idiot (“It’s not about anybody you think, I can guarantee that,” she says. “There’s beauty in writing metaphorically and poetically, but sometimes its fun to shoot a ‘gross point blank’ between the eyes as on Idiot).

And, she’s in love, with her band leader and lead guitarist, Michael Lockwood (possibly the skinniest man in music). “We worked together, we were on the road together, so we already knew- that soulmate thing, that best friends have,” she told Oprah. “We did everything together-but no, I’m not wearing a ring.” “I’m very happy with him!” she told me.

So, enough already, you’re probably thinking. So here it is-the Dishmag conversation with Lisa Marie Presley

Who are your musical heroes?

Everything from Aretha Franklin to "Heart" to Pat Benatar to "Pink Floyd". Anything from the 70’s. When I was a kid, those strong women, those were the ones that were happening at the time. They inspired me. I met Pat and sang with her. I have not met "Heart" but I admire the hell out of them. I have not met Aretha. All the paths that I’ve walked, I’ve met a few of them, but you know, I run into people here and there. [But with my own music], I’m on my own on that one. I just do whatever melody I lock into and whatever comes to me.

At some point I’ve met most of the people I’d love to meet. The only people I haven’t are like Gary Oldman. I admire him as an actor.

Have you ever taken music lessons of any kind?

I did take guitar when I was younger and I did pick up the drums which I did better at than guitar. I did do scales but never really ever tried to sing. One day, I just wanted to try [to sing] but didn’t really have the balls. So I’d just do scales but didn’t know what I was doing them for because that doesn’t teach you much really. I was a teenager and I didn’t have the balls to do it yet, so I just kept going to a vocal coach and doing scales- until one day I sang and then she said “Oh my God” and I said “Yeah”.

I’m not patient enough, that’s the bad part about me, which I should be, but I’m not. It’s the one thing I regret, actually. I can just go off and feel [a song] even if technically I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. I can come up with some things and get into them and I have written songs before with what I’ve come up with, but technically I don’t know what I’m doing.

LISA MARIE PRESLEY

How do you approach songwriting?

I sit with somebody who plays and we start coming up with something, a direction, a melody. I’ll just sit there and if I’m not inspired, I’ll just sit there and play a song in my head and then I’ll keep going and then “yeah yeah yeah”. I like that a lot and then I’ll start humming, and then we’ll get into that and then I’ll start singing.

Sometimes, I’ll have a fleeting thought that I think is brilliant which is rare (laughs). I like poetry too. I just scatter poetry in my lyrics or I write poetry for future reference if I want to write a song. If I want to grab a line from the poetry and if it applies, I’ll use it.

I also write with my guitarist Michael, and we’ll try to come up with something, something that might give us some direction. You know, like Turbulence? He came up with that on the computer and made the foundation track and I responded to it immediately. It just depends, sometimes it’s guitar, sometimes it’s piano, and sometimes it’s... I just get an idea down on a computer.

I usually set a time period [to write a song] but that doesn’t mean it’s always going to happen in that period. I get really angry and frustrated if it doesn’t happen quickly. Like I said, impatience is my WORST virtue. If I go to write something, I want to walk out with a complete demo done song by the time I leave, and sometimes I get really frustrated if that doesn’t happen quickly.

But sometimes it does. I’ve written songs sometimes in an hour that are on that record, maybe a couple of hours. For Now What, Linda came over and started strumming her guitar and came up with the chords and then she left and I came up with the lyric.

I wrote a few things on the road but not much because that’s a whole different mindset. I think I may have referred back to a couple things I’d written down but normally I sit and focus on that.

Do you feel your songwriting has progressed since the first cd?

I think they’re a little more focused. I’m a little more professional about it, you know. Because I’ve been working with Linda who’s like a machine of songwriting. That was really strange for me because she’s really fast and she’s got a whole set up that’s pretty amazing and I think I learned a lot from her. And she’s really a pro writer, so I kind of watched how she went about things and maybe learned a few things from her.

I think the thing she was really shocked at with me was that I was REALLY involved from the first chords of the first guitar, all the way to each thing. And then, with my lyrics, she was sort of baffled that I took something and kind of ran away and didn’t want anyone to be involved with that. Because I don’t play an instrument, melodies and lyrics are my only contribution and that’s my thing. There’s a purging part that I need to happen, so…

On your new cd, there’s a lot of anger. Dirty Laundry. Idiot. There’s also a strong feeling of deliverance, or epiphany? Where does that all come from?

I’d say there’s less anger in this record than the first one. There’s a lot more inspirational songs on this record, even though they might be a bit biting. It’s me starting to come to terms with things in a more uplifting way. Even Idiot is just a point blank ‘f..k you’ song and that came from someone who drove me nuts. But other than that I thought, ‘I can be really poetic about this… or not.’ There’s four or five songs on there that are a little angry but then there’s another half that’s more inspirational, I would hope. What gives people hope? It’s not always going to be clouds and dandelions and sunshine, you know what I mean?

I like to hone in on that. Sometimes when I hone in on the anger, I get the best stuff out of me. But then it’s just out of me, I don’t keep it; it’s just a purging thing that I’m not into on a regular basis.

It also depends on what song you’re talking about. There are different songs in which I have anger for different subjects. Each one has something that I’m addressing that wasn’t good, and I didn’t like, so I’m addressing it. Whether it be a person or whether it be a group of people. A lot of time I’m talking about trying not to conform, trying not to be part of something I don’t want to be a part of, or trying to and failing at that. It could be more than one person there.

In Dirty Laundry, you wrote “people love it when you lose.” Do you really believe that?

