For the internationally recognized indie rock talent Elisabeth “Lissie” Maurus, the hills and trees of Ojai are a welcome refuge. Having recently returned from a multistop tour of Norway, where throngs of fans swarmed her and her band mates, Lissie is happy at the prospect of performing in a more intimate environment for friends and family, or in the case of her upcoming performance at Libbey Bowl in Ojai, to benefit Changing Tides orphanage in Haiti, a country still ravaged from the devastating 2010 earthquake.
Lissie’s 2010 chart-topping debut album Catching a Tiger became a smash hit in the U.K., where her single “When I’m Alone” was selected as iTune’s U.K. song of the year. Her success wasn’t limited to Europe, however. Back home, she had already played Coachella, Austin’s South by Southwest (SXSW) and Austin City Limits, and had been invited to open for Lenny Kravitz and Tom Petty. Lissie’s 2008 EP Why You Runnin’ came to be through a collaboration with Bill Reynolds of Band of Horses, and recently her voice gave power to several Snow Patrol singles.
To say that Lissie is a musician in demand is putting it lightly, and for an artist who suggests both Dr. Dre and Fiona Apple as musical influences, her ability to adapt to the situation is uncanny.
“I think it’s really good and inspiring to be around a lot of different people, that’s how you learn things you wouldn’t figure out on your own,” said Lissie. “But it’s also nice to have time on my own because I have time to absorb everything I’ve been stimulated by.”
Lissie moved from her hometown in Illinois to Colorado and then to Paris, where she studied for a semester before ending up in California. Regarding touring, she has adopted the laid-back California motto of enjoying the mood without controlling the scene.
“A festival in the U.K., a festival in Texas and in California; it’s all different energies,” she says.
Since last year’s Covered Up With Flowers — an album of covers on which Nick Cave’s “The Ship Song” merrily sits beside Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” — Lissie has been writing. Unlike when she began on her own, though, she’s using her connections to collaborate, discovering the depth to which other minds can bring her work.
“It’s kind of an all over the place kind of process,” Lissie says. “Collaborating is good. When you’re doing it a lot, it keeps you busy and gives you the ability to craft a song. If you’re busy and you’re working with people who are prolific artists, it keeps your juices flowing.”
After speaking with Taffy Lowen, a board member of Changing Tides, about the orphanage founded by Ojai residents Vance and Cheryl Simms, Lissie offered her talents to perform in support of the organization. The result is the benefit concert featuring Lissie, Todd Hannigan and George Stanford.
“You’re lucky when you’re a musician. You have this power and ability that people are willing to listen to you, or you can get people to show up at a concert. When you’re able to get that kind of enthusiasm and direct it at a cause, it’s fulfilling.”
After her aunt was diagnosed with ALS, Lou Gherig’s Disease, Lissie provided her support toward research organizations searching for a cure, but she wouldn’t call herself an activist.
“I think the level we’re doing it at is the pretty straightforward altruistic level. It’s one thing if you run around talking about how many people you’ve helped, almost like vanity, but I’ve never heard anyone say anything along those lines to me.”
Lissie will be playing the Libbey Bowl in Ojai in support of Changing Tides Orphanage in Haiti on Friday, Aug. 17. Tickets are $15-$50. For more information, visit www.libbeybowl.com.