Lissie: “You want to succeed, but you want to be able to be more subtle”

by James Hendicott

Thank You To The Flowers’, the new EP from American singer-songwriter, Lissie, invariably hugely popular when she tours Ireland, sees the star explore what’s been a difficult year.

Tarnished by both the impact of the coronavirus and a difficult break up, Lissie’s latest is a collection of five covers, including the Prince classic sent stratospheric by Sinead O’Connor, ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’.

While her original music has propelled her to four consecutive UK top 20 albums, Lissie has always dabbled in covers, putting her distinctive spin on work that catches her attention as a form of inventive light relief.

“With the pandemic and all the intense political energy in the world, as well as a break up that was pretty shocking to me at the time, I’ve been quite down, and haven’t been able to do any concerts or travel,” she says. “I had to just sit with myself and my feelings. I found it therapeutic to go and record five cover songs, just to keep my inspiration up.”

“I hadn’t intended to release them, they were just guitar and vocal recordings, but the project allowed me to keep expressing myself, and allowed me to be reflective and feel more empowered through this strange and painful time.”

“I’ve started to write songs again myself now, and I’m not quite ready. Huge emotional upheaval in your life needs processing, but there’s no doubt that some of the best art comes from sorrow and discomfort.”

The Prince cover, naturally defined by that Sinead O’Connor vocal take, was a particularly stark one.

“I’ve always approached covers by not overthinking them,” Lissie says. “I try to put my own spin. I think with the Prince track and Sinead O’Connor’s cover, I think everyone can relate to being hurt by their partner and feeling like you can never move on, and feeling kind of lost. It wasn’t too hard to reinterpret. It’s a bold one to try and tackle, but I really related to it this summer.”

“I think that in doing covers and writing songs, it’s really reflective of my head space. Part of the reason that song felt so compelling is that I had planted all these flowers at my ex-boyfriend’s house just before I left and we broke up, and they all bloomed beautifully.

“I’m pretty sure he didn’t water them, or take care of them, so I’m pretty sure they died after I left. There’s a lyric in the song that very literally talks about that idea.”

“I’m very open with my feelings, and that’s why I create art, really. I’ve just started to write for a new album in Nashville, and that will last for a few weeks. I’m just gathering material really. I’d have been further along if it wasn’t for the pandemic, as I’d planned to record in Norway, but that had to be put on hold.”

“Being in Nashville writing, I hope will allow me to think about putting out a follow up to [fourth record] ‘Castles’ in spring or summer next year. It does depend a lot on being able to travel and so on.”

“I still really want to write a hit single, but I can’t get my head around the idea that I shouldn’t write a song if it’s not going to be a hit single. You want to succeed, but at the same time, you want to be able to be more subtle, and that those tracks deserve the light of day, too.”

“The pandemic has made me so grateful for all the people I work with. I’m more inclined now, to remember that I’m always part of a team, it’s such a collaborative industry, and it’s all about balance: preserving my vision and integrity whilst also being able to take into account other opinions, too.”

‘Thank You To The Flowers’ by Lissie is out now.

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