Presley sings about ‘Storm and Grace’ at SXSW

16 Mar


Larger than life singer-songwriter Lisa Marie Presley, the daughter of the legendary Elvis, left her own musical mark March 14 in downtown Austin as part of SXSW at Quantum Collective’s third annual Southwest Invasion.

The event featured 32 artists, including Presley. Acts performed over two days, March 14 and 15, on the rooftop at Whole Foods world headquarters. Presley had performed just two days earlier at another all ages SXSW venue, Old School Bar and Grill, but her fans obviously couldn’t get enough of her.

Throngs of middle-aged women as well as plenty of young millennials of all genders, waited 20 minutes beyond her concert start time as band members worked out some sound issues. Fans took up nearly every square foot of space on Whole Food’s rooftop as both water other drink refreshments ran scarce in the late afternoon heat.

Diminutive in size and stature, Presley’s nearly waist-length red hair blew around her face as she performed in black satin skinny jeans and a matching long-sleeved jacket with red sequined cuffs. She played a tiny silver encrusted tambourine as she sang.

Although it was her first appearance at SXSW, it marked Presley’s last in the U.S. before she heads to Australia as part of her 36-city tour to promote the release of her latest album, “Storm and Grace.” Presley’s first album in seven years also marks a Universal Republic/XIX Recordings debut. Her guitarist and music producer husband, Michael Lockwood, performed alongside Presley with her band.

Presley sounded raw and powerful, singing from her collection of folk, country, and blues songs made popular throughout two decades and three albums released during her singing career. She performed “Storm and Grace,” “Over Me, and “Storm of Nails,” from her latest album.

Following the event, Presley allowed only two brief exclusive interviews: with CBS “Insider” anchors and with this contributing writer for Austin Fusion Magazine on the red carpet.

Presley said her new release has been an easy transition, now that her 5-year-old twins, Harper and Finley, have reached an age that they can travel easily along with her on her tour.

“I jumped off the train and I’ve jumped right back on it,” Presley said. “I just recorded the record (‘Storm and Grace’) and then T Bone (Burnett) got interested and then things got rolling. It really wasn’t planned or timed or not timed to get back on.”

Living in the world as the only child of late rock icon and movie star, Elvis Presley, exposed every minutia of her family’s lives to the public and to the media who have held the microscope close. Personally, however, she admits that the King still lives inside his four grandchildren.

“My son and I think all of us, have his (Elvis’) sense of humor I will say,” Presley said. “All my kids are really intense, but they’re also really sweet. So it is a good mix I would say. I’m their mom and I’m proud, but they all got his (Elvis’) humor, his intensity levels and his sweetness. They got the best of all of us, I think.”

Presley talked about her song writing process and the inspirations for lyrics that have come from living life large and with her extended family. She said that her eldest daughter, 24-year-old Riley Keough, inspired the “you” mentioned in the lyrics of the song “Forgiving” on “Storm and Grace.”

The song’s lyrics suggest Presley once sought a lesson in forgiveness from her equally famous actress daughter: “I want to find in me/that I can still believe/and be forgiving/yes I want to be like you/Can you teach me how to be forgiving…”

Keough, also the daughter of Presley’s first husband, Danny Keough, once modeled for Dolce & Gabbana, appeared on the covers of Vogue magazine, and earned her acting debut in “The Runaways” (2010). That led to a slew of other jobs acting including: “The Good Doctor” (2011), “Jack and Diane” (2012) and Steven Soderberg’s “Magic Mike” (2012).

The song shares the album’s title, “Storm and Grace,” Presley wrote about her 20-year-old son, Ben Keough, who may just be the spitting image of his late grandfather.

“Storm and Grace” song lyrics reveal his maternal ancestor’s contributions to his good looks: “You are the most beautiful man/ that I have ever known/ too much to offer/ and too much held close to the bone…”

A more private member of the Presley family, Ben Keough works as a London musician who may soon release an album himself.

