Posts Tagged ‘Lissie’

Don Henley and Lissie use the same approach to writing songs—don’t force it and wash the dishes!

October 4, 2020

I enjoy listening to songwriters talk about their creative process—how they approach the task of writing a song, the kind of strategies they use.

How Don Henley writes his songs

I recently watched a 92nd Street Y interview posted on YouTube in 2015. American Rock royalty Billy Joel and Eagles drummer and singer-songwriter Don Henley covered a lot of ground in 85 minutes. One of the things Joel asked Henley about was what does he do to get himself into the space where he can write songs.

Don tells Billy how he may hole up in a cabin, or somewhere where he won’t be disturbed, and shuts out all electronic distractions. He also says he doesn’t just sit there and write; he can’t force the words to come. He says he follows the zen-like advice to do a simple task first.

He tells the audience, “I’m dead serious. I’ve written some of my best stuff loading and unloading the dishwasher! Because you’re distracted and yet you’re not. I don’t know how to explain the thing. But I’ve read about the zen masters saying the same thing—if you can just do a menial task instead of sitting there with a pen and paper, in front of you going, (he clenches his fists and grunts).” The embedded video may play from the beginning, but that part of the discussion starts at 57:14.

How Lissie writes her songs

That reminds me of the exact same thing Lissie said in The A-Sides Interview. She discusses how she is learning to balance art with commerce, and spontaneity with structure. Describing her creative process she usually comes up with a melody, sometimes working with other musicians, then later writes the lyrics alone.

When writing lyrics, she’s “careful to not force it” and is always surprised when rhyming phrases pop into her head “when washing the dishes, not focusing hard on the lyrics.” That’s when she’s presented with newer better word choices she hadn’t thought of.

She emphasizes finding a balance: “being spontaneous, yet structured.” The embedded video may play from the beginning, but that part of the interview starts at 4:58.

How Colin Hay writes his songs

Another singer-songwriter I had discovered and recently wrote about is Colin Hay. When it comes to writing songs he says he likes to have as empty a mind as possible and puts himself in a space where he won’t be interrupted. He emphasizes that time is important, to give himself enough time to fail. He describes a scene where he’s all alone for 3 or 4 hours without any distractions, just sitting with his acoustic guitar doing nothing, just idling, coming up with musical ideas.

At other times, a friend may drop by and mention something in passing that will act as a catalyst to what he’s been thinking about. It triggers the melody, and then the words spontaneously come out in one take. In those cases he’ll quickly finish a song in under an hour. That’s how he wrote Waiting for my Real Life to Begin.

He explains all this in a 2011 CNN interview with Brooke Baldwin when she asks him where he was when he wrote that song, then quotes some of the lyrics to him. The embedded video may play from the beginning, but that part of the interview starts at 3:52.

TM, creativity, and the default mode network

Our minds are usually working on a particular problem, consciously and unconsciously. I’ve had the same thing happen to me when I’m writing a poem or a blog post and reach an impasse. I give up, let it go, and, surprisingly, the right solution later presents itself when I least expect it.

Science calls that place in our brains the default mode network (DMN), a.k.a. the imagination network or genius lounge. It’s activated when the mind is daydreaming, not engaged or concentrating on anything, just “idling” as Colin Hay put it. The key is to be easy. Focusing or “forcing it” turns it off.

Interestingly, the DMN is also activated during the effortless practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique as practitioners experience a state of “restful alertness.” Sometimes great ideas may show up during, but more likely after TM, what David Lynch calls, “Catching the Big Fish.” He often tells students, “TM is a boon for the filmmaker.” It facilitates access to one’s inner resources to create and think out of the box.

Jon Bon Jovi says washing dishes brings on hit songs

Addendum: Jon Bon Jovi, who loves TM, shared the same experience as Don Henley and Lissie on Monday night’s Late Show with Stephen Colbert when they discussed the events that influenced his new album, Bon Jovi 2020. Bon Jovi told Colbert how the song Do What You Can came about when he was washing dishes in one of their JBJ Soul Kitchens during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Washing dishes brings on hit songs, Stephen.

