Lissie Maurus was raised in the riverside town of Rock Island, Illinois, and she drew upon those blue-collar Midwestern origins to create her own form of indie folk music. The granddaughter of an international barbershop quartet champion, she grew up singing in theater productions, eventually picking up the guitar and playing her own songs at local coffee shops as a teenager. Lissie was also something of a rebel; she got thrown out of high school during her senior year, spent a brief period at Colorado State University, relocated to Paris for a semester, and eventually ditched college altogether to pursue her music career. Returning to the U.S., Lissie headed west and settled in Los Angeles, where she became a fixture on the local venue circuit and landed a national tour opening for Lenny Kravitz.
Lissie’s music had already appeared on shows like The O.C., Veronica Mars, and House by the time she moved to California, and she widened her fan base by launching a weekly songwriter’s circle at her local bar, Crane’s Hollywood Tavern, and releasing a self-titled EP. Things truly began picking up speed in 2009, though, when Lissie released the dusky Why You Runnin’ (partly recorded in the U.K.) and toured the country alongside Ray LaMontagne.
Although she also made several appearances in America — including a standout performance at the Bonnaroo Music Festival and a single date with the rebooted Lilith Fair — Lissie spent most of her time touring Europe, where her debut record, Catching a Tiger, was released in June. An American release followed in August, courtesy of Fat Possum Records. Featuring production from a handful of artists including Jacquire King, Julian Emery, and Ed Harcourt, Catching a Tiger built upon Lissie’s folkie California sound with a commercial appeal that helped land it in the Top Five of the U.S. Billboard Folk Albums chart and number 12 on the U.K. Albums chart.
After an extensive period touring, particularly in the U.K., Lissie returned to the studio in 2012 with producer Garrett “Jacknife” Lee — who had also produced albums for Snow Patrol and Robbie Williams — to work on a follow-up. In October 2013, Lissie delivered her second full-length album, the glossy, ’80s soft rock-influenced Back to Forever. The covers EP Cryin’ to You followed a year later.
In 2016, Lissie released her third studio effort, the Curt Schneider-produced My Wild West. Recorded in Los Angeles, Ojai, and Nashville, the album had a moody, noir-ish feel. It debuted at 16 in the U.K. and 171 on Billboard and was followed in the autumn by Live at Union Chapel.
Lissie relocated to Iowa in 2017 and wrote the album that became Castles, a stripped-back, direct record released in March 2018. ~ Andrew Leahey