Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
Lissie Maurus (stage name is succinctly Lissie, mind you) is the first hometown subject recorded here at Daytrotter. She's someone who wasn't all that well known around these parts until she moved away to the Hollywood Hills, with her guitar draped over her shoulder blades, and started meeting the kind of people who knew the right kind of people who knew the right kind of people. This process, for anybody who knows anything about these kinds of processes - as difficult to pull off or as convoluted as they sound - always leads to either Ron Howard, Johnny Knoxville, Rick Rubin or Lenny Kravitz.
In Lissie's case, it led to Lenny Kravitz, who took her on as tour support for a three-week run of shows from one coast to the other. She also found ways for the coffeehouse circuit to work for her, playing shows wherever she could to get in front of more of those industry people, more of anyone who would cotton to her well-written Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez-like folk songs. Though it's known that she has some delinquency in her blood - getting kicked out of Rock Island High School in the middle of her senior year, for giving a small middle finger to the administration - our guesstimate is that when she got out to that coast that reality forgot, she began to get her smoke on, puffing cigarettes with a business that almost turned them into lifesavers.
The songs that she writes seem to have taken a liking to the tar and the nicotine, for when you hear her voice - especially in those sober moments of doubtful resignation and when she's covering Cash's "Rock Island Line" - it's as if it's smirking and wholeheartedly condoning the practice because the effects are substantive. She throws some fuzz from the rotation of a needle lapping a vinyl record on a song called "On My Chest" and then lights in softly, like a smoky tide singing, "It's an abstract place where I hold you," concocting an image of someone looking or loving another so hard that the features blur out of themselves and actually become indistinguishable, to the point where that person is just a fragment of familiarity. Lissie, an extremely pretty without the aid of any makeup or cosmetics sort of Midwestern girl, was here over the summer, back for a week to see family and friends. She came to the studio in Birkenstock sandals and some short cut-off jean shorts.
The session, which includes songs that she's been working on for what will someday (if the fates allow it) become her debut album, was recorded in a timely manner and just prior to her heading off to the local municipal pool for some swimming and some snacking on cheeseburgers with her cousins. It's a standard summertime use of the hours around here, and probably elsewhere, but it feels even more perfect for a young lady with golden locks, a likely readership of Cosmopolitan and constant intrusions of worrisome provocations that come around when a life isn't figured completely out yet. She writes about being herself and making no bones about it. She's still finding who she is. Hollywood's a funny place for a Midwesterner to do that, but those cigarettes are helping.