Related: Lissie @lissiemusic and her connections to Twin Peaks, Fairfield and #TranscendentalMeditation

Lissie @lissiemusic and her connections to Twin Peaks, Fairfield and #TranscendentalMeditation

May 11, 2019
Lissie at Paste Studio NYC live from The Manhattan Center
Streamed live on Feb 28, 2018

I heard an interview this week (May 8, 2019) on Iowa Public Radio’s Talk of Iowa with Charity Nebbe. She spoke with singer/songwriter Lissie. During the conversation her connection to Twin Peaks, Fairfield and TM came up. Listen to Singer Lissie On Ditching The West Coast For Life On An Iowa Farm.

I had never heard of her and was impressed with her powerful voice and candid nature. She can sometimes sound like Stevie Nicks or Adele. Listen to this Fleetwood Mac cover of Dreams and you’ll understand why.

Around 9 minutes in she talks about a peace she found in Mt. Pleasant at her great-grandmother’s funeral. She carried it with her to California and always came back to visit family. Then she says, “I went to Fairfield and took a TM course, Transcendental Meditation.” We checked and verified that Lissie had learned TM in June 2014.

Lissie says the same thing in a video with this Des Moines Register article from Aug. 15, 2017: An Iowa musician was featured on one of this summer’s favorite TV shows. They’re referring to Twin Peaks.

They embed the video from Oct. 11, 2016: Folk musician Lissie escapes back home to Midwest. After leaving the Quad Cities area for the fast-paced lifestyle in Los Angeles, Folk-style musician Lissie discovered an Iowa farm was better for her soul than the fast lanes of Southern California.

I’ve been to Fairfield to learn Transcendental Meditation.

Lissie says: “I spent my time growing up in Iowa. I had this kind of romanticized dream or idea that some day I’ll have a farm in Iowa. I visited the Bridges of Madison County. My mom and I took a road trip and we went to John Wayne’s house. You know, like I’ve done some things in Iowa. I’ve been to Fairfield to learn Transcendental Meditation. And I’ve just always had this soft spot for Iowa.”

Lissie identifies as a Midwesterner from the Heartland and says how much she loves Iowa, describing all the reasons why. It’s where her heart belongs. Looks like she found her roots and is at peace with herself.

I mentioned this to Erin Skipper (The Light That Seeks You). She said, “David Lynch is a fan and had her be a Roadhouse performer on Twin Peaks.”

Dean Hurley, the show’s music director, and a collaborator since 2005, said she “is an incredibly emotive performer who completely embodies her music and gives everything. Lissie was definitely one of the acts that David wanted involved from the beginning. He’s been a big fan of hers for years and discovered her by a series of videos she posted on YouTube covering Lady Gaga, Metallica, etc.” (See others including Bonnie Raitt and Bob Dylan.)

In that interview, The Music of Twin Peaks: The Return: Lissie, Dean further explains what David looks for in a musical performance when realizing his ideas for the series. He blends intense music, emotion and acting, so the power of Lissie’s music fulfills that for him.

He said “David doesn’t attend a lot of concerts, but when she came through LA years back, he wanted to go. I can’t emphasize how rare that is for him to want to go out to a show.”

He added, “An artist like Lissie thrives in the live performance arena, she’s one of these people that almost can’t be contained on a recording because she’s the fullest realization of herself live.”

It was Lissie who suggested she sing Wild West, which fit in perfectly with an episode. See Lissie sing Wild West in Twin Peaks, Season 3, Part 14.

See the Update below where Lissie explains how she and David connected, how she learned TM in Fairfield, Iowa, then went to have coffee and talk with him in LA, and ultimately received an email from him asking her if she wanted to be part of the new Twin Peaks.

I enjoyed this short video profile on iHeartRadio: Lissie – Artist Stories – Interview (2016) – Part 1 and Part 2. It starts with her intention: “I would like to be successful with my music, but it’s about more than that, it’s about, like figuring out what my purpose for being on this planet is.”

This is an interesting description from that interview: With a career that has seen her open for renowned artist Lenny Kravitz an early supporter, Tom Petty, and even been asked to perform at Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore’s wedding, Lissie has had a wealth of incredible experiences that have made her the confident and determined artist she is today.

