Women Who Rock: Lisa McClowry Sings Acoustic Alchemy

Lisa McClowry is one of a kind! The beautiful songstress has performed on more than 25 albums with a singing style that intertwines the best elements soul, jazz, rock and pop have to offer.

Lisa’s resume includes writing the song, ‘Through the Eyes of a Child‘ for the movie, ‘The Adventures Of Rocky and Bullwinkle’ (with Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo). She was also the singing voice of the princess in the movie, ‘Rug Rats in Paris’.

Now Lisa gets to flex her vocal muscles in a truly unique and fascinating way. Together with songwriter/producer Jim Peterik (Eye of The Tiger, The Search is Over), the duo has joined forces with the guitar inspired sounds of Acoustic Alchemy’s Greg Carmichael and Miles Gilderdale to bring us, “Lisa McClowry Sings Acoustic Alchemy”.

Peterik’s lyrics to ten existing Acoustic Alchemy smooth jazz instrumentals have given the songs a new life and a fresh sound. (Lisa herself joins Peterik in songwriting duties for the track, Visions Of Marrakesh). It’s the combination of  lyric, melody and most of all, Lisa’s sensual voice that makes the partnership with Acoustic Alchemy so musically satisfying!

I had the absolute pleasure of speaking with Lisa and get her thoughts on the Acoustic Alchemy album. We also discuss her new Christmas release and her Christmas show at The Montrose Room in Rosemont, IL on December 14th.

LM: I had opened up for Acoustic Alchemy about a year prior to the album coming out. That’s when I first met them. Jim Peterik also came to the show and we were all behind stage when Jim told the manager that he’d always wanted to try to put a lyric to one of the Acoustic Alchemy songs. So the manager said to him, “Well, have a go at it, mate!” [laughs]

So, Jim wrote lyrics to one of the songs and we all liked it so much that we decided to do an entire albums’ worth of songs! Jim picked out his favorites and wrote lyrics for all of the tracks except for ‘Visions of Marrakesh’; which was a song that he and I sat at a Starbucks and wrote together.

gJg: What is it like to sit and write a song with Jim Peterik?

LM: The first time I wrote with Jim was actually nine years ago. It’s an experience I’ll never forget. For Jim to sit at the piano and play ‘The Search is Over’ and then pull out his guitar and play ‘Eye of The  Tiger’ was unbelievable; almost like an explosion.

 I remember driving to his house and I was very nervous, as you can imagine. Here was a man I grew up with listening to on the radio and now I was going to be writing with him in his house. What happened was, I’d say something and then he’d have something to react to (and vice-versa). I don’t even know how the song was written. It was almost as if there was a third-party in the room that took over. The song was ‘These Open Arms’ which later was released on an album of mine.

From there, it then grew in to Jim becoming my producer and we’ve been dear friends ever since.

gJg: What was the recording process like for the Acoustic Alchemy record?

We actually never met with them during the process of recording. They were in London, and we were in Chicago. We’d have our band in Chicago lay down some tracks and then send them to Greg and Miles, who would lay down some guitar parts over what we did. It was a unique, wonderful experience recording back and forth. We definitely wanted to make sure we kept the original wonderful quality of Acoustic Alchemy.

gJg: How has the reaction been to the album?

LM: Fantastic! It’s a real treat to perform these songs live. As a singer, you really get to sink your teeth into them. The melodies allow you to show many colors in the voice. Our guitarist, Mike Aquino also enjoys the songs as well, because he can really let loose.

From left: Miles Gilderdale & Greg Carmichael (Acoustic Alchemy), Lisa McClowry, Jim Peterik , Michael Jeffers (Publisher of Chicago Jazz Magazine) – Photo: Gene Steinman

gJg: You also have a new Christmas EP that was recently released. Tell me about the beautiful song from that album, “Before The Tree Comes Down”.

LM: ‘Before The Tree Comes Down’ was originally written by Christa Wells and about three years ago, I released her version of the song. For this re-recorded version, Jim added a new chorus and produced it. So it went from a good song to a really, really good song with Jim’s touches.

gJg: The message of the song is so powerful.

LM: The military is a big part of me. I’m not from a military family, but am very empathic because I have friends who are in the military and live through them what it’s like to not being home for the holidays. It’s a song close to my heart because I think we can all understand family. I’m donating part of the proceeds from the song to Stars For Stripes so that we can help entertain the troops.

gJg: Tell me about how you first got into music.

LM: When I was 2 my mom said that’s when it really began. I would go up to the radio and just start singing  and dancing. At 7, I started playing piano by ear. I never had a lesson at the time, but was just eager to play melodies.

By the time I was 15, I was in a rock band called ‘Mischief’ as one of the keyboard players. Somehow, I found my way to the front and became the lead singer of the band and we eventually started playing in the clubs.

Because I wasn’t trained vocally (and because rock music was hard on the voice) I started taking classical lessons. I remember fighting with it at first but my teacher (who I’ve been with now for over 20 years) told me that this type of training was going to get me through five nights of singing. Through her teaching, I was able to apply a lot of those classical techniques and keep my voice healthy.

gJg: Who were some of your musical influences growing up?

LM: I remember listening to Olivia Newton John’s records. I loved the innocence of her voice. I listened to Pat Benatar, Heart and Journey as well, but I also loved my Dads’ collection of music: Frank Sinatra, Johnny Mathis and Doris Day.

gJg: What are you working on now?

LM:  This past year, I was involved as the emcee for a special needs talent show called “Special Talents America”. It’s very much like American Idol but for special needs kids. It’s one of the biggest highlights of my career; being involved with these wonderful, gifted children. 

I’m also gearing up for a December 14th Christmas show at the Montrose Room in Rosemont, Illinois. It’s a 300 seat intimate room and I love the location. One of the winners from the talent show will be performing with me that night as well. Her name is Mia Strayer, and she plays harp. She has such a wonderful spirit and I want everyone to hear her!

When I did the show last year, it was one of the first of my shows mixing the Acoustic Alchemy album along with traditional Christmas music. That went over extremely well. This year, I’ll be doing a lot of the same songs but with a string section. It will be a little twist to the music that people are familiar with. I’m excited about it.

Keep Up with Lisa McClowry by checking out her official website and Facebook pages!

Article first published as Women Who Rock: Lisa McClowry Sings Acoustic Alchemy on Technorati.

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