LMP Takes ‘Grace’ to Taj
When Lisa Marie Presley began writing music again after a seven-year layoff, she wasn't sure where it would lead.
"There was no agenda," Elvis Presley's only child said. "I was given the freedom and space to find myself again, to start again and get a fresh perspective. I didn't know what was going to come of it. I was half expecting nothing was going to happen."
Her manager, Simon Fuller, was a little more focused. He was hoping the 44-year-old singer, songwriter and lyricist, who's enjoyed an eclectic career and moves easily between folk, blues and country, would write enough material to create what would become her third studio album.
Without her knowledge, Fuller sent some of the songs to T. Bone Burnett seeking some input from the Grammy Award-winning producer. Burnett knew his client would be freaked out and become a nervous wreck waiting for Burnett's assessment of the new material.
Burnett liked what he heard so much he summoned Presley to his Los Angeles home and said he wanted to work with her on what would become her third album, Storm & Grace. The album, released in May, has been described as a country-pop "moody masterpiece" that explores the demons and angels in her life.
Once she was ready to go into the studio, Burnett's idea was to pair Presley with a variety of different writers and musicians to help her craft her new sound. Collaborators included songwriter and guitarist Richard Hawley of the band Pulp, Fran Healey from the band Travis and songwriter Ed Harcourt.
The writing process sounded fairly simply. Presley said she wasn't influenced by any outside musical influences.
"Honestly, at the time, I was not listening to any music at all," Presley told Spinner magazine in May. "What happened with these songs was I would sit with the co-writer and we'd lock in on a melody and a format, and then they'd basically leave me in a room five to six hours. Then they come back in and wonder what's come out of it, out of all that."
All told, Presley and her writers created more than two dozen songs over a two-year period. Then she turned them over to Burnett hoping he could work the same magic on her album that he's applied to a broad swath of artists ranging from Roy Orbison, Elton John, Tony Bennett and k.d. lang to John Mellencamp, Elvis Costello and Diana Krall.
"He has an orbit of musicians that he loves and rearranges them accordingly with what he's recording," said Presley, who performs Saturday, Nov. 10, in the Xanadu at Trump Taj Mahal. "I had the utmost respect with everything he wanted to do. He already had his ideas. I wasn't going to interject mine. I never would have gotten in his way. And they were all so incredible you couldn't argue."
Growing up in the shadow of her legendary father — and then dealing with the rumors and media scrutiny that's dogged her ever since his 1977 death — Presley has developed a hard shell that helps her deal with criticism and living life in a public fishbowl.
Her own personal life — which includes four marriages, among them to Michael Jackson and actor Nicholas Cage — has only heightened interest in Presley.
She admitted that it hasn't been easy living and dealing with, on a near daily basis, the baggage that comes from being the only child of a legend.
"I don't know anyone that it wouldn't bother. I don't know a time when that didn't happen," she said candidly. "These days, you've got people hiding behind their computers and bullying people. I think that's gotten really, really bad. It's a vehicle that people use to hide and attack other people. It's generally an epidemic right now. Obviously the Internet is also a lovely and wonderful thing overall, but you have to deal with mean comments. You have to have a stronger skin than ever."
Presley, who moved to England several years ago with her husband and in 2008 gave birth to twins, said she'd looking forward to touring behind Storm & Grace.
"I like the touring part. I love the immediate gratification from people that want to hear your music," she said. "It's a little bit hard to do, hard to put yourself out there. It's like putting a target on your head and saying, 'Please shoot! Fire away!' It's a free-for-all out there and kind of scary. I understand too that my music has helped people and I hope that continues. I hope that it continues to reach people."