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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 19 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 38
THE MUSIC LOUNGE
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Lisa Fischer moves from back to front of the stage for Seattle shows

by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

LISA FISCHER
JAZZ ALLEY
September 23 and 24


You know who Lisa Fischer is, right? Please say yes.

I'll assume you know she's the Grammy winner who belted out 'How Can I Ease the Pain,' the heart aching ballad that reached #1 on Billboard's R&B chart in 1991. And that she's toured and recorded with just about everybody in the business, including the Rolling Stones, Tina Turner, Nine Inch Nails, Luther Vandross, Dolly Parton, Chaka Khan, Sting, Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick, and many others - trust me, the list goes on and on.

And most recently, she was featured in the Oscar-winning documentary 20 Feet from Stardom, which profiled the careers of the best and hardest-working backup singers in music today.

While she's not often in the spotlight, Fischer is a star, a premiere vocalist who feels as comfortable at the front of the stage as she does next to the drum set, and as significant to a live show as well, considering a highlight at most Rolling Stones' concerts is hearing her wail on 'Gimme Shelter.'

So when she comes to Seattle this week, to play three intimate sets at Dimitriou's Jazz Alley, be prepared to be blown away, far away. Performance dates and times are September 23 (7:30 p.m.) and 24 (7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.). For reservations, visit www.jazzalley.com or call (206) 441-9729.

Albert Rodriguez: Could you give us a preview of the Seattle shows? Will you be playing with a full band, and are you performing a mix of solo material and covers?

Fischer Lisa: It's going to be with a trio, a group called Grand Baton. The musicians are J.C. Maillard, he's the musical director, and he did the arrangements on a lot of his songs, and the drummer is Thierry Arpino, he's really excellent, plays the cajon and other instruments, and the bass player is Aiden Carroll, he's a real sweetheart, he's young and talented and real funky. It's just the trio, no background singers. Probably just have the guys sing in the background. I wasn't going to do 'How Can I Ease the Pain,' but I think I will end up doing that, because we're still pulling the set list together and trying out different things. I wanted to have the freedom to be more of a singer-interpreter, as opposed to having a set set list. I wanted to have the freedom to sing what I wanted to sing. It's kind of an intimate journey for me. And, there will probably be some Stones songs, I'm sure, because they've been such a big part of my life.

Rodriguez: That's such an exciting highlight of your career, to perform on stage with the Rolling Stones. Is that still a relationship that will produce more opportunities to join them on tour?

Fischer: Yeah, we're going back out to Australia in October, I believe. So I'll potentially be there to join them.

Rodriguez: It appears that they treat you with a great deal of respect, from what I've seen on stage, and the fact that they take you back on the road with them. Is this the case?

Fischer: It totally is. I feel so cared for and loved. I've been working with them since 1988, '89, so I've watched their kids grow up and their kids have kids. It feels like family to me, it feels lovely.

Rodriguez: Someone else you've worked with, and someone who was a mentor to you, was Luther Vandross. What was it like to work with Luther?

Fischer: He was my everything. He was my brother, my teacher, my inspiration, confidant. You know, he taught me everything about listening. You come with the sound that you have, but he sort of teaches you to use what you have and he knows how to join interesting sound combinations with the weight of voices, and voice textures, and asking if you can use certain colors with those voices. All that kind of interesting technical singer stuff, you know. It's boring to everybody else, but they were just drooling about it. [Laughs.] But he was funny, had a great sense of humor and smart, just very giving and loving.

Rodriguez: Have you been to Seattle, professionally or on a personal venture?

Fischer: When I travel anywhere, it's always work for me. So, I've been really lucky to see the world and play cities like Seattle with Tina Turner, or Nine Inch Nails - I think we played Seattle - I can't remember the routing lists of the years and the groups I've gone on tour with. But usually when I come in, it's for work. But, work is slash fun work. I really enjoy it.

Rodriguez: Do you remember anything about Seattle from your previous trips or tours?

Fischer: Green, healthy, seafood. [Laughs.]

Rodriguez: We'll take it!

Fischer: Everything's so green there. It's so beautiful.

Rodriguez: I've watched every Grammy Awards telecast since I was like 8 years old, and I remember watching the night you won. That was unbelievable! So, where do you keep your Grammy?

Fischer: [Joyful screech.] It's sitting on a bookcase in my apartment, because I haven't done very much to my apartment, so it stays there. I haven't really had the time, or the money, or the time and money at the same time, to organize my space. But it sits there, just staring at me. [Laughs.] I'm so thankful for the experience, too. It was just so surreal. In my heart, I wanted Patti LaBelle to win, because I was surprised at that point that she hadn't won a Grammy, because I think the world of her and her talent is amazing, so it was a dream come true to be able to share that moment with her. [NOTE: Fischer and LaBelle tied that year, sharing the Grammy for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.]

Rodriguez: Anyone who watched that year's Grammy Awards saw that incredible dress you wore. Do you still have that dress?

Fischer: I still have it. It is in storage. It was made by Tony Chase, a fashion designer in Los Angeles. He pretty much did all of the tours that we did. So he was kind enough to make that dress for me for just that evening.

Rodriguez: You mentioned 'How Can I Ease the Pain,' one of the great songs of that decade when R&B was really good. But my jam was 'Save Me,' and I was wondering if that song would make it onto the Seattle set lists.

