The Warriors Within And Without Lisa Mitchell
The Aussie songstress takes us through her fantastic new LP ahead of her Australian tour.
Header image by @______e.m______.
“This is a good song isn’t it?” I say to my friend Nick. He agrees with a satisfied “mmm” followed by laughter. We both nod our heads as we fly through regional Victoria in a small 4WD while Lisa Mitchell’s The Boys plays out through the car stereo.
So there I am, sitting in the passenger seat, listening to Lisa, enjoying her album, knowing I had to interview her sometime soon, but not remembering when. I was unpreparedly preparing, playing her back catalogue to myself, listening to Wonder, and remembering why I fell in love with her music when I did - remembering how old I was, remembering the girlfriends who had left, who had come, and the ones who would never be. Remembering my hometown and the Australian connotations left throughout her music and placing them to moments in my own life. As I read the title of her second album, Bless This Mess, I thought, what a nice euphemism for almost all things that are the lives we live here.
I related so much to Wonder when I was young, and I find myself in a similar position with her new album, Warriors.
“She’s 26,” I say to Nick. I think that’s why I get her - I mean not to say I get all 26-year olds. But I get the ones who want to show everyone else who they really are without shouting it from the rooftops. I think that’s what she’s done here, on Warriors, because we all are warriors, everyone our age is, or close to our age. We grew up in an age where Australian music had a change of face, and she grew up with that, she was a part of it. The first few songs on Warriors are this, 'Look at my world from the outside', type façade of brilliant lyrics and lush, guitar-driven folk-pop, the stuff that says, 'Hey we can be happy despite what’s going on'. That not all things we create need a backstory of heartbreak, rather some of the better things can just be nostalgic memories. Simple moments that make you smile if only for a few seconds. That’s what I hear for the first half of this album. I hear someone who is content, constant.
As it goes on though, we see Mitchell rip open her chest and say while it's all well and good - even important - to be intrinsically nostalgic and happy, she's still hurting. Still feeling. From songs like What Is Love? to the ending sensation of Love, Death, we get to see inside of Lisa Mitchell. And for the sake of nostalgia this was such an important part of the album, the part in which she takes the music from now, to the Wonder years. Even so much as a simple thing like naming a song after a girl, (Josephine here, Wonder’s Stevie). There's less synth, more voice, ambience and slow strumming guitar, with lines like “I’m tired of being misunderstood” blasting in your ears at the end of an album, it's the perfect recipe for you to feel nothing but pure relevance, and sympathy.
The phone rings while I'm crusing through the countryside, and what follows is a wonderfully cruisy chat about connecting with fans in 2016, her new live show, and the shifting moods of Warriors, which is out October 14 and can be pre-ordered HERE.
Hey Jack, it's Lisa, how are you?
Hello, I’m good thanks! I heard your album last week, it's great. I saw that you’re obviously pretty excited about it - there seems to be a lot of happiness around this album.
Aw yeah? That’s cool, I guess there is happiness around it.
It just seems like there's a really positive vibe around the whole release... What for you are the undertones of Warriors?
So if we start at the beginning we’ve got The Boys, which is just this beautiful day I had in Sydney at the beach. Just driving around with a whole bunch of my friends. It was just so interesting, hanging out with all these guys who had all gone to school together. It was just a beautiful day. It was so Australian. I’m so glad it feels as uplifting as I felt it that day. There are all these songs on the album that are just stories, just like memories you know? Like stories that are happening right now. So in Warriors for example, it was the first time I heard Straight Lines by Silverchair on the school bus back when I was 16 or 17, on my way home. It just came back, remembering that just snapped me back into that world; still being a school teenager. Or remembering your first day’s away from your parent’s umbrella but you’re so naïve and innocent, and your dreams are so so big. You don’t have any reason to doubt yourself. I think it’s such a powerful time in peoples' lives, it’s certainly mine. So Warriors is kind of a snapshot of that and what it’s like living in the country. Loving the connection with nature, just being so hungry for the outside world.
It’s weird you say that because I have a really clean memory of a time I was obsessed with that song; I was obsessed with that album… It’s cool that you can have a song about listening to a song. I was also on a school bus, and I was blaring it through my headphones...
I know I know, that’s actually kind of funny, a song about hearing a song. I never thought about that. It’s amazing isn’t it, that one song is so powerful that you remember where you were.
