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LMP: Why I left LA

Written by Mark Savage | BBC News.

LISA-MARIE-PRESLEY-Portrait shotLisa Marie Presley has never been been a prolific recording artist - releasing just three albums in 44 years. She tells the BBC her latest album, Storm And Grace, was inspired by a period of intense emotional turmoil, and her relocation to England.

"Too bad she ain't just like her Daddy, oh what a shame."

"She got no talent of her own. It's just her name."

Those lyrics, tucked away on a bonus track on Lisa Marie Presley's new album Storm And Grace, articulate the singer's struggle to step out of Elvis's shadow.

 

"Some people think, 'oh, you've got it easy' and they want to shoot you down," she tells the BBC. "But other people really want you to make it.

"Whatever the reaction is, it can be pretty extreme and that's what's overwhelming."

 

"But," she notes, "it's usually more on the side of gunning for me."

Wouldn't it have been easier to follow Stella McCartney's example, entering another profession to avoid comparisons with her father?

"I tell you, I wish I had some other creative outlet besides this," she says.

"But honestly, I've always loved writing, I've always loved music. I've been doing this ever since I can remember."

Upheaval
Storm And Grace could be the album that silences her critics.

Unlike the cluttered, unconvincing pop of her first two records, it presents Presley in semi-acoustic confessional mode, exorcising her demons - from relationships to religion - in frank detail.

"Churches they don't have a soul," she seethes on So Long. "Religion so corrupt and running lives. Farewell fair weathered friends."

If the song refers to her rumoured split from the Church Of Scientology, she is unwilling to talk about it directly, but she acknowledges that most of the songs on the record were the result of a dramatic, but cathartic, rift in her personal life.

"My head was spinning," she says. "I was surrounded by a lot of things that I needed to rid myself of. I needed to shake some barnacles off.

"And I did. I got rid of everyone and everything that I knew and started from ground zero. I refused to have an entourage, refused to have people working for me, because those kind of situations can get kinda toxic.

"I just needed to be around simplicity and normal things, so I came to England."

The move to England was, initially, a temporary one. But two months morphed into nine months after Presley asked her manager, Pop Idol mogul Simon Fuller, to put her in touch with some sympathetic British songwriters.

Her first session was with Sheffield's Richard Hawley, a former member of Pulp and a multiple Mercury nominee, as well as a connoisseur of American roots and blues.

"He had never written with anyone but Jarvis so he was nervous," says Presley, "but we got together and wrote a song, Weary, in about an hour and a half.

"It was the breakthrough and the start of the record's sound being as stripped-down and organic as it is."

And it really was a breakthrough, lifting Presley out of a seven-year-long creative slump, and prompting her third album.

There were more songs with Hawley, as well as collaborations with Ed Harcourt, Travis's Fran Healey and songwriter Sacha Skarbek, whose credits include Adele, James Blunt and Lana Del Rey.

But the music really came into its own when acclaimed producer T Bone Burnett signed on, bringing his swampy blues and rolling rock flourishes to Presley's husky voice.

"The quality and the intensity of the musicians that T Bone brings is intimidating," says the singer. "They're sweet as can be - but they're so immensely talented that it's intimidating."

The tracks were recorded live at breakneck pace. "Sixteen songs in 12 days," Presley says, with all the musicians "in a room together" in California.

Burnett, who said he wanted to record an album Elvis would have been proud of, has been full of praise for the singer's performance.

"She sings without artifice," he told Elle magazine. "Her songwriting is brave and real. She's saying something."

The lyrics are excoriating, exposing the star's angst and sorrow, her struggles with self-confidence and her disillusionment with Hollywood.

"It doesn't mean I'm in a constant state of turmoil," she says, "but when I sit down to write, I typically channel on something I want to process - and it's not usually something pleasant."

For certain, Presley isn't half as glum as you'd expect from the music.

She has moved permanently the UK and is particularly excited at the prospect of her mother, Priscilla, playing the Wicked Queen in pantomime - even though she's not really sure what a pantomime is.

"She was trying to describe it to me, so I think I have an idea. But the kids will be excited to see her [and] I get to spend Christmas with her."

And, after 44 years under the media microscope, she has found the British public to be strangely supportive.

"I thought people were going to hate me," she says, "but I was surprised. I was surprised at the loyalty here in the UK.

"For instance, I bought a home and I have a farmer who keeps his sheep on my land. The first couple of days after I moved here, there were paparazzi parked outside and this man rammed his truck into them and told them to leave.

"I just thought, 'this man doesn't even know me and he's protecting me - my goodness!'

"That's not something that happens in Los Angeles and Hollywood, let me tell you.

"Something that genuine and simple is what made me fall in love with England."

Lisa Marie Presley's album, Storm and Grace, is out now on Universal Republic.

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