Another song from Presley’s current album, “Over Me,” she admits that she wrote during a different time in her life, years before she shared it with Lockwood and their two children.

“That’s correct,” she said. “I don’t normally say who I write my songs about, but I will say that is correct. Absolutely. It’s not anybody predictable though, not anybody famous. I will say that.”

Her song “Storm and Nails” has the potential to derive universal appeal from fans who may have a tendency to give too much of themselves to others. The daily sacrifices result, as Presley poetically translates, into overwhelming feelings. Through song, she identifies herself as a “nail” being driven by large metaphorical “hammers” in her life.

“There are hammers everywhere, aren’t there? There are hammers every day in our lives, some days more than others,” Presley said. “I think that I wrote that on a particular day when there were an awful lot of them.”

The lyrics begin: “it’s been a long highway/where do I get off and drive away/ I’m looking for a sign that should say/when you’ve had enough, exit this way…” 

Born in 1968, Presley lived on her father’s Graceland estate in Memphis, Tenn., until her parents divorced when she was 4 years old. Afterwards, she split her time between both of her parents’ homes, including the one she shared in L.A. with her mother, Priscilla Presley.

She married four times, first to Keough in 1988; in 1994 they divorced and she married another rock icon, Michael Jackson. They divorced two years later and in 2002 she married actor Nicolas Cage. That marriage ended in divorce only 108 days later.

Presley released her debut album in 2003, “To Whom It May Concern,” which reached No. 5 on Billboard magazine’s top 200 charts. The album went gold in 2005 and in 2007 she released a posthumous duet with her late father for the single, “In the Ghetto.” That song reached No. 1 on iTunes and No. 16 on singles’ charts for Billboard. In 2006, Lisa Marie Presley married Lockwood and the couple currently divides their time living in either of two homes located in both the US and the UK.

At this time in her life, Presley appears finally comfortable in her own skin. She has become the woman, singer-songwriter, mother, and wife that destiny always meant for her to become. The song off the album, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet,” sounds like a mantra more than a proclamation.

The song’s lyrics ring self-evident: “I’m a bit transgressive and suppressive as well/you ain’t seen nothin’ yet…”

Presley said that her husband has contributed to her personal and very public metamorphosis. His wife’s images dominate Lockwood’s official website.

“Oh Michael has grounded me. He’s been very inspirational,” Presley said. “He’s the boss of the band when we’re working, absolutely. But actually we’re a team. I wouldn’t say that anyone is the boss really. He knows what he’s doing and I sort of know what I’m doing sometimes. When I don’t, he sort of helps me back in the right direction.”

Though they did not write any of the songs on her album together, the two have collaborated during intimate showcase concerts like the one on Whole Foods’ rooftop recently. Lockwood wore a tall black top hat, black pants and a jacket with an Ace of Clubs emblem and played four of his favorite Gretch guitars.

“We just haven’t written together, but he was really behind my collaborating with Richard Hawley and Ed Harcourt. He was kind of championing me from behind, you know?” she said.

Hawley, a former member of the band, Pulp, provides some bluesy harmony vocals on the album and blends well with Lisa Marie Presley’s husky voice. Harcourt helped to write “Weary,” one of the songs for “Storm and Grace.” Sacha Skarbek, whose credits include working with Adele, James Blunt and Lana Del Rey, also collaborated on the album.

Next in her tour, Presley heads for Hornsby, Australia, where she performs March 19-April 3 before embarking for Tokyo, Japan. She returns to the U.S. for a Midwest tour April 29 before heading to the East Coast through June 14 through 22, followed by a few short appearances in Canada to end the month.

She also supports two charities: Presley Place and Presley Charitable Foundation. She also works closely with the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, self-described as a mental health “watchdog” organization that fights against crimes against psychiatric patients. She also supports the Dream Factory, created by Avril Mills, former fundraiser and manager for Haven House Children’s Hospice.


Published by Austin Fusion magazine at:

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