For Lisa Heller, music and art came naturally, “I’d come home every day after track practice and write for hours and block everything else out. Fast forward, I released my first song ‘Hope‘ which got some traction.” And by traction she means over ten thousand views on YouTube.
So by the time she graduated college, she set her sights on L.A. and pursuing a full time career in music. She relayed, “Within a month of arriving to this new crazy city, not knowing a single person, a Nashville-based music manager, who ran an indie label reached out to me.” Continuing, “This past year has been a whirlwind! I was flown to Nashville several times, we did photoshoots and music videos. It felt like a dream, but at the same time, the type of music wasn’t my true passion.”
Then there was the defining moment that set her on the path to The Lisa Heller Project. “I remember having a conversation with him [my music manager], where he said, ‘This is Team _(his name)_, not Team Lisa’. That’s when I knew I needed to move on.”
Today Lisa Heller releases her debut single, “Figure It Out“, which defines her journey over the last year. The Feature Story caught up with her for exclusive insights into her first four singles to be released and her plan to continue to debut her EP.
It is beyond an honor to introduce you to Lisa Heller. If you weren’t already a fan, we suspect you will be soon!
The Feature Story: Start with your story in the music industry. Tell us about your journey to date and what made you decide to pursue artistry independent of a label.
Lisa Heller: I started writing songs when I was thirteen. I was super anxious in middle and high school. I’d come home every day after track practice and write for hours and block everything else out. Fast forward, I released my first song “Hope” which got some traction, I graduated, and at the end of 2018 and decided to move to LA to give music a shot. Within a month of arriving to this new crazy city, not knowing a single person, a Nashville-based music manager who ran an indie label reached out to me. This past year has been a whirlwind. I was flown to Nashville several times, we did photoshoots and music videos. It felt like a dream, but at the same time, the type of music wasn’t my true passion. I wanted to be able to be myself, writing songs from my piano, but instead the focus was on churning out as many EDM pop songs I possibly could. I was expected to wear a ton of makeup, trendy clothes, and get my hair overly done. It didn’t feel like me. It was far from the raw authentic passion I put into songs that has gotten me through hard times. Then this summer, I decided I wanted to try music on my own. I wanted to go back to that feeling I got when I finished writing a song on piano – I wanted to share that with the world, not some overdone production just because it was catchy. So that’s what I did with this EP.
TFS: How does the “work” vary being an independent artist vs. working with a label?
LH: Day-to-day is different as an indie artist. When I was working with this manager, I had to hand over the reigns and let him lead the way. From production to mixing and mastering to cover art, he would have the final say and be in charge. I remember having a conversation with him where he said, “This is Team _(his name)_, not Team Lisa”. That’s when I knew I needed to move on. As an independent artist, I have more responsibility. I have to make sure that everything is on schedule and in order, from finishing the songs, to release dates, to emailing blogs, to planning out music videos. It is a much more hands-on process creatively and logistically, but for now it feels right. I might not have the huge budget many labels have, but I have a strong independent team (El Wekala Global) that has been helping me with this new project. And the best part is that I can stay true to myself!
TFS: Tell us about your debut EP The Lisa Heller Project. What was the inspiration behind the songs?
LH: The EP just feels right. It is focused on where I originally started, piano and vocals. It feels just as vulnerable as I would feel when I wrote and sang aloud in my parents living room. Each song took time to create and have deep meaning to me. The first song off of the EP, “Figure It Out” is about my figuring out who I am as an artist and person. It is about self identity and trying to understand who I am supposed to be.
TFS: You said making this music was equally scary as it was freeing. Tell us more about this experience and what have been the rewards, and/or challenges?
LH: It is really, really scary to write from a vulnerable place and know that it is about to be released into the world. Each word and melody has weight and value. Writing these songs on piano has been better than any therapy because I have to think deeply about what I’m going through and make something of it that others can understand. But the writing process is just half of it because I decided to keep the production minimal, with almost nothing to hide behind, just vocals and piano. With catchy pop songs, people can focus on the production but in this case you can hear every single lyric and word and nuance of my voice and emotion when I sing. I knew that recording the vocals would be extra important with these songs because they would be what makes or breaks the songs. I had to get into the emotional headspace I was in when writing in order to get the right takes. I never thought I’d have the guts or opportunity to create such vulnerable and unique songs. To see this EP come together has been so freeing, and I’m slightly terrified, but I also just can’t wait for everyone to hear them.
TFS: You are releasing the EP in four different parts, correct? Tell us more about your release strategy. What made you decide to do this?
LH: I was originally going to release the whole EP at once, just to get the whole project out there and announce this new musical and creative direction. The songs all go together in theme and mood, so I wanted to present it as such. But we decided to release each song separately with an accompanying video in order to give each song its own little life. These songs feel like my babies and I want to give them each their own chance and time to shine, so that is why we decided to go with individual releases.
TFS: Is there a theme behind each segment of music you are releasing?
LH: Each song has their own unique and true story. “Figure It Out” was based on my experience in moving to LA as a new girl in a big city, trying to navigate it and navigate who I am. “Pulling Away” is about struggling to maintain relationships- both platonic and romantic. “Closure” is about wanting a resolution to a relationship, but also not wanting it to end at the same time. And finally I wrote “Deep End” when I was in a dark place and full of anxiety. These songs are all very deep and personal, and I hope others will feel comfort when listening that they aren’t alone.
TFS: As you release music do you have plans to travel and tour?
LH: I definitely plan to play a ton of shows in 2020. The summer feels like it will be a great time to set up a larger tour, and in the meantime I plan to play a bunch of shows and showcases around LA and elsewhere!