“With the economy being so screwed up right now, there are a lot of people working at jobs they don't like and feel undervalued at to survive – all their dreams just slowly die.”
Lissie Maurus is one to talk about going for your dreams. The 31 year old began writing music in high school to stay sane from the drama, and after being expelled in her senior year, she worked to receive her diploma in an outreach center before spending 2 years attending Colorado State University. During those 2 years, she opened for musicians who travelled to her city, and finally after a semester in Paris Lissie left school to pursue music and produce a 4 song EP that helped her receive some airplay. After lots of years of dedication towards a career in music, she now takes the stage to large arenas and rocks out with a mix of folk/rock/blues that can only be known as Lissie.
In 2008, the spunky singer opened for Lenny Kravitz’ Love Revolution Tour after a friend tipped him off about her MySpace page. And it wasn’t by a fluke. Her EP, Why You Runnin’, was released in November the next year and listed amongst Paste Magazine's Eight Most Auspicious Musical Debuts of 2009. After signing with Sony Music UK’s Columbia Records, her debut album, Catching a Tiger, came out in June 2010 and Lissie became Paste magazine's No. 1 Best New Solo Artist of 2010. In October of this year, she dropped her second album, Back To Forever – a rawer, tougher album compared to the last.
“I knew a lot more about what instruments should do what and I had my band play on this album,” she says. “We've gotten really in tune with each other the past 4 years!”
She continues: “I think my material is well rounded on this record, and I've just learned a lot more through experience musically,” says Lissie. “Having said all that, we haven't gone in a radical new direction. I like to give each song what it deserves and let my voice be the thing that ties it together.”
Unlike many musicians who allow other artists to write their songs and machines to autotune their voices, Lissie is an authentic writer and singer through and through. While she plays guitar along with the band, her voice is what brings her brilliant words to life. The music is simply a background to the fire being emitted from inside her. Sometimes it peaks through in softer breakup ballads such as They All Want You, Love In The City and Back To Forever – leaving the listener feeling both the hurt and empathy Lissie portrays through her voice. Sometimes the pain pours out in angrier ones such as Further Away (Romance Police), I Bet On You and Can’t Take it Back. Sleepwalking and The Habit are more upbeat, seemingly written in a sense of both hopelessness and hopefulness. Lissie truly understands the well-roundedness of emotions and displays them well as an artist.
This comes in handy for more conscious songs that appear in the middle of the album, such as I Don’t Want To Go To Work and Mountaintop Removal. The first was written a few years ago, but it was important to Lissie that it was on the album because it’s so universal. Addressed from the perspective of someone who’s out late after work one night and getting feisty while sanding on top of the bar, it shouts what everyone wishes they would say at one point in their life: “I don’t want to go to work, you don’t pay me what I’m worth!”
The second is a more political piece about America and its economy. Lissie sings about how the trees at the top of a mountain were removed to build a factory, and how she read in the paper that some kids were killed when it burnt down. When she stares at the field now, it’s a circle in the earth where nothing will grow. She asks if they can start again and think of the children.
“And I can’t stand it/What’s the use in making something new/If all that made us must be ruined/I can’t demand it/I got nothing but/Mounting debt and fear/I scratch my head wondering/How we got here.”
Lissie’s thirst for improvement is evident in Back To Forever. On the track Cold Fish, she sings angrily towards “a poser and a problem” that she keeps one step ahead of. “I thank God that I’ve been allowed to get up and do something with my life – I’m not backing down.” Like most songs on the 12-song album, Lissie’s sincere passion and fighting drive comes through in her lyrics. Topics on going for your dream and losing the one you love are met with catchy hooks and smooth melodies – yet the sound is just as raw as her freckled-splashed face. The natural superstar is known to wear as little makeup as possible, and leaves her image to be discovered in her music rather than in the tabloids. She prides herself on being an artist known for what she has to say rather than what she looks like, and speaks clearly of it in her third single, Shameless.
“I don’t want to be famous/If I got to be shameless/If you don’t know what my name is, name is/So what, so what?”
Lissie recognizes that the media decides the ideal for beauty, but as she sings in Shameless, she doesn’t buy no hype.
“So take a shot for free/And photoshop the bits of me that you don't want/I'll steal your magazine/The one with the beauty queen on the front.”
Her frustration towards the idealistic beauty queen type comes out in They All Want You, when she knows she’s losing her love – another musician in the spotlight – to arm candy.
But at the bottom of the hurt, the listener can find Lissie’s sadness for her lost love, as she realizes he’s getting lost in the glamour of the music business.
“Because they catch you/Like a bar fly who's always buying/The one guy who never says no/But I'm the one that needs you/In the party people leave you/And my heart breaks/baby it's takin' its toll.”
And indeed it takes its toll, as she reveals in Back To Forever, the title track. It’s evident in the album that Lissie was fighting to stay afloat in our backwards society. The trees on the mountaintop, the beauty queen on the magazine and her relationship become ruined by a culture that cares more about appearance than substance. She looks back on her memories, wishing things could stay golden.
But good ol’ Lissie carries on – probably after a swig of tequila, something she’s known to drink on stage. Her critique of our culture yet motivation to improve things makes her the soundtrack to everything Flurt represents. Lazy when it comes to brushing her hair and speculated to not wear a bra on stage, her advice for young women is proof of her success: “Try not to give a shit.”
“Life’s too short to feel bad about yourself,” she says. “Try to really get to know yourself and in doing so [you’ll] cultivate self-confidence. I think how we feel about ourselves colours how others see and treat us.”
Lissie is currently touring the US. For more info on her tour, go to www.lissie.com
Published in the fall 2013 issue of FLURT.