Lissie Maurus is thrilled to be releasing her first new album of original music in four years, and coming back home to play this weekend.
The 39-year-old Rock Island native will perform on Saturday, Aug. 27 at 4:30 p.m. on John Deere Commons as part of the free Moline 150th anniversary festival.
More than 20 bands – from local favorites to major national touring acts – will take to two stages over the three-day event, with music from every genre. The MidAmerican Main Stage, under the skybridge that connects the Vibrant Arena at The MARK to the MetroLink station and parking garage — will host headliners Galactic featuring Anjelika Jelly Joseph, Pokey LaFarge, Celisse, Lissie, The Way Down Wanderers and more.
In a recent interview from her northeast Iowa home, Lissie said she had fun coming back to the QC last August, to play at Davenport’s Raccoon Motel (315 E. 2nd St.), where she’ll return to this December.
“I’m always happy to come home, always honored to play in my hometown area,” Lissie said. The Moline gig came through her booking agent, and it coincides with her Dad’s 75th birthday, so she’ll get to celebrate with him.
Lissie did her last Laura’s Legacy benefit concert in 2019 in Schwiebert Riverfront Park, Rock Island. She plans to bring it back for 2023, in honor of her aunt who died in 2010 from ALS.
“Our goal was also to raise $100,0000 over the decade we did it, which we did,” she said. “Then we had to decide, are we gonna keep doing it? Are we gonna keep it going forever?”
“We want to always honor my Aunt Laura. She’s sorely missed, so it was special to have this way to keep her memory alive,” she said, unsure when the date will be next. “It’s important to me that it’s in Rock Island. It’s the best Quad City.”
Laura’s Legacy concerts have raised over $100,000, to benefit the ALS Association of Greater Chicago (serving Central Illinois, Greater Chicagoland, and Northern Illinois) and ALS Research University of North Carolina in support of raising awareness of ALS, patient support and research.
From COVID to covers to new
Like most of us, Lissie had a tough 2020, made all the worse by a bitter, surprise breakup. That squelched her songwriting.
Alone with her dog, she did a lot of gardening, planting flowers, and leaned into songs by women artists she really related to.
“I had gone through a breakup; I was feeling really raw and emotional,” Lissie said. She recorded five solo acoustic covers of those favorites, and the producer added some instrumentation, releasing “Thank You for the Flowers” in November 2020. “It’s good to be creative and stay active, so making an album of covers was my way of doing that,” she said.
Lissie released a special edition of her 2010 debut album, “Catching a Tiger,” which included five previously unreleased tracks for the album. She was supposed to play a show in Oslo on the 10th anniversary in 2020, which was scrapped due to COVID.
“Not only did that not happen, we didn’t put together the anniversary edition until the next year,” she said. “There was all kinds of issues with the vinyl.”
There also was new artwork from the time in the double-vinyl special release.
“As I’ve gotten older, I’m less sentimental than I used to be,” Lissie said. “It’s a self-protective mechanism. I look ahead; I don’t dwell.”
“It’s a bittersweet feeling because 2010 was when my career started to happen. It was a whirlwind, I was so busy,” she said. “I was just going and going. It was kind of nostalgia, sentimentality. Some sorrow in the time that’s passed, but also pride and fond memories.”
“Carving Canyons” out in September
Her new album, “Carving Canyons” (out Sept. 16) is her first since 2018. She began writing songs in November 2020, recorded over chunks, and late last year finished it. “It’s exciting,” she said.
What was unique about her new album was writing about things as they were happening, Lissie said. In the past, they’d all get written at once and then recorded at once.
“I found my songwriting on my new album, there wasn’t any pressure put on it, because I didn’t have any deadlines,” she said. “I could write when I felt like I had something to say.”
“I think I’ve become a more self-aware person, hopefully, so that’s reflected more in my songwriting. I’m more in nature now, and I see a lot of metaphors for life in nature,” Lissie said. “That informs my writing now, I think.”
“I’m hopefully becoming a little wiser and more accepting of the way things are,” she said. During COVID, she was blindsided by her breakup, and not writing then.
“Just the political intensity, going into the world seeing people masked, not able to hug,” Lissie said. She recalled going to the dentist and seeing a woman crying, who had lost her husband.
“There was so much pain – in addition to my personal pain, I could not write because it was just too heavy,” she said. “When I started to write, it was mostly processing this breakup of the relationship that just ended. It started to evolve more into reflecting on being alive, being a good person.”
