STORY WRITTEN BY ROB NAGY
For Digital First Media
When Lisa Fischer won the 1992 Grammy Award for “Best Female R&B Performance” for her hit single “How Can I Ease the Pain” (from her debut album “So Intense”), a successful career as a solo artist seemed within reach.
As often is the case in the world of music, the spotlight shifted. Fischer lost her record deal and was relegated to the ranks of back-up singer.
Fischer has worked with The Rolling Stones (a gig she has had since the late 80’s), Sting, Tina Turner, Luther Vandross, Chris Botti and many more. That experience, fueled by genuine talent and tenacity, led Fischer to evolve into one of the most highly touted, in-demand back-up vocalists in music.
“Doing background for different groups, you’re kind of a chameleon, and you kind of fit into their vision,” said Fischer from Nova Scotia, while on tour. “(You are) a person that is a part of this beautiful tapestry that they offer to the audience with their own vision of what it is they’re trying to put across. It was beautiful to be like a piece of clay. I could just kind of mold and be myself vocally, but change color and paint according to what was needed in each situation.”
“Each artist is a boss,” added Fischer. “I hopefully embrace everything that they are and everything that they present to you. So, if they’re having a good day, if they’re having a bad day, a stressful day, a happy day or a sad day, you support and love the people you work with. That’s what you do. That’s part of the joy of the support. You look at each person and at what their needs are in that moment. For me, I really enjoy that role.”
After being somewhat mired in obscurity as a supporting performer, the release of Morgan Neville’s Oscar and Grammy-winning documentary “Twenty Feet From Stardom” in 2013 brought Fischer center stage and jump-started a solo career that had felt out of reach. Fischer shined in this real life portrait of life as a back-up singer.
“I didn’t know what to think of it to be honest,” said Lisa Fischer. “I was just quietly doing my thing. I thought it was really sweet that a background singer’s life was interesting enough to make a documentary. So, I was just kind of blown away by the whole thing.”
“During the filming, there was so much going on, and life was just so real at that point,” added Fischer. “I was just so exhausted and in a place where I needed to embrace where I was in the present moment and try not to be anything except what I was. I had to be me. I was a bit nervous about what that was going to be, but I just went forward and said, ‘OK, this is who I am, and this is what it is, and I just have to learn how to love and embrace that.’”
“It’s given me a second chance at just being able to sing a song from beginning to end as opposed to bits and pieces in a background sense,” said Fischer. “It has been really beautiful, kind of a full circle for me. It has been amazing.”
Now in her 50’s and enjoying her personal life and her music career on her terms, Fischer is quietly basking in the glory of being authentic. No glitz for this unassuming soft-spoken treasure whose voice can pull on your heart strings one minute and rock the house the next.
“I just feel like I need to embrace my natural self as much as possible,” said Fischer. “It’s like the petals of a rose with how it unfolds, and you get the different scents and the different feel. Sometimes the petal is dry, and sometimes it’s full of moisture, and it is what it is. I enjoy all of the unfolding at different times according to what it is. All of these things have their place, but I think because I’ve had so much of it in my history, I just felt like I needed to embrace something else.”
Fronting her own new band and currently on her second solo tour, Fischer continues to embrace the music and the fans that support her.
“I want people to come and just be present in the experience,” says Fischer, “… to get sort of lost and found again in the music and to just experience a timelessness in the music — whatever that’s going to be.”
“There’s something about Christmas for me. When I was a kid, I would hope for a million and one things, but you never know what’s in the box until you kick it around, shake it around and open it. Not that I think the show is a Christmas gift. It’s just that ‘not knowingness’ of what’s inside a person and just allowing it to unfold, to just be present in that experience. What I’m hoping people will take away with them is just a sense of joy, peace and fun.”
Honored by the accolades and the notoriety that continue to find their way to her door, Fischer feels blessed to be making a living following her passion.
“I just love singing so much, and I love the melodies,” said Fischer. “The melodies are like this map, and they move and they wind and they go to places and they sort of come back and they hang out. It’s all these experiences. I think something about the freedom of what melodies mean to me is that they mold the experience for me. The music is really the artist, and the melody is really the art. I’m just sort of riding that wave.”
What: Lisa Fischer and Grand Baton.
Where: Keswick Theatre, 291 North Keswick Ave., Glenside.
When: Concert is at 8 p.m., Thursday April 30.
Info.: For tickets, call (215) 572-7650 or check www.keswicktheatre.com. To stay up to date with Lisa Fischer visit www.lisafischermusic.com