Lisa Marie Presley is back on the music scene with a stellar album called Storm And Grace – a mix of rock and alt-country, if I could be so bold to name it. T-Bone Burnett has put his wonderful touch on these great songs.
With this album, she’s on a very important tour, (Aug 28 at The Triple Door in Seattle) — to rebrand herself away from the ‘pop star’ and ‘daughter-of’ labels. She’s a down-to-earth and friendly conversationalist – and happy to talk about Dad.
What’s been going on with you for 7 long years between albums?
Oh, God, everything. You need time sometimes in between things – lots of changes. I had babies (twin girls 4 years ago). Things happen. Life.
Is it good to get away from pop music on Storm And Grace?
I was never supposed to be in the pop era. People in the past just didn’t know how to market me. So this one is just more comfortable and normal and it’s just easier. T-Bone Burnett producing it helps to give it that feel. It’s been a growing process as well. Each record has been in a growing time of my life where I was doing something and going through something that I was writing about.
In the video of Over Me, your band –the Black Lillies – looks like an old rock medicine show.
That’s a nice version of what I’ve heard them called before – my husband is sitting right here – they called them morticians and undertakers… (laughing)
Did you write all of these songs on Storm and Grace?
I write everything. I wrote all the songs and agree on a melody. Then they leave me alone in a room and I’ll labor over the lyrics – sometimes 3 to 7 hours. I like to walk out with a song finished by the end of the day.
Your press release talks about you as a kid, obsessively playing 45’s on your record player, and catching your dad singing into a hairbrush in the mirror.
Reverse that. He caught me.
Ooops! Okay then, has music always come easy to you?
Yes, it’s always been important to me. Obviously it would have been easier for me if I’d picked some other profession. (laughs) But I love music so much, it’s always been a part of my life. And writing, I’ve always thought of myself as a singer-songwriter –it’s not like I’m trying to be or do anything other than that. For me, if I was around in the Carol King days and Linda Ronstat, I’d fit in fine – because there were a lot of female singer-songwriters that weren’t full of other stuff. It was pretty simple back then.
But you’re around in the time of Lucinda Williams…
That is very true. Good. Shelby Lynn and Bonnie Raitt. I mean there’s plenty of amazing, incredible… Jesus, there’s Heart. A lot, too many to name.
If you weren’t the daughter of the King, what kind of celebrity would you want from your music?
I had the celebrity before the music. I always have to struggle to conquer – that’s one element and I get it – that’s one element, and that’s where the music is. This is what you read, and I get it, that other persona. But that’s not what this music’s about, that’s not what I do it for. And back then, people didn’t get nearly as much, it wasn’t as crazy, celebrity-wise for people.
I know people look at me for whatever various reasons for whatever they heard. I can see it on their face, I can sense when the music is actually reaching people. And that why I do what I do, I would never do this for the celebrity.
Talk to us about doing duets with your dad, Natalie Cole style.
We’ve done it 3 times. I usually do it on the anniversary of his death, August 16th, There’s usually a huge event in Memphis, and I do it for the fans. Steven Foster produced the first and second one – Don’t Cry, Daddy, and In the Ghetto. I did it to raise money for a housing project. And the third one I just did with T-Bone. I never marketed them or cashed in on them, they were for a specific reason.
The latest one is I Love You Because – with beautiful harmonies – how do you get through that recording emotionally?
I can’t think that way while I do it, but afterward I will. I have to think technically. He’s (Elvis) is going to sound absolutely brilliant and perfect as always, and I have to come in here and not ruin the song – that’s normally what I’m thinking. (laughing)
What are your favorite movies of your Dad’s?
If I had to chose, Love Me Tender, Jailhouse Rock and King Creole, I also liked a lot.
They were actually more serious, and more in the realm of what he wanted to be doing than what happened later. He had fun, but he wanted to be a serious actor, and in those, you can see he was very capable of it.
What’s your favorite memory of your dad?
Being alone with him, he’d get me up in the middle of the night and take me off somewhere in his golf cart. He was nocturnal. And I could pretty much run unsupervised around Graceland. I was talking to my cousin and we can’t understand why we didn’t kill each other, we were always in trouble. But spending time alone with him (dad) in the middle of the night, I liked the most. He’d get up and say we were going to a pet store or on a ride somewhere or to an amusement park. He’d take me to my Grandfather’s alone. That kind of stuff I just really liked.
You’ll be playing at The Triple Door on August 28th here in Seattle. Have you seen the movie, It Happened At The State Fair (filmed in Seattle)?
Yes I have.
Will you go up in the Space Needle where your dad was?
Yes. This tour is a big one and if I have extra time, I will. We don’t have that many days off.
You’ve been a joy to talk to, Lisa Marie Presley. Thank you.
All right, thank you.
-Lee Callahan, Jack FM Seattle
Audio of the entire interview here!