Lisa Morales gives everything to her music and the craft. She talks to Austin Woman about her music, her feelings about SXSW and her future.
By Cy White, Photos courtesy of Lisa Morales
Lisa Morales is an absolute enchantress on the stage. She’s found a way to open herself up completely. Allowing audiences to become a part of each performance. When she sings, the crowd feels each emotion. She breathes, we breathe. Her return to the SXSW stage, naturally, engendered some anxiousness. However, as with each stage she’s taken, she gave herself completely over to the occasion. Morales took some time to answer a few questions for Austin Woman before her SXSW comeback showcase.
Could you please introduce yourself to our readers?
I’m Lisa Morales, a Mexican American woman who came from Tucson, Arizona, and ended up in Texas. I went to Houston first, then ended up in Germany of all places. Landed here because they said we need your voice in Texas, so I moved. I was in a band with my team for a very long time, up until August, [when my mother]passed away. We toured all over Europe and Canada and all over the United States. And I’ve been doing my solo career, and my third third album is coming soon. I’ve got an EP out right now.
I’ve been a musician all my life. It’s been my best friend, my shrink. It wasn’t a question of what I do for a living. [The music] told me what I was going to be doing. I’m a songwriter, a producer. I produced Hayes Carll’s first album, Flowers and Liquor. And I play a couple of instruments. My main thing is songwriting, but I am a touring musician. I’ve toured with Los Lobos, Los Lonely Boys. You know, a bunch of different people. I’m heading out again, beginning next month.
I sing in Spanish and in English. My parents are Mexican. My mom was from Mexico City, and my dad was from Tucson, which used to be Mexico, and then the border moved.
It’s been three years since the last South by. How are you feeling about coming back to SXSW?
It’s wonderful to see the world moving again. Traffic comes with this, so when you see traffic be happy. I’m still a little apprehensive because my neighbors just got COVID for the past 10 days, and a very severe bout of it. Both of them. So it’s not gone. We have to still be careful, and we have to be mindful of other people. I’m vaccinated, but we have to be just…just don’t be stupid about everything. Just be smart and make it not about ourselves, but about others. You know, be aware of what others might be going through. But I’m ready to get back on stage. I’m ready to play. I think it’s fantastic, and I can’t wait to hear the other bands.
Have you had to prepare a little bit differently for this sort of big comeback than you would have normally?
No, I don’t think so. The guys and I have been rehearsing. I guess we all asked each other, when we first got together every day, “Did you have it?” But no, I think we’re just moving forward. We’re moving forward. Of course everybody has to show their vax card when we get our wristbands and badges. But that’s the only thing that I see different.
What drove the inspiration for your upcoming EP, Rain in the Desert?
The pandemic, for sure. I was with my sister, she was fighting cancer. Then I had my kids at home studying in high school. You know, the political division, the country within and the way that neighbors weren’t getting along, and relatives weren’t getting along, because of this division. “Freedom” is talking about [how]we have to love everyone and treat everyone with respect and kindness. No matter what color, race, creed, everything. And then we have to respect children and women.
It really comes down to kindness. Honor thy neighbor. Also, during the pandemic, I was feeling very tired of it. I was growing weary of it. With “Reach out,” [it’s about if we] just try to talk to each other and just be there for one another. Then I wrote some stuff in Spanish that’s gonna come out. My next EP comes out May 5, and it’s all Spanish. So that’s reflective of personally what I was going through. I also wrote a song called “Hermana” on there dedicated to my sister. So I just want to share my feelings.
Can we expect music from your new EP or sneak peeks from your upcoming album, She Ought to Be King?
I’m going to be doing both of those things. Then I’ll have some stuff that I did in the past as well. It’s going to be full my full band. I can’t wait. We got accordion and great, great musicians, incredible musicians. And that’s another thing. Playing as a band instead of playing by myself in my house has been a treat.
David Garza produced my album. When we made the album, we went out there before the freeze and got stuck out there during the freeze. So we just continued to work on it. Because we’re on a different grid, we were able to work. But we were stuck. We couldn’t go beyond where we were, you know, because of the freeze.
So it was an interesting problem to have, you know? We were in a place we could create. So that was really beautiful. While we were recording, I thought, “You know, I’d love to have Rodney Crowell sing background on my song.” So I sent it to him, and he called me the next day and said, “We got to make this a duo.” So I Rodney Crowell on my album, which is a wonderful thing. And then Gregg Rolie was out there in the studio during that time. So he sang background and played keys on one of the songs.
What do you want newcomers to your music to take away from what you do?
I’m emotionally attached to what I’m singing, and I hope that they see and feel that. That they if they don’t speak Spanish that they’ll feel that too. It’s not going to be all in Spanish, but there’s a bit of that too. And I believe in women being kind to women. I have a song called “Magdalena,” and it’s about women. We need to teach our daughters from when they’re little girls to be kinder to women. Because at some point, I think it’s third grade or fifth grade, it changes. And when a guy cheats on a woman, she gets mad at the girl he cheated with rather than him. That’s like, is this it? Does this all come from that? We have to be kinder as women to each other.
I’m a girl that had buddies; I had guys friends all my life. Then I had to learn about how valuable female friends are. It’s a sisterhood that you you miss until your we find it. And then it’s the same thing when you have a child. You don’t know that there’s a mommy’s club. There’s a motherhood club as well, you know. So there’s great value in beautiful female friendships.
What can people look forward to from you in the future?
In Austin, I’ll be at the 04 Center on May 5, Cinco de Mayo. We’re doing a big show. The Last Bandoleros are going to be there. And I believe Nuevo is going to be on the bill as well.
Everybody be kind to each other. That’s my final thought.