Glam recently caught up with one of Australia’s favourite indie-folk singers and Australian Idol Alumni, Lisa Mitchell ahead of her tour with the Dustin Tebbutt in August.
Glam Adelaide: The Boys” sounds like a soft transition from indie-folk into indie pop or rock. Have you been focusing on more driving melodies (no pun on the lyrics!)?
Lisa Mitchell: I know what you mean, The Boys, is literally a driving beat, it pushes you on, it really glides through the whole song. I initially wrote it on guitar, and it always had that up, moving feel to it, so it naturally called for full-sounding live drums, played by none other than Matt Johnson, most notably known for playing in Jeff Buckley’s band.
G: The song Warriors seems to hint at the resilience of the kids that you grew up with in the country? Is this a focal point of your new release and do you think this strength has played a formative part in shaping who you are today?
L: I began to notice that I have a certain understanding with my friends that I grew up with in Albury, a sense of community that we hold together, because we were all quite young when we gravitated to Melbourne, or other major cities to study or work, at 18. I think it’s a pretty young age to, ‘become independent’. It’s not better or worse than city kids who might be in their familiar community for longer, it’s just this little quality that I notice now in people. Warriors is just a nod to that kinship that I feel with my Albury friends.
G: There are some seriously nostalgic vibes coming out of your music at the moment. As you’ve spent more time in cities and touring around the world have you found yourself thinking about your youth a lot more?
L: Yes, this album has quite a nostalgic bent. Warriors in particular. I had an awesome childhood, and got lucky in the parents department, so I often find myself back there, in memories.
G: While you were initially seemingly quite shy, you’ve often appeared quite confident as a live performer, even going back to a show at Big Day Out I saw, a few years ago. Has this shy-confident dichotomy always existed or have you become more confident in general over the years?
L: Well, that’s the divide, isn’t it? The space between me, sitting here writing this who also writes the songs, and then the me who’s onstage sharing them. I feel like they are different versions of myself. This is the wonderful thing about performance, it isn’t real life, so you can be who you want to be, perhaps parts of yourself that don’t feel appropriate in real life, you can express onstage. It’s a total pleasure to have that space to play in. But the bookish introvert in me shudders to even think of being in front of people like that. It’s quite a strange internal conversation.
G: You’ve seemingly grown up in front of our eyes, from the shy teenager on Australian Idol to the reasonably self assured, thoughtful songwriter. In what ways have your songs changed as you’ve gained experience in the music industry?
L: I continue to write as I always have, not because I want to, but because I need to. It still is mainly a therapeutic practise for me. And then the albums are chosen out of those, but there are hundreds of songs that are just me trying to sort through my own life and dreams that noone really needs to hear!!!! It is like a diary.
G: When you first came on the scene, there was a huge indie-folk scene in the mid to late 2000s with acts like Feist, Laura Marling, Joanna Newsome and Regina Spektor filling airwaves. You seemed to emerge out of that environment, but since then other scenes have emerged and that brand of indie folk isn’t the bright new thing any more. Do you get tempted to change as an artist to suit the way music seems to quickly evolve, or do you just focus on doing your own thing?
L: It is a really strange thing, and this is a great question, by the way. Style and songwriting are two different things, as you know. So, Laura Marling, for example, could write her songs on her classical guitar and then produce them in the style of Vallis Alps or Sylvan Esso. And they would still be special. But she chooses to stay within a live-sounding production. I think some people feel more loyal to a style than others. I think it’s a very personal thing and there is no right or wrong. I like to try things, I love to dance, so I lean into beats sometimes. I think what is most important to me is the feeling, how it makes me feel, because that is hopefully what also moves others, not that I could ever make music with that intention. So that’s how I choose. ‘Do I feel it?’ This is my question, always.
G: You’ve recently collaborated with rising Adelaide electronic identity Tigerilla. How did this partnership come about?
L: I loved singing on, ‘November’, as part of Super Cruel’s first release. I didn’t write the song, I just turned up like Elvis Presley and sang my heart out. It is pretty refreshing to do that, being a songwriter and coming from a different place. People seem to be liking it, so I’m really happy for the guys!
G: We’re really looking forward to your tour with Dustin Tebbutt. How are you guys going to collaborate and work together and what’s the history there?
L: I am really looking forward to these shows with Dustin! I’ve never done anything like this before, we are doing a completely different show to what you’d normally expect from either of us. Collaborations, songs together, I’ll be singing some of his songs, and vice versa. It is seriously exciting!
Lisa Mitchell and Dustin Tebbutt play The Gov on Saturday July 1. Tickets through Oztix.