Fischer: I don't know if 'Save Me' is gonna make it on there. I haven't been able to organize and create the proper setting for it. The rhythm and the beat, that's what you're looking for in a dance song, and with a trio, it's really difficult to recreate that energy.

Rodriguez: Do you think it's possible for someone right now to make a living as a backup vocalist?

Fischer: I think so. I think the difficult thing about that role is that you're around people who have money, and you just have to remind yourself that you're not in that place, and that financially it is a job. When I was first starting out, I think about all the money I wasted on room service, on caviar, on things that I didn't necessarily need but just made me feel good. But I think people can make a living at it; I don't see why not. I also think it's good to have other things that you enjoy.

Rodriguez: Many Gay men have a fondness for female R&B singers. The names of Patti LaBelle, Anita Baker, Toni Braxton, Natalie Cole, Gladys Knight and yourself are routinely noted as having large Gay fan bases. I wondered if you were aware of this.

Fischer: That's really interesting. I have not thought of it in that way. What I do think about is the emotion, the freedom of emotion. I know for me, I'm attracted to the same singers as well. I've got a thing for Patti, I've got a thing for Toni, I have a thing for Anita, and Natalie, and all of them. It's just that they touch on something within themselves that is just so honest, and I think for me it's honesty, the honesty to be brave. Everything that we see a lot of times is such a lie. But I think anyone that sings with a lot of heart and soul, who can really touch on those feelings, we just gravitate towards that.

Rodriguez: Are you working on any new solo material? Is there anything in the works?

Fischer: Yeah, I am slowly getting there. I'm really lucky to have my manager, Linda Goldstein; she's sensitive and gets where I'm coming from. She's not trying to force anything down my throat; she allows me the freedom to just dream.

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Tyler Glenn (of Neon Trees) interview coming next week
by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

By now, it's very old news that Tyler Glenn is out. The lead singer for pop-rock outfit Neon Trees opened up to Rolling Stone in April about his sexuality, knowing for years that he was Gay but keeping it to himself. That said, let's move on. The group recently performed to a big crowd at Bumbershoot, performing their hits 'Everybody Talks,' 'Animal,' and 'Lessons in Love (All Day, All Night)' under a dark blue sky on the festival's final night. But hours before Neon Trees went on stage, I spoke privately with Glenn in a secluded spot at McCaw Hall about his decision to go public with his personal life; but more importantly, we discussed shopping and celebrity crushes (we both think Bon Iver is a cutie). He also revealed what he likes about Seattle and who his favorite female artist is. It's possible the Provo-based band will return to the Emerald City in 2014, but in the meantime enjoy a special interview with Tyler Glenn next week in the Seattle Gay News.

If you're a John Mellencamp fan, save the date July 19, 2015. The veteran Americana singer-songwriter will appear live at Benaroya Hall on this evening to perform songs from his new album, Plain Spoken, scheduled for a September 23 release. But his concert will likely feature material from his 38-year career, such as 'Hurts So Good,' 'Crumblin' Down,' 'Ain't Even Done With the Night,' 'Pink Houses,' 'Jack & Diane,' and 'R.O.C.K. in the USA (A Salute to 60s Rock).' Mellencamp is a founding member of Farm Aid, which has raised $45 million to help U.S. farmers who faced foreclosures and mortgage debts to maintain their family-run businesses. Opening for Mellencamp will be country-folk star Carlene Carter, daughter of the late June Carter Cash and stepsister of Rosanne Cash, who launched her career in 1978 but didn't gain wide attention until she scored a series of top ten country hits between 1990-93, including 'I Fell in Love,' 'Every Little Thing' and 'Come On Back.' Tickets for John Mellencamp are on sale now at www.axs.com, or www.johnmellencamp.com.

Seattle's own Mary Lambert has announced the release of her debut full-length album, Heart on a Sleeve, a follow-up to 2013's EP Welcome to the Age of My Body. The forthcoming record, arriving on October 14, has already produced the hit single 'Secrets,' which has racked up 1.1 digital streams and 2.5 million views on VEVO. Lambert, who interviewed with Seattle Gay News last year, is promoting the album with a 19-city North American tour that doesn't include a hometown performance, but she's obviously been no stranger to local fans and might surprise us with a show in the coming weeks or months. I'm hoping to secure another interview with Lambert before she departs for her tour, so stay glued for updates. You can follow her at www.twitter.com/marylambertsing, or www.instagram.com/marylambertsing.

The 2014 Decibel Festival is happening this coming week, running September 24-28 at multiple venues with dozens of electronic acts, including Pete Tong, Son Lux, Simian Mobile Disco (performing Whorl), Com Truise, Baths, and many more. Artists from all over the world will gather in Seattle for five days to showcase various forms of electro sounds, from techno to house to dubstep to trance. For details and full lineup, go to www.dbfestival.com.

Finally, if you're looking for a live show to go to this weekend, tickets are still available for LaRoux at The Showbox Market (Friday, September 19) and Meshell Ndegeocello at The Triple Door (Friday, September 19), Andrew Belle at Vera Project (Saturday, September 20), and Trace Adkins at Snoqualimie Casino (Sunday, September 21).
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