'Catching A Tiger': A Midwestern Debut Album

The singer and songwriter Lissie gets much of her inspiration from her childhood in Illinois, where she grew up along the banks of the Mississippi River. Guest host John Ydstie speaks with the musician about her song, "Everywhere I Go," a track from her debut album, Catching a Tiger.

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JOHN YDSTIE, Host:

The singer-songwriter Lissie gets much of her inspiration from her childhood in Illinois, where she grew up along the banks of the Mississippi River.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "OH MISSISSIPPI")

LISSIE: (Singing) Oh, mighty river, the Mississippi's turbulent waters, lull me to sleep...

That's the song "Oh Mississippi." Lissie's debut album, "Catching A Tiger," is an entrancing, lyrical dream that has attracted widespread attention and praise. Paste magazine named her best new solo artist of 2010. She joins us from member station WBEZ in Chicago. Welcome to the program.

LISSIE: Hello. Thank you. Great to be here.

YDSTIE: Let's listen to another song from your album. It's titled "Everywhere I Go."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EVERYWHERE I GO")

LISSIE: (Singing) And I fall on my knees, tell me how's the way to be. Tell me how's the way to go. Tell me all that I should know...

YDSTIE: Your voice is so lovely there.

LISSIE: Thank you.

YDSTIE: I wonder, how did you find your voice?

LISSIE: I just sort of sang of my own accord as a kid. And at the age of 5, I started taking singing and dancing classes. And we put on these shows. And it was something I felt so - it felt so natural. And it made me so happy, I just always stuck with it. And as a teenager, I started to teach myself guitar and write songs. Even as a kid, I was sort of always writing words. So it was just always something that I did - and never stopped.

YDSTIE: Tell us about "Everywhere I Go" and how it came to you, and what it means.

LISSIE: The verse is just very much straightforward - like, you know, tell me how's the way to be and how's the way to go. And as I play this song live and have lived with this song for several years, there's a lot of instances where I find it to be very healing. My aunt passed last year, and it sort of was always nice to get on stage and sing it, feeling like hopefully, she's out there.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EVERYWHERE I GO")

LISSIE: (Singing) And angels follow me now, everywhere I go. Angels will fall on me and take me to my home...

It's a bit more of one of my tender songs. I mean, I also have an electric guitar, and I rock out and I sing about boys and - but these are my more tender, personal bits where I'm really showing people like, there's a lot of vulnerability that we don't maybe talk about.

YDSTIE: Let me ask you - go back to your voice again. There's a real difference between your voice in "Everywhere I Go" and "Oh Mississippi," and I'm wondering if you're discovering new parts of your voice, where the style comes from.

LISSIE: Well, I should know and be more clear on what it is I'm trying to do. But to be honest with you, depending on the song, I sing from a different place. Sometimes I really have to push the notes out; other times, I can leave it more gentle. So I don't know that I'm really deliberately thinking, oh, how am I going to use my voice on this one? It's just whatever comes out in that moment that I'm thinking about what I'm singing.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

YDSTIE: Lissie joined us from WBEZ in Chicago. Her debut album, "Catching a Tiger," is available now.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHEN I'M ALONE")

LISSIE: (Singing) I turn my back, you were gone in a flash, like you always do. You always go out off somewhere else. And when the phone rang, and I thought it was you, and I felt like a kid who just got out of school, but it's almost, always never you. Now...

YDSTIE: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. The new host of WEEKEND EDITION Sunday, Audie Cornish, takes the reins next week. I'm John Ydstie.

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