Kopecky Family Band
815 V St. NW
Washington, DC, 20001
'My Wild West begins' with an overture, by definition an "introduction to something more substantial." In this case it is Lissie's third studio album and her most personal one to date, a fitting tribute to Lissie's life in California, from her arrival as a fresh-faced singer-songwriter till now, leaving for the Midwest wiser and more self-assured. Bookended by the songs "Hollywood" and "Ojai," it brings out the two extremes of the past decade -- the dashed hopes and heartbreak of the former and the "stability, joy and peace" of the latter. 'My Wild West' represents both a new beginning and a return to Lissie's Midwestern roots.
'My Wild West' was recorded with producer Curt Schneider in his Studio City home -- he oversaw the project as a whole, produced 8 tracks on the record and pulled together the additional material from Lissie's time recording with her band in Ojai and with Bill Reynolds in Nashville. As the album unfolds, we see a more confident Lissie, self-assured and coming into her own power. "I want my 40 acres in the sun," sings Lissie on "Hero," written before she had made the decision to leave California. It details Lissie's life on the West Coast and the empowerment she felt that she could leave and demand a new adventure from life: "I could have been a hero, I could have been a zero, I could have been all of these things."
After being signed by Sony U.K., Lissie's two previous albums, 2010's 'Catching a Tiger' and 2013's 'Back to Forever,' came out on Columbia in England and prestigious indie Fat Possum in the U.S., both scoring in the Top 20 of the U.K. charts and Top 5 in Norway, the former going gold in both countries. Stateside, the two releases hit the Top 5 in Billboard's Heatseekers chart, peaked at #5 and #11, respectively, on the U.S. Folk tally and went Top 40 on the Indie chart.
"There was always a bit of commercial compromise, like pressure to make the charts and sell units," she recalls of her experience on a major label. "I just wanted to be able to move people with this gift I've been given... my voice."
What emerged was a cohesive, conceptual, musical whole, which belied the rather unorthodox manner in which it was created. "The songs turned out to be more personal because I wasn't adhering to a strict set schedule," she realized. "In writing 'Hero' and 'Wild West,' I had no idea at the time I was going to leave California and move back to the Midwest. I feel like their very creation was predictive of the changes that were coming. The moment I decided not to make an album was when I really started to make the album. That took all the pressure off!"
Lissie's tales of triumph and self-propelled adventure were inspired by strong females close and far from home: "Sun Keeps Risin'" was inspired by an aunt of Lissie's who passed away from ALS, while "Daughters" is a pro-feminist call-to-arms that took its cue from Liberian peace activist and Nobel Prize winner Leymah Gbowee, subject of the documentary "Pray the Devil Back to Hell." The funereal, dirge-like "Shroud" and the upbeat "Go for a Walk" shed light on the yin-and-yang nature of Lissie's personality, the first a meditation on depression and isolation, the latter a heartfelt affirmation of nature's power of renewal. "Stay" and "Together or Apart" detail the pain and pleasure of relationships, while "Don't You Give Up On Me" is a spiritualized self-pep talk, urging those around her to hang in there while she figures life out: "Don't you give up on me/As I dive into the dark/And slip into the endless sea." There's also the line "I left you on the coast for something only I can see" and that's just it, Lissie has a personal vision and it may be hard for others to understand at times but she has to follow it.
Having recently purchased a farm on 10.7 acres in a small Iowa town, Lissie now boasts her own personal "Field of Dreams," just across the Mississippi River from Rock Island, Illinois, where Elisabeth Maurus grew up in possession of a strong rebellious streak surrounded by the memory of steamboats and railroads of past. Concentrating on converting the barn into a recording studio, getting used to her new pick-up truck and setting up beehives, Lissie is visibly content in her new life, eager to take on each new adventure and challenge that presents itself.
With a career that has seen her open for renowned artist Lenny Kravitz (an early supporter), Tom Petty and even been asked to perform at Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore's wedding, Lissie has had a wealth of incredible experiences that have made her the confident and determined artist she is today. "I have a loyal, passionate fan base that every day is growing through its own power, not just an aggressive marketing campaign," she says. "I want to be an artist with longevity, which is an exciting prospect for me. I feel I'm in a really good place. In fact, I'm already planning a follow-up album, 'My Mild Midwest,'" she says with a laugh.
