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:: Spotlight :: Interview with Lisa Mitchell

By: Carmine Pascuzzi

Lisa Mitchell is English-born but raised in Melbourne. She first hit the music spotlight in Australia when she entered Australian Idol. Here was a singer-songwriter, however, not suited to the show's format, and her very personal tunes have been able to thrive on the many live stages at which she has performed, particularly over the past twelve months. Lisa has now reached the stage of releasing her debut album “Wonder”, through Warner Music. It is a great milestone for her to reach at the tender age of nineteen and the album showcases an artist with terrific potential and songwriting beyond her years. Already, a single “Neapolitan Dreams” has been successful, having been used in a big marketing campaign across UK/Europe.

I met up with Lisa recently and she mentioned that one of the pleasing things from her Australian Idol experience was in setting up a good support network after the show. “I worked with Scorpio Management and they helped with my EPs and to get on support tours. I've been inspired by that support base I've built. So that people can know more about my music. As for the show itself, it was difficult to compromise. It's hard when you write your own stuff. I didn't mind singing covers if you really connect to that song. But doing covers all the time is not really what music is to me”.

Lisa quickly built a grassroots following, touring with Old Man River, as well as performing both at National Youth Week and on MySpace to sizeable audiences. All of these influences and experiences put a burgeoning talent as a singer-songwriter through a unique filter and made a rich and expressive instrument of her honeycracked voice. It’s an instrument that’s already won her several plaudits along the way. Both of her independently recorded and released EPs ‘Said One To The Other (2007) and Welcome To The Afternoon (2008) garnered critical acclaim and gained airplay on radio Triple J and community radio. Then in December 2008, Lisa signed a worldwide deal (excluding Australia / New Zealand) with UK based record label RCA UK / Sony Music. The massive bidding war for the deal was sparked when 'Neopolitan Dreams’ was used in a huge TV marketing campaign across the UK and Europe.

Lisa recorded the album in London and had an enjoyable time away from her Australian comfort zone. “I guess being being away from family and friends and in unusual surroundings made me feel very detached. In some ways that's really nice and can be really, really good creatively. I did get pretty lonely. Not because I was alone, but just because you don't realise how much you depend on people til they're not there. I always wanted to be there and being in London it was such an amazing place. And so good to live in for a while”.

Lisa did some writing with notable Australian artists Kevin Mitchell, Clare Bowditch and Ben Lee, although nothing from those collaborations reached the album. "No I don‘t actually have any of the co-writes that I did with them on the album. But it was an amazing time, an absolutely amazing experience to work with them all. I find them very inspirational as people as well as songwriters. So to get to meet them and work with them was great. Another guy from the UK I wrote the song called 'Stevie’ with, his name's Ed Harcourt. We had such a good time writing this song. You should see his house! I mean it's just this little terrace house but full of old vintage instruments. We had a really good time writing the songs and he's a brilliant piano player. So he did that and he's done some great back up singing and stuff like that. I'm really excited to have him in involved.

Did he turn into a bit of a sounding board in the absence of other friends? “Totally. He's such a beautiful guy and someone I can talk to about stuff. We talked about the sounds we wanted, mic sounds and all these instruments.”

In 2009 Lisa Mitchell has had a year most artists only dream of - she's toured with Jason Mraz, headlined her own national tour, played in the UK at the legendary Glastonbury Festival and has released her terrific debut album, Wonder, on Warner Music Australia. Wonder is an album that not only defies her years, but defines her as one of Australia's most promising singer-songwriters. She writes of her experiences, sings from the heart and gives her all in every performance.

Naturally, a special highlight of her year was joining international music stars Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Gabriella Cilmi and Pendulum at the legendary Glastonbury festival - a dream come true for the talented songstress from Albury. “Ever since I was a little girl my ultimate dream has been to play music festivals. As far as festivals go, it seems to me that Glastonbury is arguably the ultimate and therefore I had more trouble than normal convincing myself that I played it and am still very much alive and not in some blissfully deluded wonderland“. She adds, "It was so cool. It was great. I would have loved to have stayed the whole weekend and have camped out but I had a gig the next day. The gig went well. The thing is, over in the UK, they know the “Neopolitan Dreams” song from the ad on TV. They all sung along with that. So we did the gig, and then went and saw Fleet Foxes who were amazing, and then I had to go back to London. It was support for the James Morrison show in Canterbury, Kent.That was a good gig, but I would have liked to have stayed and camped.”

Did the Glastonbury crowds respond to the other songs that they weren’t so familiar with? “They responded well I think, from what I can remember. A lot of people came in off the muddy thing we were on. Typical festival. The sun was out the whole time I was there, but we had our wellies on and it rained a little bit the day before we were there, so it was all nice and muddy. Which was good; you don’t want to go to Glastonbury and it be dry. So it was a real experience. I was absolutely stoked to play it.”

Lisa is now on a national tour of Australia, where she is joined by support acts Oh Mercy and Whitebirds & Lemons. Lisa is encouraging her fans to promote the shows via the new web platform Posse. Fans get paid a commission on each ticket they promote through MySpace and other social networks. It sounds like a good way to earn some extra cash, and spread the word about this talented young artist.

Listen out for Lisa‘s recent single 'Coin Laundry’, which is gaining great recognition and has been a great live favourite.

See Lisa on these remaining dates.

September 2, 2009 - The Corner Hotel, Melbourne
September 4, 2009 - Barwon Club, Geelong
September 5, 2009 - Karova Lounge, Ballarat
September 6, 2009 - The Governor Hindmarsh, Adelaide
September 10, 2009 - Settlers Tavern, Margaret River
September 11, 2009 - Prince of Wales, Bunbury
September 12, 2009 - Capitol Bar, Perth
September 16, 2009 - The Loft, Warnambool
September 17, 2009 - The Pub, Bendigo
September 18, 2009 - Republic Bar, Hobart
September 19, 2009 - Hotel New York, Launceston
September 20, 2009 - Ruby’s Lounge, Belgrave
September 23, 2009 - ANU Union Bar, Canberra
September 24, 2009 - Wollongong Uni
September 25, 2009 - Metro Theatre, Sydney
September 26, 2009 - Mona Vale Hotel
September 27, 2009 - Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle

Lisa Mitchell‘s album 'Wonder’ is out now through Warner Music Australia.