The album is more about life, getting through things, and letting time heal, to have hope for the future.
“The album really takes you on this arc of anger and sorrow and acceptance, the hope,” Lissie said. “It goes through the whole gamut of my experience coming out of COVID.”
Her new single “Sad,” is an angry song, about her wanting to punish and then forgive someone who wronged her. For women to be angry, they’re sometimes called “a witch,” Lissie said.
“Anger is an important emotion we all feel and it’s a stepping stone on the way to sadness,” she said. “You have to allow yourself to feel your feelings. Hopefully, to getting to where you don’t go around attacking everyone else with your feelings.”
“It was really cathartic and powerful to write, when I was in that headspace of feeling like someone had done me wrong and I didn’t feel they had the appropriate amount of remorse,” Lissie said of her breakup.
She wrote it with Madi Diaz, of whom she’s a big fan. “We wrote it together over FaceTime,” Lissie said. “My songs are just there to help me work through stuff that I’m feeling.”
She hopes many people can relate to her songs. Her “Night Moves” was written when she was in Rock Island on a balmy summer night.
“It’s about being reminded of someone you’re no longer with,” Lissie said. “When I was writing it, kind of like, are there people we’ve experienced several lifetimes with? We may not get it right in this one.”
“Carving Canyons” is a song on the album, among many she co-wrote with others.
One friend proposed this title. “The hard things we have to go through as humans are devastating, but there’s also beauty in some of that pain,” Lissie said. “No one’s life is a flat line. It’s this beautiful depressions, dips and valleys, and birds that fly over it and the colors of the sunrise glowing over this rich kind of landscape, that is sculpting of your life, and how your experiences sculpt you.”
The album, then, represents “the full spectrum of life,” she said. “Unfortunately, pain is a part of it – and loss and grief and heartache. But those things make us more grateful for the happy things. They give us perspective; they teach us lessons. That’s really what ‘Carving Canyons’ as an album is about.”
Popping up with a new business
Standing in the kitchen of an Iowa farmhouse in the midst of a global pandemic, Lissie and her friend Diane Ott Whealy (co-founder of Seed Savers Exchange, mother & author) discovered their mutual enthusiasm and desire to start a popcorn company.
They decided to make the most of an uncertain time and find a joyful project to work on together. Diane had a homemade, long-held, secret caramel corn recipe cooked in a cast-iron skillet and Lissie had a passion to create a line of pop-music genre flavors, Otts’ Pops Indie Pop was born.
They opened a store in Decorah, Iowa, “pop culture” themed, with several kinds of merchandise – outerwear, apparel, home design, popcorn, vinyl records.
“It’s like local entrepreneurs, sort of an umbrella company called Pop Culture,” Lissie said.
“We make pop-music themed popcorn,” she said of flavors called folk pop, dream pop, synth pop, holiday, pop, cheesy pop, and soon Brit pop and country pop. There will be a Lissie pop this fall, that mixes the vegan folk and cheesy together.
“It’s like me – I’m a little folk, I’m a little cheesy. You mix it together and that’s Lissie pop,” she said.
Lissie started the popcorn company during COVID because she couldn’t not have a project.
“I’m creative and I like to do things. I can’t play shows right now, so I’ll start a popcorn company with my friend,” she said. “It’s really good stuff.”
“Between the popcorn and the relationship and the farm, and playing music here and there, I haven’t been coming home as much as I used to,” she said. “I used to come home all the time.” Decorah is 178 miles north of Rock Island.
Mixed feelings about touring
Lissie hasn’t really toured regularly since 2019. After Moline this weekend, she’ll later head to Norway in September, then the U.K., and through the U.S. in the fall, including Chicago Dec. 1, Iowa City Dec. 2, Davenport Dec. 3, Madison Dec. 8 and Milwaukee Dec. 9.
“I have mixed feelings about it – I’m excited and it’s gonna kick my butt. It’s going to be so intense,” she said. “The performing itself is so special. The first show I did – in October 2020, I did some outdoor, socially distanced shows, and I teared up in the first songs.
“I could see in people’s eyes how much they missed doing things, going to see live music,” Lissie said. “It’s nice to feel part of a team again. I joke when I was in late 20s and early 30s, I could get away with not sleeping.”
“Now, I’m gonna be so tired,” she said. “I’m gonna have to take a lot of naps. It’s a little daunting, because it was a really rigorous lifestyle I lived for 10 years.”
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