Lisa Fischer on her life on stage and working with music #legends
By: David Ho
October 18, 2023
Ahead of her debut concert series at Café Carlyle Hong Kong, Grammy-winning vocalist Lisa Fischer talks to David Ho about music, making connections and being on the road with legends
As a vocalist, Lisa Fischer seems to have done it all. She’s recorded hits, won a Grammy, and sung with more legends than a Now That’s What I Call Music compilation album.
In a life as colourful as hers, Fischer’s favourite memories are those of sharing the stage with some of music’s biggest names. “Touring with Luther Vandross, Chaka Khan, The Rolling Stones, Cher, Tina Turner and Nine Inch Nails. Each of these artists is truly unique and it was wonderful to watch them and work closely together. Each in their own way gave lessons, sharing their knowledge and wisdom without even knowing it,” she says.
The 64-year-old vocalist won her first Grammy Award for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for the hit “How Can I Ease the Pain”, from her 1991 album So Intense, which remains her only solo album to date. Fischer picked up her second Grammy for Best Music Film in 2014 when she was featured in 20 Feet from Stardom, a documentary that took a look at the lives of backup singers like her and another recent Café Carlyle guest performer, Judith Hill.
Also see: Soul sessions with Judith Hill
Being up close and personal with the stars has inspired Fischer a lot. “Just by thriving and expressing themselves, they give us all a unique insight of interpretation and energy… emotional photographs that we will never forget. It’s these impressions from each that have stayed with me and that I draw from,” she says.
Despite the range of genres her stage partners represent, there is a key uniting factor as to why they have all been amazing performers and storytellers. Fischer believes it is their approach to lyrics.
“You need to be able to embrace the storyline on some level, then allow yourself to get lost and found in it again. Follow your heart no matter what people say to you. Sometimes to find yourself, you have to go against the waves in the ocean and do your own thing, have your own thoughts and experiences,” she says.
Fischer has been on the road since the early 1980s, when she began her music career. It’s been a nomadic life spent on stages of all sizes. That would have burnt out many and even destroyed those less stable. For Fischer, it’s the love of her craft that has kept her going through it all. She names “the opportunity to connect with different people, to tell our stories, the gift of spontaneity, the daily reminder that life is full of surprises” as some of her drivers.
“Life is full of challenges but the biggest achievement is getting up every day and still loving this gift called music even through the challenges,” she adds.
While Fischer still has gas in the tank to keep going, as evident from this Hong Kong gig, she doesn’t rule out setting up a more grounded stage and setting in the future. “Ultimately, I can see myself owning a live/work space in Brooklyn, New York. It would consist of a recording studio and a performance space, a place where music can be made, heard and even lessons taught. I would love to have a team of storytellers, lyricists, musicians of all genres, engineers and producers to create songs and projects that can be shared with the world,” she says.
But being on the go remains a must for Fischer’s dreams. “I would love to take a paid sabbatical from touring to visit all indigenous groups of the world; experience and study their music and take what I learn and bring that forth to share with everyone in my own way. I would love to work with scientists and healers who use the vibration of sound to heal people physically and emotionally.”
Her extensive travel has meant that Fischer is no stranger to the Fragrant Harbour. She last performed here in September 2017, when she was in the music/dance ensemble piece entitled The Propelled Heart. The performance was a collaboration between Fischer, music director JC Maillard, and choreographer Alonzo King. It’s a return that she has been anticipating.
“I’m looking forward to returning to a city that’s so full of character, colour and life. I love the contrast of greenery and skyscrapers and just observing the people going about their daily lives, wondering what their stories are and what life has given them,” she says. “I’m excited to perform at Café Carlyle Hong Kong and I’m hopeful that the audience will experience honesty and connection through the magic of melodies weaving through the air and painting images on your heart. That’s all I can ask for.”
“If you listen with an open heart and mind, something wonderful is bound to happen.”
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