Lisa Bastoni had a pretty good 2017. Not only did she release an album called The Wishing Hour which received rave reviews but she captured the attention of many music fans across the country and garnered some special attention by showcasing at NERFA (North East Regional Folk Alliance), being chosen as an Emerging Artist at Falcon Ridge Folk Festival and Honorable Mention at Rocky Mountain Folks Festival as well as winning several prizes for songwriting. All this after a ten-year hiatus from the music business… Lisa’s renewed commitment to her creative muse has been a true inspiration for artists of all kinds.
To learn more about Lisa Baston, check out her website.
Here’s a video that Lisa illustrated for her song “Rabbit Hole.”
Has being away from the music business for ten years given you a new perspective about your own music and what it means to be an artist?
Yes! The other day, I asked my daughter if she’d show me how to draw a horse, and we ended up spending about an hour drawing horses and telling stories. I feel lucky to witness this kind of creativity in my kids as they grow, and I always want to carry that feeling of “sitting on the floor, making stuff” into the work that I do. The biggest challenge now is finding the time to mentally wander, to find the quiet moments where ideas come from. I started writing songs again a couple years ago, while taking my kids for long stroller walks around the neighborhood — it wasn’t even on purpose, but I hadn’t realized how much I’d been missing that part of my life. I think the ten years away from music, and all that happened in that time — my job in a cubicle, teaching, getting married, becoming a parent — gave me reason and inspiration to find it again. I’m grateful. I’m glad to have music back, and I think all I can do is to continue to be more intentional about making space for it.
You’ve done a whole lot of things during your hiatus from music including going to graduate school for art education. Did you learn how to make the amazing videos in school or did you teach yourself? The stop-motion videos are outstanding!
Thanks! The first music video I made was an assignment for a digital storytelling course I took it grad school. It was a stop-motion illustration of a song that I wrote about my mom a long time ago. It’s kind of clunky, but I was hooked. There’s something about the combination of music and visual art that is especially compelling for me. Over the past few years, I’ve made a number of other videos for myself and other songwriters — I love the process and learn something new with each video I make.
This is probably an obvious question, but for the working moms out there—how do you manage to find time for yourself? Are you sleep deprived and are you operating on caffeine fumes? 🙂
I have been known to run on caffeine fumes! It’s getting better now that our kids are a little older. When I was working on the album, my husband was also working on a novel, and our children were one and three years old. So it was a busy time! Looking back, I don’t know how I managed on such little sleep, and I’m sure it wasn’t healthy — I’d often be up until 2 or 3 in the morning writing or singing. I’ve discovered you can get through a lot with a cup of coffee and a ten-minute nap.
What your experience of recording The Wishing Hour like? You patched the album together in Nashville, New York, and your children’s playroom! I’m always curious about how artists balance their time and their expectations. How do you know when you’re done? Do you give yourself a firm schedule and keep to it?
It took about a year to record The Wishing Hour. I worked with Felix McTeigue and Drew Guido, who were able to produce and engineer the album from New York and Nashville. Thanks to the magic of technology, we were able to basically make a whole album via email! We didn’t have a firm schedule, but more of a general plan and a series of goals. I did most of my work after the kids’ bedtime, including writing and rehearsing the songs, and recorded all of my parts on a ten-year-old laptop in the playroom. Some friends, like Josh Kantor, Jeff Butcher, Ellie Buckland and Naomi Sommers, were able to record on my playroom setup; other musicians sent in parts from other studios around the country. Magic!
Tell us about your busking days on the streets and subways of Cambridge. What lessons did you learn back then?
It was really just a couple of years that I was busking full time, in between little tours and temp work, but I think it was a super valuable life experience. I’d recommend it to anyone. When I started, it was such a leap of faith. I quit my day job and tried to learn as many songs as possible. I had a list of all of the songs on a piece of paper that I kept in my pocket, and sometimes I’d take a chance and play a song I barely knew. One night, I played “Alison” by Elvis Costello — and completely blew it. I was in the wrong key and I forgot most of the words and chords. It was so embarrassingly awful that I started laughing, and so did the few people who had stopped to listen, and soon we were all just laughing together at how bad it was. But I got through it, and at the end of the song, somebody handed me a hundred-dollar bill. So maybe that’s part of a larger life lesson – if you make a mistake, you can either start over (which is fine) or just keep going (also fine) and maybe try to have a sense of humor about it.
What musicians inspire you?
I’m still inspired by the music I grew up listening to — my grandmother was my first guitar teacher, and we’d spend lots of time listening to her record collection: Emmylou Harris, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, the Beatles. I also love and am inspired by Patty Griffin, Lucinda Williams, Gillian Welch & David Rawlings, Lori McKenna, Jason Isbell, Brandi Carlile…any song that surprises me in some way, and/or makes me cry.
Looking forward, do you have any short and long-term goals?
I’ve been preparing to go back to teaching —I have a new job starting this month, which I’m really excited about. And I’ve got a new batch of songs I’m working on, and I’m hoping they’ll take shape and become another album in the next year or so.