'My Wild West' will be released on February 12th, 2016, via Thirty Tigers in North America and Cooking Vinyl elsewhere.
Kopecky Family Band
Kids Raising Kids out 4/2/13 via ATO Records
Sometimes song is thicker than blood.
First drawn together amid a college dorm ‘pass the guitar’ session in 2007, Kopecky Family Band co-founders Kelsey Kopecky and Gabe Simon quickly realized that they shared something beyond their alma mater.
“Gabe started playing and I was totally blown away,” Kopecky remembers, “by his melodies, his talent. Something in the way he played felt so familiar to me and moving. I asked him if he wanted to get together and play some, sing some. And a few days later we did that. And it was crazy, it came together immediately– it just fit.”
“I had just met her,” remembers Simon, “but when we sang together, it sounds corny, but it felt like we’d known each other forever. Old souls meeting again. We were finishing each others lyrics, just immediately connected in the music.”
This synergy propelled the duo forward and within months they had wrangled the rest of their sonic siblings – Steven Holmes on lead guitar, David Krohn on drums, Markus Midkiff on cello, and Corey Oxendine on bass - making them six in total. Within the year the burgeoning Family had released an EP, Embraces, and embarked on a nearly nonstop touring schedule, garnering fans around the country and developing both their sound… and their ties with one another.
“When we were originally trying to figure out a name,” says Simon “we felt that Kelsey’s last name had the right ring to it and we added the ‘family’ because that’s really what it feels like when we all play together.”
And that is what it sounds like, too.
The Kopecky Family Band are built on a foundation of intimately connected musical tones, warm and welcoming melodies, bright and epic symphonic layering - and vocal harmonies that recall all the greats – Gram and Emmylou, June and Johnny and onward and up…
You can hear the band’s hometown of Nashville in this music too, the rich history of place - but past is always brought gently into present. This is not country, not pop, not folk, not rock, but something much more complex - call it a Brave New Nashville. It is a music that contains all the comfort of home while simultaneously embracing a bright, energetic openness - a willingness to explore and expand.
Over the past few years there have been two more EPs from the band – The Disaster and Of Epic Proportions (both released in 2010) – as well as a split 7” with Seattle’s Ivan & Alyosha and revelatory performances at the Next Big Nashville and SXSW festivals. 2011 saw the Family on tour with artists including Devotchka and Gomez, and year-end accolades such as Paste naming them one of the ‘25 Best Live Acts’ and ‘20 Best New Bands’ of the year. And after last year’s exhaustive co-headlining tour with The Lumineers, and performances at Lollapalooza and the Austin City Limits festival, the band finally got off the bus and into the studio, settling down for their first full-length.
The result, Kids Raising Kids, is a collection of tracks that reveal a band fully formed. This is sing-along, clap-your-hands, stomp-your-feet music. But it is also deep music, rife with emotion and layers of feeling – from melancholy to elation and back again.
“With this new record,” explains Kopecky, “we tried really hard to be in our bodies, to be responding to the music not only with our heads and hearts, but in a visceral way too. We wanted it to be honest and emotional and true.”
As a result, songs like “The Glow” soar and sweep, while tracks like “Change” keep it quiet and fragile. “She’s the One” rides a dark, propulsive beat while “Waves” is shimmering and blindingly bright and “Heartbeat” is playful, sing-along pop. The record is a study of opposites, yet the refreshingly distinctive, unified sound these six musicians make together bleeds through each and every song. The album holds the cohesiveness and the complexity that belie true family bonds.
“We didn’t want to be afraid to explore,” says Simon, of Kids Raising Kids, “we wanted to go deep into different sounds, textures, genres – whatever fit the song and the story we were telling. If there’s a thread that runs through this record it’s the idea of ‘kids raising kids’, of each of us in the band really raising each other these last few years, and of everything that comes with that, the frustration and the fun and the good times and the bad times too. You come out the other side and you hope you’ve helped each other grow.”