Lori Lieberman :: Music On Her Own Terms
There is a sense of self-assured contentment in finding your voice as a singer and songwriter. Lori Lieberman is no stranger to the artistic process of grabbing a hold of feelings, thoughts and ideas while molding them in to a tapestry of words and notes. It has always been about finding your own voice and growing in the process as a person and as a performer.
Lieberman’s creative journey began in the hazy L.A. sunshine of the 1970s and a recording contract with Capitol Records. Whether accompanying herself on the guitar or at the piano, her songs of self-doubt, romantic longing or feelings of isolation brought the artist both critical acclaim and her initial fan base. One song, which strongly evokes the quality of her songwriting at the time, is the well-known and timeless love song "Killing Me Softly (With His Song)".
Touring throughout the U.S. and Europe and the release of a total of five albums up until 1975, Lori Lieberman seemed to have found her own creative niche as a singer/songwriter in the emotional psyche of her audiences, with her intuitive lyrics and beautiful voice.
With the changing shift in styles and in the music industry itself in the late 1970s... one word "Disco" pretty much says it all, Lieberman chose to walk away from her career and over the following years almost put her love of singing and songwriting completely out of the picture.
Hence, upon her return to recording in the mid-1990s, there was a renewed discovery and sense of accomplishment found in Lieberman’s work as she independently created new and worthwhile material on a consistent basis through the years. 2009’s "Gun Metal Sky" led to Lieberman once again gaining a new audience of admirers along with the fans who had never forgotten her work at the very beginning.
Lori Lieberman returns with her first studio recording in four years titled "Bricks Against the Glass," which was released on Sept. 17.
The vibrancy of disillusionment, lyrical poetry, ideology and hopeful yet worldly wise notions of love all cascade forth on her new release. Through the years and right now, Lieberman still possesses a heartened plea for combing the emotional heartland of the world in which we all live. Here for EDGE Media Network, Lori shares a bit more of herself in the discovery of meaning behind the new songs, the intimacy of her creative inspiration and the true joy of being at ease with the talent that was always right by her side.
’All or nothing?’
EDGE: I’d like to start off with your song ’Lottery.’ After giving the whole album a few listens, I was drawn back to this song. What was the impetus for you to write it?
Lori Lieberman: Oh, wow. I had been told in a relationship that I had had many years ago, this was someone I was involved with unhappily who said that ’it’s a lottery,’ and it stuck in my mind.
I was struck by the idea that in life there really is no ’win or losing’ or black and white. There has to be some flexibility or give and take. At the end of that song, I really wanted to express that in my life I require more than ’all or nothing.’ It’s a more fluid thing for me.
EDGE: Yeah, I got a definite tinge of disillusionment in parts of the song.
Lori Lieberman: Oh yeah. I think if there was any line that sort of said it all was ’you sold me for a crumb or two and when you’re used to nothing, I guess that’s what you do.’ I know that in my life, I’d be like doing back flips for just a crumb and accepting so very, very much, getting nothing really in return. And not realizing until it was over. When I look back, it’s like, ’What was that all about?’
EDGE: There are two songs on this, ’Ticket to Leave’ and ’Rise’ seem to be both speaking to the issues of political change or frustration in regards to politics.
Lori Lieberman: I think you’re right about that. Both talk about how either you speak up or you run away. They both are coming at the same subject at different angles. I know that when I wrote ’Rise’ I wrote it specifically to be sung in the Netherlands where I was doing a tour with a young Dutch artist. I felt that since we were going to do a song together, I certainly can’t do a love song with her but what I thought she did feel was a sense of urgency about her country and the whole social system. I certainly felt that regarding my world.
When we sang it together, there was a convergence of generations really. So, I really wanted to record it because I so identified with the best parts of the ’occupy’ movement. I was so on board with what Michael Moore was saying. I wanted to lend my voice as best I could. The overall theme of that song for me is that for most of my life I was able to sing and had a big voice even as a young girl, but I could never speak up. That song is a mantra of sorts for me.
EDGE: ’Rise’ has a very positive energy in that regard while ’Ticket to Leave’ speaks out for the frustration of political energy.
Lori Lieberman: With ’Ticket to Leave,’ I wrote it more as a defeatist. At that time, I was in the middle of listening to the elections and suddenly, nothing rang true. Everything looked like it was against the green screen. I just stopped believing that anyone was going to come and really change things. Plus, I was the mother of seven blended kids and what they were going through. It just hurt my heart that there wasn’t anything much that they could believe in. I really couldn’t change the way they were feeling. So, the song ’Ticket to Leave’ was kind of a ’let’s get out of here, I have a ticket to leave.’
