Essex singer-songwriter Lisa Wright released her excellent EP Mind of Mine earlier this year to widespread critical acclaim.
Quickly establishing herself as one of the UK’s leading Country artists, Wright recently performed as part of the inaugural Black Deer Festival at Eridge Park in Kent. She’s also about to go on the road with Eric Paslay and she supported Cam back in April.
I sat down with Lisa before she performed at Black Deer to find out more about her songwriting, talk about the influences on her music and dig a little deeper into her Mind of Mine EP.
I really loved your Mind of Mine EP. You are my favourite UK Country artist right now and you’ve got an authenticity that many of your contemporaries don’t have. Where did your sound come from?
Thank you so much. You’re so kind. It’s very important, especially when I think about the writing process, I don’t want to sound like someone I’m not. I grew up in England. I don’t know what it’s like to drive a truck and all those stereotypes that everyone thinks that you should write about. I didn’t want to write about that, I wanted to write about what I knew… sounds cheesy but yeah… Up until the age of 15 I’d never even heard a country song so I was growing up on Motown and Carole King, I loved Carole King, and then I heard my first Alison Krauss song when I was 15 and that set the tone for the rest of my musical career. I thought she was incredible. I feel particularly with this new record I wanted to focus on writing what I wanted to write regardless of how it sounded or the genre that it was instead of worrying about what people wanted to hear.
I think that’s why in those four songs, I feel like every song is quite different in terms sound. If you take Never Gonna Fall and compare it to Mind of Mine, they are on opposite ends of the spectrum. That was very important to me and I’m glad that I did that. UK artists, everyone is great in their own right and everyone wants to be wants to prove themselves, and I think I just got caught up in trying to prove that I was worth listening to. I was like, ‘I like country music as well so I’m going to write it!’ It’s not that I’m not proud of what I’ve done before I am because at that moment in time that’s what I was going through and that’s what I was writing about. This time it does feel more like me. I’m glad you think you heard the authenticity and I really appreciate that.
I think your sound harks back to the original female country singer-songwriter sound like Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris. Have artists like that been an inspiration to you?
I remember seeing Dolly Parton at The O2 about three or four years now…
We must have been at the same show!
(laughs) Yes we must have been! I was in awe of her persona and her personality but also I loved the fact that she spoke about how she wrote the songs. Particularly (for me) coming from an acting side as well, I want to know about that story behind it I don’t just want to hear wishy washy lyrics. You listen to Dolly Parton songs, like Coat of Many Colors, and you just think this is this is someone who’s got genuine talent and writes from the heart and what she knows. I think in terms of music, a lot of my inspirations are women like Carole King and Joni Mitchell. I almost idolised them. I didn’t think that I could be a singer when I was younger.
Even before before I heard Alison Krauss, I was you know growing up in the 90s it was Mariah Carey and Christina Aguilera and I didn’t have those type of voices. There was no thought in my mind that I could be a singer because I did sound or look like those. That’s why when Alison Krauss came along and I heard her song it was such a big change, it was an overwhelming change, because suddenly I heard a voice that one had a story to tell but two was so soft and so beautiful. It gets you and she didn’t have to belt out, and it made me go, ‘I can do that’. I’m not saying I’m Alison Krauss but I’ll bloomin’ give it a good go if I can! A lot of my inspiration and a lot of big turning points in my life in general have come from women artists and I think that’s actually pretty incredible.
I caught you live supporting Cam earlier in the year. You have a very pure voice and you really let yourself get lost in the music when you perform. You’re very passionate and you can tell you mean every word you sing of these deeply personal songs. Are there any songs from the new EP that you find hard to perform?
I’d probably say Mind of Mine and Giving Up the Ghost, they are the most personal ones. Mind of Mine, in particular, exactly what it says on the tin is what happened to me. Giving up the Ghost, when I went over to America to meet and to write it with Jake (Etheridge) I was quite blunt about the first verse, ‘I’m pulling at the seams of this old dress’. I was quite literally telling someone that I don’t think I’m dealing with this or that very well. It’s hard to sing it sometimes but I also feel like it’s my duty. Even as a child I was always encouraged to read and I can think of nothing better than reading a book a day and getting into those stories and having that imagination. I’ve been very lucky that growing up I’ve not had anyone try to stop that from happening, they’ve always encouraged that.
Again with an acting background, I want to believe someone when they’re singing to me. I can go to a show and see someone who is just a fantastic performer and you’re like, ‘you are incredible’. Cam is a great example. If you see her singing Mayday and she’s belting out (and) that voice is killing it and then she sings Burning House and the lyrics are so poetic. That’s a performer knowing when you can just entertain the crowd and knowing when these words came from a very personal place. Granted a lot of my songs are probably more on that side of the spectrum, personal places and let’s sit and listen, but I appreciate that people actually do sit and listen and they hear it. I don’t want to just keep writing songs about falling in love and getting my heartbroken because someone didn’t treat me. Actually I want to write about that I’m finding things really hard today or I’ve got something to say. A lot more people know about that than not.
I think people need to hear those kind of songs too. What’s your plan for music after the EP? Do you have an album in the works or are you going to see how Mind of Mine does first?
I think I’m going to see how the EP goes. I still think at this stage in my career I’ve got that freedom to really play about a bit more and try things out. Find out what works and what doesn’t. Maybe if the time comes where things get on a much grander scale, and touch wood I hope they do, I want to feel secure. At the moment I’d probably say I’m about 85 percent, I’m still working on it. Getting a full album out, I’m not sure just yet but EPs and singles I think are probably the way to go for me right now. That’s what’s in my head and my plan.
What are your touring plans like for the rest of the year?
I’m going on tour with Eric Paslay in in July, which will be great, going to Glasgow and Liverpool. I went to uni in Liverpool and half of my family come from there so it feels a little bit like a homecoming so that’ll be nice. I’ve got a few more gigs coming up towards August and September. I’m just going to keep playing and keep plugging. I think I’m going to go back out for writing again and playing in America so that will be fun. There’s plans and then you kind of go, ‘OK life, I’ll make plans and we’ll go along with it and keep working on your craft and get better’. I definitely haven’t mastered it yet but I’m willing to learn and I want to give it a go.
I don’t know, your EP’s pretty flawless…
(laughs) thank you!
I tried to find some constructive criticism but I just couldn’t…
(laughs) That’s a big compliment so thank you I really appreciate that. Especially when it’s personal, it’s nice to have that recognition. Thank you for saying that!
Lisa Wright’s Mind of Mine EP is available now. She will be supporting Eric Paslay on Friday 6th July at Broadcast in Glasgow and Saturday 7th July at Liverpool Arts Club. Watch the video for Tennessee below: