About five years ago, I took a deep dive on this site into the career of Lisa Mitchell, easily one of my favourite musicians. Back then I said, “In the years since she burst onto the scene, she has managed to grow and spread her wings as an artist, in a dog eat dog world that is the Australian music industry. Interestingly, her fan base has remained loyal to her in that time because what you see is what you get with Lisa Mitchell. She is approachable, sincere and giving of her time. With her heart sewn on her sleeve, her music is a reflection of herself and something that we can all relate to. Love, loss, relationships and spiritualism are themes that are littered throughout her music.”
Today those words still resonate, especially upon her long awaited return with her latest single Zombie and a new album along the way sometime next year. Interestingly, Mitchell is never one to be afraid to shake things up and on her new catchy and charming folk-inspired Zombie, Mitchell wants us to celebrate being alive.
I recently caught up with Lisa Mitchell about what she has been up to since Warriors (2016) created a wonderful stir. Maybe more important we talked about the new track and her continued evolution as a singer songwriter. Here is some of what we talked about.
Lisa, five years is a long time in-between Warriors and your new forthcoming album slated for an early 2022 release. I understand it wasn’t totally of your own doing with the pandemic and lockdown dictating outcomes. But in that time away you travelled, studied Shiatsu massage + Qi Gong but maybe more important you became more wonderfully human maybe even spiritually because of your life experiences. What can you tell me how you have changed or grown as a person in those five years?
Hello! What a lovely question! Yes, I have done some fun tangents to stay sane during these strange few years! The way I think has been deeply influenced by looking at some aspects of different cultural worldviews, both through Chinese Medicine ( which Qi Gong / Shiatsu are both connected to ) and through some studies at Uni a few years back where I was lucky to study some Ethnomusicology, ( looks at the traditional music of different Cultures) and some history and identity connected to living in Australia. It’s changed me in obvious ways: understanding privilege and difference and whiteness, and looking at the Western idea of self and how separate we are from the world around us…
I read somewhere (forgive me if I’m wrong) that the new album and I’m assuming your new song Zombie too were all tracked live? What was that process like?
Yes, a lot of the album is tracked live. I had to redo some vocals due to too much piano-bleed but for me, I wanted to capture the imperfect magic of playing live with my band. It’s something that so often gets ‘ironed-out’ when you are individually tracking everything separately. It’s a whole other ballgame when the musicians playing the music on the album, wrote their own parts. We created the arrangements together over a year or so of Wednesday rehearsals. It’s the only way for me now, as far as I’m concerned.
Zombie is such a beautiful track. In general, your lyrics often feature elements that capture human stories. Why do you think you choose to express your songs in this way?
Thankyou! In Zombie, I wanted to capture that thrill of perspective of being in a city far away from home, hearing several different accents and languages around you at all times… It’s like you’re able to recreate yourself, even if just to yourself. I felt my heart open during that Summer in Berlin. I felt closer to people, to their kindness, to their curiousity, and a renewed sense of awe for everyones’ unique offerings for this world.
Lyrically, Zombie feels like this poetic blur of internal and external processes of, I think you recently said, being human. Can you elaborate a little bit about that?
Being human is messy, raw and imperfect, and deeply divine… With our technology becoming more and more, ‘human,’ I am noticing what it really does mean to be human… Fear, anger and grief are all part of being alive. And they give us depth and perspective. They show us what we care about and what is truly meaningful to us… There are many ways in life to become, ‘zombie-like,’ and sometimes they are totally needed if we’re going through a hard time. Tv, too much social media, all types of addiction. There is a growing awareness of other ways of being that help us turn to the wisdom that is available to us to help us in hard times, be that a form of meditation, a spiritual path, committing to a daily journalling practise, seeing a counseller, just for example. These are ways to stay with ourselves, and not miss out on the joy of being alive!
What are some of your favourite things that you’ve discovered recently that your bandmates have turned you on to?
My bandmates are into good things. Kishore, who plays drums, is a pilates teacher, and so Jessie (bass) and I go to his class every week. ( Kishore Ryan pilates – I recommend!) Jessie is an amazing songwriter and performer in her own right, so I always listen to her solo project, Jessie L Warren – check her out!
I understand you still doodle song ideas wherever you are. Do you noodle around the guitar in much the same way? I guess once you hit upon a riff or beautiful melody there’s no looking back.
Journalling early in the morning, by myself in a café (with a flat white!) is a very creative place for me. A lot of my deeper noticings of life are revealed to me… And lyrics and poems begin to come out. The musical side of it is it’s own, ‘moment,’ usually again, when the house is quiet and have some, ‘feelings’, to, ‘be with.’
Your body of work grows deeper and more inspiring with each new album. The evolution of Warriors in particular did not go unnoticed when it came out in 2016. We have heard Zombie, but what can we expect sonically with your forthcoming new album? Moreover what sort of themes lyrically will you explore?
Thankyou so much, you’re very kind. It feels really good to feel that my evolution as a songwriter doesn’t go unnoticed. After spending the most past of the last four years in and around Melbourne/Naarm, a lot of these songs are about listening in a deeper way to the stories of this place. I wrote a song about a girl that becomes a river, inspired by my connection to Dhungallah ( Murray River ) that I grew up beside on Yorta Yorta Country on the outskirts of the town now known as, Albury. I took some studies at Uni and had the privilege of having an Indigenous lecturer and to see life in Australia through some different perspectives. There is also a lot of melancholy, and a darkness that I think comes with the experience of living in Australia. Sonically, the album is mainly recorded live, produced by Tom Iansek and has a soft, expansive feeling to it. I am so excited to share it with you early next year !!!!
Lisa, I was hoping you might humour me about one of my favourite songs (by you) called You Pretty Thing. It’s an ode to both Melbourne and New York. I know you have an incredible audience in the UK and Europe. Do you think you might set your sights on a return to the US? If so, would something like New York appeal to you?
Yes, ‘You Pretty Thing’, is a love-song between New York and Melbourne… I’m glad you love it! I know it’s a generalisation, but I love Americans! I love their open demeaner, and their total LACK of tall poppy syndrome, that cripples so many creatives here in Australia. I love New York – I was lucky to spend some time in Brooklyn a few years ago, and loved walking past the rows of brown-stones. I would love to spend more time playing music over there. My partner and I (singer/musician, Danny Ross) often dream about spending some time in Nashville writing songs. And I really need to go and see the redwoods in this lifetime!
There are two incredible musicians I’d like for you to check out in your own time. Sarah Howells aka Bryde and Anna Tivel, whom I both adore. Anyway, I was hoping you might tell me about someone you find incredibly inspiring (and they don’t have to be necessarily a musician) and why?
Oh thankyou, I will most definitely have a listen! My favourite artists at the moment, and who have definitely inspired this new record are: Julie Byrne, Lucy Rollef, and The Weather Station.
Finally Lisa, where do you see yourself going next? Will there be another single or two over the next few months before the new album? Can you hint at what it is?