Right now, yeah. When I recorded that, no, I was just pointing out a general state of affairs, and also to the art of entertainment now. It’s crazy what’s on TV and what we’re all watching, and I think it’s all based upon the democratization of the people. That’s what we watch and that’s what we’re turning into. That’s the subject I’m honing in on more than anything.

LISA MARIE PRESLEY

Having gone through some of the press I’ve gone through and explaining this to people - and then watching how they say they agree with me and they understand and they know what I’m talking about with the whole Dirty Laundry subject and after I tell them it’s about greed, then I watch how they spin it and the next thing I see somehow is the way they run the story by conglomerating me in with Michael Jackson and the whole thing’s lost, and it’s gone.

That’s kind of what’s been happening. I won’t even say anything half the time and they’ll just put me in there with him. That’s really frustrating because there’s no way around it right now. It just seems worse than ever to me.

OK, ‘fess up! Who’s the Idiot?

I never say who my songs are about because that ruins it. It could be about your boss, lover, ex - you name it. It was just someone who I’d taken years of crap from and I had gotten tired of it, that’s all. (I’d love to know who you hate!) Yeah, I know.

What do your songs mean to you?

They’re all just me kind of coming to terms with myself, I guess, being shy. I’ll Figure It Out, Fade to Black…. It’s not a person in particular, it’s like, a group, an idea of something that I’m departing from or saying ‘f..k you’ to, or saying ‘I really tried but I can’t’… and now what?

Give me an example of what you’re talking about…

It’s all about taking different angles. They’re all about me taking different views on the same subject, whether it be a group of people, or mediocrity, or what you’re supposed to be and you’re not, or what you’re thought of as and you’re not, and you realize that you’re not and you’re kind of being ok with it or you’re going ‘f..k you,’ I’m not, but I’m ok with it anyway. I’m not all the things you think I should be. And that can apply to anybody on any subject whether they’re an outcast, whether they’re a rebel, or whether they’re doing something no one understands or they’re doing something their parents don’t want them to. I don’t know.

That may happen to some people later but they don’t know it while they’re going through it. I was never a cheerleader. I was never in the 'in crowd' in school. I was always this(unintelligible), you know, this, you know, the dumb shit. And you know, it’s always kind of been, my whole life, I’ve realized that very large masses of people have pre-perceived me to be, or want me to be, or friends of mine who are cool or doing all these things to be cool and I’m like ‘f..k you’ or whatever. On that subject, you could go anywhere with that…….Have you ever really tried to fit in?........ Obviously not, just look at my history.

It’s just unfortunate to have to deal with the things that make you not naïve or innocent. You know, kids are naïve and innocent at first, but they have to encounter people, and some hard stuff along the way, and become a little more guarded and a little more experienced and that’s an unfortunate thing that we have to deal with.

You’ve developed quite a close-knit group around you after just two records- Eric Rosse (Producer), Linda Perry (Songwriter), Pink(Duet), Danny Keough, (ex-husband, children’s father, member of the band) and Michael (lead guitarist and new boyfried). That must be reassuring for you…..

That’s what I need. I like to have people around me who are loyal and will cover my back I’m definitely loyal to my friends. I am, but it’s taken me a long time to find out who my friends are and now I know who they are and I definitely have their back. There have been a lot of things happening along the way but ultimately, I know, now.

I understand Joey Ramone was a close friend of yours, and he played a part in helping you choose your songs…..

He did like I’ll Figure It Out or Idiot. I like those songs a lot. On the first cd I pretty much used everything I had because we had a deadline, but actually 3 got scratched. There were 3 more songs. The ones that got scratched we don’t perform on tour.

Was it lonely growing up as an only child? Did you ever wish you had a brother or sister?

Yes. Yeah I did. I think so. I just remember pretending I had sisters and all of that. I don’t know, I don’t want to get all psychological. I was an only child and I guess I wished I had somebody else around. But I didn’t understand I wasn’t in a average home. I didn’t know there was anything different. (“Life in a bubble. It was definitely a bubble,” Priscilla has said.)

I’ve noticed there aren’t many photos approved by you around. Don’t you like the way you look in them?

Usually not. It’s pretty rare that I’ll find anything I like, 2 out of 50 I’ll think are alright. I hate having my picture taken for one thing and then I hate them when they’re done anyway unless they’re oddly good. I don’t know, I’m really picky about that.

Have you been following the Michael Jackson trial?

No, not at all. I kind of have an aversion to it because it keeps getting brought up in every interview.

You have a unique way of dressing onstage. Do you work with a stylist or do you shop for yourself?

I don’t really like to be dressing sexy because of how overrated that is right now. I want to be comfortable when I’m onstage. I like to wear my converse [sneakers].

And then, suddenly, the conversation was over……..

I have got to go now, the phones are going crazy and there’s somebody waiting

Something To Think About! A bonus quote from Priscilla about Lisa Marie for those of you that made it all the way to the end...."One day she came home and he (Elvis) had bought her a fur coat, a mink coat. He had bought it for her for her birthday. I said to her, 'you are not wearing this, this is not for you. You are five years old and you are not wearing a mink coat.' It was just to much. Even though a child doesn’t put a lot on it, others put a lot on it. Comments from other people, 'Oh my god, like she had this, she had that.' It really bothered me because I didn’t want her to grow up the way priviledged children are, but Elvis wanted her to have EVERYTHING. Because he too, didn’t really know. You know, you want your children to have what you didn’t have. And you don’t realize what that does to a child. Excess is really horrible. If you’re not ready for it, then what it does to you when you have too much too soon."-As told to Oprah Winfrey on Oprah.

 

www.Dishmag.com / Issue 192 - November 2017
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