Andrew Slater remembers explaining to Lisa Marie Presley how this entire factor was going to work.
Twenty years in the past, the veteran supervisor and file producer — then additionally the president of Presley’s storied label, Capitol Data — had reduce the singer’s debut single along with her within the studio, and now he was prepping her for what was to come back.
“I said, ‘This song is a good entry point for what you’re doing on your album, so what we’ll do is we’ll put a promotional tour together because people will want to talk to you about the song,’” Slater recalled of “Lights Out,” a shiny however muscular pop-rock tune by which the singer addresses her background as the one youngster of Elvis and Priscilla Presley. “‘We’ll go to radio stations in a couple cities and get up early and do morning shows.’ And she goes, ‘I just have one question: Can I bring my plane?’” Slater laughed. “I said, ‘As long as we don’t park it at the radio station, I think we’re good.’”
A rookie artist with all of the comforts — and among the burdens — of success: That was Lisa Marie Presley’s unusual place as she launched into a music profession in her mid-30s after many years of tabloid notoriety introduced on by a collection of high-profile marriages and naturally by her intimate connection to one of the crucial consequential cultural figures of all time. The singer, who died Thursday at age 54 after struggling cardiac arrest, launched three studio albums, starting with 2003’s “To Whom It May Concern,” which featured “Lights Out” and went on to be licensed gold for gross sales of greater than 500,000 copies; a second LP, “Now What,” got here out in 2005, adopted seven years later by “Storm & Grace.”
Every showcased Presley’s bluesy vocals and a songwriting expertise she used to light up her difficult household historical past. “Someone turned the lights out there in Memphis / That’s where my family’s buried and gone,” she sang over the pealing guitars and driving groove of “Lights Out,” “Last time I was there I noticed a space left / Next to them there in Memphis, in the damn back lawn.” (On Friday, a spokesperson stated Lisa Marie can be buried at Graceland, her father’s property in Memphis, close to Elvis and different relations, together with Lisa Marie’s son, Benjamin Keough, who died in 2020.)
But regardless of the acquainted snarl in her voice — to not point out the darkly sensual eyes that immediately evoked her dad in photographs — Presley was decided to create her personal path within the music trade, based on individuals who labored along with her.
“Lisa Marie never wanted to trade off her status and fame,” stated Glen Ballard, the seasoned songwriter and producer who co-wrote a lot of the fabric, together with “Lights Out,” on “To Whom It May Concern.” “It was like being born a princess — kind of an accident of birth. She always felt there was some unearned capital there.”
Slater says “Lights Out,” which peaked at No. 18 on Billboard’s grownup pop airplay chart, was initially known as “Memphis” however that Presley was “very apprehensive” concerning the title and so modified it. “I respected that because she wasn’t trying to draw too hard a line [between her and Elvis],” Slater stated. “She was doing music for the right reason, which was that she had something to say and music was the vehicle for her to express herself emotionally.”
Certainly, Presley had begun writing songs when she was 20, she informed Playboy in a 2003 interview, “for cathartic reasons, as an outlet. I just haven’t been doing it publicly.” She wanted time to “find my way, stylistically,” she stated. In 1998 she struck up her collaboration with Ballard, who’d co-written “Man in the Mirror” by Michael Jackson (to whom Presley was married from 1994 to 1996) and who’d produced Alanis Morissette’s 1995 blockbuster “Jagged Little Pill,” which Presley recognized as an inspiration.
Although she was cautious of benefiting from her father’s renown — or a minimum of of being seen that means — “the unusual circumstances of her life couldn’t be ignored, in her own psyche or as an artist,” Ballard stated. “We had many conversations about it, and finally she came to the conclusion that she could write about her experiences. I mean, to deny it would have been artistically fraudulent on some level.” Different tunes on “To Whom It May Concern” take up her string of damaged relationships — Presley was additionally married to musicians Danny Keough and Michael Lockwood and actor Nicolas Cage — and the media’s remedy of Elvis close to the top of his life.
As Ballard factors out, Presley had “absolutely no experience grinding it out in clubs to sort of carve out her performance identity” earlier than she made her debut. “Elvis earned his way through some of the worst clubs in the world, and Lisa Marie was expected to be able to just step onstage and be great like her father,” Ballard stated.
But Slater says she had a pure charisma that made all that irrelevant. “I either believe a singer or I don’t, and I believed her,” he stated. “So did everyone at Capitol. She was tough and passionate but really sensitive and humble.” Humorous too, based on Ballard. “She would take the piss out of everything,” he stated. “She had a lot of angst but also a lot of humor. All the time I spent with her was fun.”
As the pinnacle of Capitol, Slater oversaw “Now What” — which featured a droll rendition of Don Henley’s “Dirty Laundry” — earlier than he left the corporate following a company merger in 2007. The impression he had of Presley at the moment was of “an artist at the beginning of their career,” he stated. “To me it all looked like it was going in a good direction and she was feeling the power of becoming a performer.” Slater sensed that she would possibly finally transfer towards a darker rock sound; he remembers her curiosity in Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath and recollects introducing Presley to Fiona Apple, whose smash debut, “Tidal,” he produced and whose profession he’s managed for years.
“I forget where we were — may have been a Christmas party or something,” he stated. “I don’t know what they talked about but they spent some time together and I remember Fiona saying, ‘I like her.’” For “Storm & Grace,” Presley recruited producer T Bone Burnett for a rootsy, barely goth-inflected LP that seemed again to the stripped-down data Elvis reduce at Memphis’ Solar Studio within the mid-Fifties. It was the final album she’d launch, although she contributed vocals to a digital duet along with her father for a gospel-themed Elvis compilation from 2018.
Requested if Presley was pleased with the music they made collectively, Ballard stated he thought she was. “But there were so many other pressures in her life that I don’t know if she ever really got to feel the validation from it,” he stated. “Just because she was the princess, you know? Hopefully somewhere out there she’s feeling it now.”