It’s interesting because if you’re not in the right mood, you can miss out on a great song and completely disregard it.
Yeah definitely. Or if like someone you don’t like gives it to you, you’re like, 'nah hate it'.
I know for a fact that the last four songs stood out to me as the turning point, and correct me if I’m wrong but all the songs were positive at the start and then the four songs toward the end seem to be channelling an era of your songwriting that we haven’t heard in a while and going into a 'this is how I feel underneath all that' style?
You’re onto it. I think that’s a really good way of saying it. So yeah, the last songs are like that. Even in the recording studio, Eric [J Dubowsky, producer], and I mainly worked heavily on the first half of the album and the second half of the album was much more inspired by Tim Harvey and my demos. So Tim is a friend of mine, he and I demoed most of the album in the year before when we started recording with Eric. So the second half of the album is much more inspired by that period. So yeah of course Eric produced the second half but there is much more influence from the demo period. So there are more acoustic elements I think, there’s more guitars and tambourines for example. Piano, guitar... It’s more stripped back. And the content too, is a little more in depth, so that's why I wanted to put those songs at the end. Because I wanted people to want to listen to that kind of stuff. So it’s a little more what’s underneath and you know, story time!
Photo by @kirrileebailey.
Yeah I really liked story time, and you know… it’s hard to keep up with all the artists these days, like what they have been doing and all that, it’s nice you’ve found the double medium of Facebook and songwriting to connect with fans like we talk about marketing and the connection between artist and audience, and once upon a time it was only from the want to listen, but now it's changed.
Oh totally, and the more I do music, the more I appreciate my audience because there is so much going on in the world and not just the music industry. So there are so many places to go to, so many things that people can do and spend money on. So for them to be interested to spend time and money on music that I have made is like, WOAH! That’s massive. And I like to tap into the more human elements of what I can do; playing to people, and talking to them and with our shows in October I hope to do something special.
Oh sounds fun, like what? Are you running a decent sized band for your tour.
[Our band] is going to be pretty full actually, which is going to be very fun. So I’ve got a three-piece band. I’ll be playing the guitar, just being up the front under beautiful lighting and clothes, it’s been really fun planning the show and I’m really in that headspace at the moment. I can’t wait to tour.
What’s your favourite song on the record?
I remember Love has always been one of my favourites, since I’ve now finished the album. Because I remember it was written during the recording process when a lot of the songs were written, a year or six months...nearly two years before the album started. So I remember how fantastic it was, being an amalgamation of Eric and my brain, which is what I love about it, with the end result. It was such a cool time period. My other favourite is Love Death, and I love it because it was inspired by a book called the Book Thief by Mark Zusak, and… well the whole book is narrated by a character who we then find out is death, like it is the voice of death. So I loved the idea of writing songs from that perspective; ‘of death’. So for me personally, I enjoyed that song, I liked the fiscal element it had going with it. It’s quite hypnotic and it cycles around a lot. So those are my favourites.
And as the call ended I couldn’t help but spend the next 20 minutes of my drive thinking about how important Lisa really is to all of Australia. She's an Australia gem, so without being too cheesy let’s go with opal. For mostly one reason - she’s rare, a musician who’s proud of her Aussie sounds, her Aussie stories, and in the most non-bogan way. Her memories are your memories - she knows what the rain smells like at 5pm coming off the hot bitumen, she’s been sunburnt just as often as the rest of us, and I’d go as far to assume that she’s sat on hot leather car seats and burnt her leg on belt buckles just like you and I.
Mitchell understands how to communicate the world in which we live/have lived in, and on this album she’s all of what you just read - a person who is afraid but fearless, a child but a woman, she is skin and bone covered with a hard case of armour.
She is a warrior.
Warriors is out October 14, and Lisa Mitchell is touring Australia soon - dates below, tickets HERE.
Thu 13 Oct - Howler, Melbourne (NEW SHOW)
Fri 14 Oct - Howler, Melbourne (SOLD OUT)
Sat 15 Oct - Woolly Mammoth, Brisbane
Sat 22 Oct - Newtown Social Club, Sydney (SOLD OUT)
Sun 23 Oct - Newtown Social Club, Sydney (NEW SHOW)
Thu 27 Oct - Jack Rabbit Slim's, Perth
Fri 28 Oct - Rocket Bar, Adelaide