Interview with NY Rock (march 1998)

NYR: How did you become interested in being a musician?

Lisa: I can't really put a finger on a certain date or a certain event, somehow I grew up with so much music around me, it always played such a big part in our family. There was always music playing somewhere. My dad played the piano almost all day long when he was at home. My brother is a classical musician. It must be in my genes somehow. I think it was just something that was bound to happen.

NYR: Did your parents influence you in any way? Did they try to encourage you or discourage you?

Lisa: They were very supportive, but they didn't take my wish to be a musician too seriously. Like I said, music played such a big part in our family and somehow my mom took all the blame for our obsession with music. She made my brother listen to a lot of classical stuff when he was a baby, and he became a classical musician. When I was born and she drove around with me, she had the radio on in the car the classic rock station mostly and they were playing songs like "Stairway To Heaven." She believes that influenced us. Well, I can't say I blame her in any way.

NYR: So you just grabbed a guitar and started playing your own songs?

Lisa: I had plenty of music lessons when I was I kid, everything from piano to tap dance, to ballet. I wrote my first song when I was around 8 years of age. I wrote it on the piano and even won a prize for it. I was about 14 when I started playing guitar. I liked the idea that I could carry an instrument around with me and my brother was already becoming a great classical pianist. The only way to get to the piano was to drag him off by force, so I was quite happy with a guitar and it was easier to play in a band and that was one of my dreams at 14. (Laughs) I think it's almost everybody's dream at 14.

NYR: But most kids at 14 don't write their own songs...

Lisa: I didn't write my own songs straight away. The problem was that my guitar teacher was really into stuff like John Cougar, or John Mellencamp how he calls himself now. You know that kind of stuff, and I had trouble remembering them. So when he suggested that I should try to write my own songs, I was really happy to agree with that.

NYR: Who were your musical influences? What bands did you like?

Lisa: When I was a kid I was really into Kiss, I guess the masks intrigued me, then basically everything they played on the radio. Later I was quite taken with the Cure, Brian Eno, David Bowie and Jimi Hendrix. I still like them a lot, especially their lyrics, they are kind of cryptic in a way. When I started writing lyrics, I thought I was cryptic and mysterious too. Years later when I read them, I was so embarrassed. I mean, I bared my soul in my lyrics and didn't even realize it. Lyrics can be so obvious even if you think you're cryptic.

NYR: You had your first hit "Stay" without a record deal. That's a surprising achievement.

Lisa: After college and all that, I ended in New York City and played a lot of shows, went to a lot of record companies, played in a lot of coffee shops and clubs and it paid off in the end. I really remember trying to sing over the noise of the cappuccino machines in the back. You probably never realized how annoying the sound is, but I tell you, when you're on stage trying to sing your heart out every hiss of the cappuccino machine feels like it's aimed straight at you. Anyway, let me get back to "Stay." Ethan Hawke played it to Ben Stiller. He liked it and it was used in the soundtrack for Reality Bites and it took off from there. It was funny, my parents never tried to stop me from being a musician, but I think they somehow thought it was just a phase I was going through and sooner or later I would get a real job. When I got a Grammy nomination and a Brit Award they finally believed that I was serious and that I was a musician.

NYR: Now you don't have to worry about record contracts and playing in coffee houses anymore. Would you say a lot has changed for you?

Lisa: It was liberating to pick a lot of different studios and record the songs for Firecracker in different studios. Something I couldn't have done before, simply because I didn't have the money for it. For the first time I could book real studio time and go in and record songs, but somehow most of the work was done in a friend's apartment again. Simply because I like the feel of that room.

NYR: "Truthfully," one of the songs from Firecracker was planned as a soundtrack. Do you like working on soundtracks or was it just by chance?

Lisa: It was written for a scene in the movie One Fine Day. Michelle Pfeiffer, or the character she plays in that movie, is beginning to fall in love with George Clooney you know the guy from ER but they didn't use the song in the movie. It's funny, that way I ended up with a positive love song on the album. I don't have a special attachment to soundtracks, even if it might look like it, but it's a challenge to write a song that goes together with a scene in a movie... to express somebody else's feelings.

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