An ’interesting’ career
EDGE: You’ve had, for lack of a better word, an ’interesting’ career in the industry. How would you describe your relationship to being a performer? It almost seems like if you are truly motivated, you will create and if not, you have stepped away from the spotlight.
Lori Lieberman: Yeah, that’s so true. My relationship to the business has really, really changed and evolved over the years. I started young. I was sort of ’discovered’ and put on stage. I had no sense of my own identity, told what to say and parroted what I was doing... in fact; I had some serious anxiety attacks. It was tough to have that. Capitol Records and the record business machinery and then ’boom,’ the business changed.
The business changed to Disco and oddly enough, my husband was a huge part of that movement and ’Saturday Night Fever’ where he was an actor and John Travolta and The Bee Gees. My husband Joe was one of the cute friends. That whole era knocked me off my rocker. I didn’t know what to do as a ’long-haired’ guitarist.
EDGE: The shift in the music was earth-shattering.
Lori Lieberman: Yeah, it was. I tried in the 1980s to morph into what I thought would sell. (Laughter) With the shoulder pads, I tried to be like Quarterflash. None of it worked and I got out of the business. Finally in 1982 and after five albums, I went in to the office of a publisher who was on the phone, when I came in. He didn’t acknowledge me and stayed on the phone. I just got up in the middle of this conversation and walked out. I thought, ’That’s it. I’m done. I’m not doing this again.’ I focused on my personal life and that’s what I did.
For ten years, being a singer was something I never even spoke about. I was still writing but keeping things secret. A friend of my husband’s recognized the single poster I did have in the house of myself and said, ’You’ve got to get back. You have to do this.’ He got me back in 1994. Since then, we’ve been doing it ourselves. This is now my fifteenth CD. I found through the internet that my fans from a long time ago are still there. So, I’m finally having fun! I’m really enjoying what I’m doing and while I could walk away from it, absolutely... I’m so enjoying what I’m doing now more and I still have that foundation that I was longing for, years ago.
No short cut
EDGE: It’s definitely good to have that background behind you as you’ve really experienced the business first hand.
Lori Lieberman: I know. Taking it too seriously isn’t good but certainly putting the work in is good I think. There’s no short cut. There really isn’t. Being a musician for years, I wouldn’t trade that for anything. I finally can read the signs and speak up for myself. To sing and write and have it be something that I’m more economic about and it’s a very smooth pass way to my own writing.
EDGE: I’ve been really enjoying the quality of your writing on this. Another song that truly made a strong impression is ’The Rest Will Follow.’ It’s almost a mantra in a way to learning to strengthen self-confidence. Your lyrics represent following a path of positive self-awareness. What was going on in your head to put that song together? It really has a lot of strength to it.
Lori Lieberman: Three things, one I have a girlfriend who is stuck. It’s a tough thing to watch. She can’t seem to break out of her own mind. I just wish she could just break free. That’s where it originally started. Then, in the writing of it... two friends had serious, serious issues. One is a beautiful writer in England and he took a horrible turn for the worse. He was on a bender and fell off the wagon. He had a two-day episode in a drug haze and hallucination; he jumped off a parking car garage. He broke every single bone in his body and he was in the hospital forever.
I wanted very much to send him this song because he was growing so dark. He’s now home again, writing again and he’s sober again. There was that and another dear friend who was suffering through some chemo and is on the other side of that. Thank God. Those were the most powerful influences in that’s where I wanted to write it for myself and for them. I do believe that it’s a choice. I do believe that when you wake up in the morning with that unexplained feeling that there is a blanket over your head and there’s a darkness that follows you, I do believe you have a choice to get up, look outside and connect with a higher power. On the flip side of that, there is a lot of lightness.
EDGE: That’s so true. Please tell me about your upcoming performance on Oct. 19 at the Clive Davis Theatre at the Grammy Museum. How did this come about?
Lori Lieberman: There are so few really great listening rooms in L.A., either you’re standing the whole time or the view isn’t very good, etc. So when I saw the Clive Davis Theatre, it’s just a perfect, beautiful jewel of a room. Being in the Grammy Museum, it has a beautiful sound system and stage.
I never perform in L.A. Even though I’m from here, I’ve never performed here. But, this is my first real true performance in almost twenty-five years. It will be a retrospective, an evening of singing old catalog back to the 1970s to what I’m doing now. I’m really looking forward to it. I’ll do a bunch of stuff solo, but I’ve also asked the musicians who played on this last record to join me. I’m really excited about it and I think it’s going to be a great moment.
Lori Lieberman’s "Bricks Against the Glass can be purchased at www.lorilieberman.com/store. For additional information on upcoming performances including Lori Lieberman’s Oct. 19 performance at Clive Davis Theatre at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles, go to lorilieberman.com.