In honor of the 10th anniversary of The Smith Center, the beatific Lisa Fischer shared some anecdotes from her thirty-five years in the music industry.
[Continued from Part 2]
ShulmanSays: Now, how did your outlook on the industry change after receiving your first Grammy* in 1993? (I just love that picture of you and Patti LaBelle, by the way.)
Lisa Fischer: I loved it! It was such a special night.
SS: Because you didn't really pursue that after-- I mean, you achieved a height that every little girl dreams of-- and boy, for that matter-- and didn't cut a second album; instead devoting the better part of three decades to supporting other artists. And now, despite your own best efforts, you're at the front of the stage, again!
LF: It's so odd. After the Grammy, I was planning on… Well, I went back in the studio. Bob Krasnow had left Elektra Records (he was the one that originally signed me). And then Warner, Atlantic, and Elektra joined forces, becoming WEA [now Warner Music Group].
I’d been scheduled to do another record, but it just wasn't coming together right. My management company at the time was looking for a different deal for me, at a different place, just to get a new perspective. And so we were getting a deal and the ink-- we hadn't signed any papers. So, we asked to be released from Elektra; but when that happened, the new company that we were supposed to sign to changed their mind; which left me with no record deal.
At that point, I was just like, “Well, I really don't understand this part of the business." I've always dealt with people, as opposed to persons within companies. And it was a different energy for me; one I didn't really understand. So, I went back to what I knew; to what felt comfortable. And I just kept on like that until the film [2013’s Oscar-winning documentary 20 Feet from Stardom] happened.
After the documentary, people asked me if I was touring. And I was just like, "No. I don't even have a band." And then I called on Linda Goldstein [Bobby McFerrin’s manager], and I asked for her help. And she helped me get a band, and get everything together. It's just been a beautiful experience; and not having a record company has been lovely.
Not that I'm against record companies. I think they're amazing and wonderful tools. I just don't understand the business aspect of it, and so—
SS: It's just not your jam.
LF: Yeah. And so it's good to have a manager or someone that knows all that stuff, and, with any luck, they're good guys. So, we'll see. The business is so different now, as you know. It's not what it used to be. So just trying to maneuver through all that is also a journey.
SS: I’d wager that you've been around the world roughly a dozen times, by now. What are some little treasures that you've collected, actual things that I might find in your house from your travels around the world?
LF: Let's see. Oh, wow. I've been downsizing – because I just moved from New Jersey back to Brooklyn – so a lot of the things are in storage right now, and I just can't think off the top of my head. You know what I have collected, is many pieces of artwork by Ronnie Wood, and I cherish them.
SS: Were you allowed to keep your costumes?
LF: Some of them, yes. I have costumes and shoes, I have my shoes somewhere around the house, and the bustier that I wore in the video, still sitting in a little box somewhere. And I think to myself, "Girl, you know you will never fit this again. Why are you holding onto this stuff?" Then I think, "Well, maybe somebody will want it one day? I don't know." It's funny.
SS: I want to do a little bit of word association with you. I'm going to give you a name and you just tell me the first thing that comes to your mind.
SS: Chaka Khan
LF: (sings) Fire!
SS: Keith Richards
SS: Darlene Love
LF: Oh! Voice like cognac.
SS: Mick Jagger
SS: Stevie Wonder
LF: Deep soul
SS: Luther Vandross
LF: Heart. Teacher. Eye for detail. Do I only get one? [more giggling]
SS: Great! Now, of today's young artists, are there any who you look at and just think, "Damn, she knows what she's doing," or "What a great voice," or "That is powerful?"
LF: I would say [British singer/songwriter] Laura Mvula. I love her voice and her songwriting. Oh, and Concha Buika. I really, really love her voice.
SS: Concha Who?
LF: It’s Concha (C-O-N-C-H-A) Bueika (B-U-I-K-A). She is this absolutely amazing singer. I’m just in love with her.
SS: I guess I’m gonna have to press myself up into some Concha Buika.
LF: Oh, you’re going to love her!
SS: Hey… If she’s got the Lisa Fischer stamp of approval, I already do.
LF: Oh my gosh! She’s got this song called “Oro Santo” with an artist named Javier Limon. And if you go and listen to “Oro Santo” on that record, it's just—Mmmmm. Actually, the first time I heard it, it was a live performance on YouTube. It was just insane.
SS: Well, that’s all I’ve got for you, Lisa Fischer. Safe travels, and I’ll see you, this weekend.
LF: Please make sure to come and say hello, after the show.
SS: You know I will.
And you know I did.
Get into it!
[Editor’s Note: Fischer’s single “How Can I Ease the Pain” (from her 1991 album, So Intense) won the category of Best Female R&B Performance, at the 1992 Grammy Awards, jointly with Patti LaBelle’s “Burnin’” (upon which, coincidentally, Fischer sang backing vocals); as well as the 1992 Soul Train Music Award for Best R&B/Soul Single, Female.]