This is also worth watching: Lissie On Staying True To Herself At The Patch. From Cali to Iowa: Lissie keeps it Lissie. Join her at The Patch as she performs “Ojai” and “Don’t You Give Up On Me” and talks about giving in to her ambitions, not giving them up.

Verse 2 of Ojai is pure poetry; so succinct yet says so much!

I miss the seasons, I miss the land
I miss them for reasons I don’t understand
I took it all for granted
I bloomed where I was planted

She sums up her approach: “You know, I’m not trying to do anything. I’m not trying to be cool. I’m not trying to ever have a fresh sound or a cool look for an image. I’m just singing songs about my life in the most heartfelt genuine way I can, and I’m gonna be moving on to more songs very soon. And it’s as simple as that.”

I wonder if some of these developments may have come about after she learned TM? Lissie had the courage to trust and act on her inner yearnings and is happier for it. She followed her heart and is now living her life on her own terms.

Lissie has a new album out: When I’m Alone: The Piano Retrospective: https://lissie.lnk.to/WIATW. Here’s the title song with lyrics.

Lissie – When I’m Alone (Piano Version) [Lyric Video]

Here are 3 examples of the first song on the album—Don’t You Give Up On Me—the official video with her band, a live version with her guitarist in the studios of 89.3 The Current, and on this new album as a Piano Version. Listen to her on Spotify, YouTube and VEVO.

It’d be nice if she decided to visit and play Fairfield one day. Some of us are reaching out to her. She’s on tour, so we’ll see if anything happens.

Update: Now that I’ve been finding and listening to more of her performances and interviews on YouTube, I noticed Lissie mentions again her learning TM in Fairfield, in last year’s BUILD interview, and also says it’s where Maharishi University is located in Iowa.

Further into the interview she’s asked how she got into Twin Peaks, and extends what Dean Hurley had mentioned about David Lynch going to see her in concert. “We ultimately ended up talking on the phone and he came to my show. He’s really into TM, so after I had been in Iowa to take this TM course, I had reached out, and ended up joining him at his home and drinking coffee and catching up on life. And so we just stayed in touch over the years and he’s just been very supportive and kind to me. So I think it was 2015, I got an email, ‘Hey would you want to be on the new Twin Peaks?’ So of course, like yes, that’s amazing, like this legendary status. Ya, he wanted me to be a part of it, and I performed in episode (14) for Twin Peaks!”

Further Update: A little over 7 months later I would finally get to hear Lissie perform in person. A strong supporter of Bernie Sanders, Lissie had posted on her Instagram that she was going to open for him at the Steamboat Senior Center in Burlington, Iowa on Saturday night, and then at the Bridge View Center in Ottumwa the following night, Sunday, December 15, 2019.

I drove with a friend to the Ottumwa event. We sat up close to a makeshift stage in the lobby area surrounded by rows of chairs. When she sang, I felt my head tingling! Wish fulfilled. After she left the stage, I introduced myself, that I was from Fairfield, Maharishi University, mentioned her TM teacher, her meeting David Lynch, what he thought of her as an artist, and that I felt the same way.

I asked her what it was like when David invited her to perform in Twin Peaks, The Return. She was driving at the time and had to pull over to the side of the road to read his message. What an unexpected surprise!

Lissie said David’s friendship and support did a lot for her self-esteem. David’s like that. He recognizes talent when he sees it. He’s given several unknown artists a chance to shine, drawing out their best performances that would launch their careers. Naomi Watts comes to mind.

Of course in Lissie’s case, she was already a fully formed exciting artist, as Dean Hurley explained in his interview. What David did was offer her a legendary venue to perform in and be heard by a much larger audience!

None of this fame seems to have gone to Lissie’s head. She’s very down to earth, accessible. I found her to be very friendly, quite lovely actually. She introduced me to her sister Annika, who took our picture. Here is a cropped closeup of one of them. Looking forward to Lissie visiting us some time next year.

Meeting Lissie at the Bridge View Center in Ottumwa after her opening for Bernie Sanders on Sunday, December 15, 2019

New addition: Don Henley and Lissie use the same approach to writing songs—don’t force it and wash the dishes!


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