For more than two decades now, singer-songwriter Lisa Germano has been quietly releasing some of the most artistic, eccentric and intelligent records.
Her latest, No Elephants, was recently released on the Badman Recording label, but before the nine solo records, the Mishawaka, Indiana native found herself playing alongside rock ’n’ roll legend and fellow Hoosier John Mellencamp. Germano made her debut as Mellencamp’s violinist and fiddle player on his 1987 hit album Lonesome Jubilee and continued to work with him for the next seven years.
“Playing with Mellencamp taught me many lessons about people,” Germano said. “Some things I didn’t want to learn, but it’s good I know them now, as I can spot when someone is taking advantage of me or when music becomes about power, money and sex…not sensuality. The things I learned show up a lot in my music, and I guess music-wise what John taught me was to be brave.”
That courage led to Germano independently releasing her solo debut On the Way Down From the Moon Palace in 1991. From the onset of that debut release, it was quite evident this singer-songwriter would not fit into the stereotypical mold of the Sarah McLachlans , Melissa Etheridges and Jewels who was starting to explode in popularity at the time.
“I’m glad my music doesn’t fit in to a proper box because … I don’t try to. I try to be honest about what I’m communicating, and the music needs to feel like the emotions I’m sharing in order to connect,” Germano said. “Sure, I wouldn’t be broke if I could fit in better, but when someone writes to me and says how deeply they are connected to a certain album or song, I know this is most important, and my desire has always been to try to give something to the world.”
For over two decades Germano has been giving the world emotionally touching songs which resonate, all the while remaining an independent artist at heart. Case in point – Germano’s new album No Elephants is on the respected indie record label Badman.
“I was first attracted to Dylan [Magierek] at Badman because he puts out the Innocence Mission and they are one of my most favorite bands around,” Germano said.
“When we talked and discussed what No Elephants is about, he felt like it was important to get this out to the world too. I loved that he also believes as I do how wonderful a tangible piece of work is and rare these days (since they don’t sell so well). But thought through with artwork and a relationship with your label …we both wanted this, and I knew it would be in good hands.”
The artwork for No Elephants was just as important to Germano as the music, so she enlisted her artist friend Lizzy Waronker.
“I met Lizzy while working on Lullaby for Liquid Pig with her husband Joey Waronker. A great drummer/ musician, plays with Beck and Thom York in his solo band. Side note… Anyway, I love what she came up with, as it helps to tell the story the whole record is telling. That’s why I love records done with artwork…a whole piece…it’s just better this way.”
Like its artwork, No Elephants is one of the most interesting and unique pieces of work Germano has ever done in her illustrious career. She is not only looking outwardly to others, but inwardly to herself and finding out she needed to make changes in her own life.
“No Elephants came into being the past few years, as I’ve grown more aware of how much we humans abuse the earth and its beings. I feel when people are more interested in their cell phones than the world around them…then there’s no elephant in the room because there’s no communication….which then IS the elephant in the room. Then when you kill all these gorgeous elephants for unneeded ivory. There won’t be any left someday. I wanted it to be brutally honest also so there wouldn’t be any elephant in the room I was hiding. So that is where the idea for the title came from.”
The more Germano dug into the concept of her idea for the album the deeper she wanted to go.
“Then I wanted the record to go further into the earth, animals and our treatment of them, how all life has a reason to be here, and us trying constantly to change nature for our own selfish reasons is not working. Like the bees…one theory is that all the computers, cell phones…vibrations in the air get in the way of their special relationship, the dance they do with flowers. Seeing the movie ‘Food Inc.’ and really being horrified, bulldozing sick cows into slaughter, killing 1,200 hogs an hour who are tortured during their short life at Smithfield Farms.
The new album is obviously an unconventional one, not only with its themes, but with its instrumentation. To give you an example, the press release states “No Elephants was written and played by Lisa Germano, some bees, cell phones, a bunch of animals.”
“Much of the instrumentation does include some of the devices I find to be part of the problem…so I had bees in a dance with cell phones and computers, some strange mechanical sounds that are undefinable from somewhere out there. Some animals crying or just being animals talking in the background. A crow that begins the record goes all the way through it flying between songs. I wanted to mesh nature with technology…not have technology take over like it seems to be doing with us.”
No Elephants is made like a book to read to the end. There is foreshadowing from melodies and ideas that weave the record’s story together and it takes time and imagination from the reader/listener.
“Jamie Candiloro kept urging me to record as I told him I wasn’t sure about this material. I always feel this way and he knows this, so we started out a couple of years ago recording at his studio….he’s so good that he can make the most simple arrangements intriguing and this kept me going. I wait until I have to write something, until it’s a physical need, so it takes a while to write a whole record.”
This is deeply felt, simply and beautifully orchestrated music whose dulcet charms, when scratched, reveal an ineffable glow. While her lyrics can be forcefully literal, they’re also gratifyingly figurative; as pure music, her songs offer a resonantly oblique time and place.
“To me, No Elephants is about the world we live in right now and addresses issues I feel are important to think about. I think all of us have trouble relating to society here and there during our lifetime, and right now things are changing so fast everyone’s a bit strange. I write songs to connect, and I won’t connect to everyone for sure….I’ll keep writing anyway.”
Share and Enjoy
Tags: Lisa Germano