Andrew Slater remembers explaining to Lisa Marie Presley how this entire factor was going to work.
Twenty years in the past, the veteran supervisor and document producer—then additionally the president of Presley’s storied label, Capitol Information—had minimize the singer’s debut single along with her within the studio, and now he was prepping her for what was to come back.
“I stated, ‘This track is an effective entry level for what you are doing in your album, so what we’ll do is we’ll put a promotional tour collectively as a result of individuals will wish to discuss to you in regards to the track,’ Slater recalled of “Lights Out,” a shiny however muscular pop-rock tune by which the singer addresses her background as the one baby of Elvis and Priscilla Presley. “’We’ll go to radio stations in a pair cities and rise up early and do morning exhibits.’ And she or he goes, ‘I simply have one query: Can I deliver my aircraft?’” Slater laughed. “I stated, ‘So long as we do not park it on the radio station, I feel we’re good.’”
A rookie artist with all of the comforts — and a few of the burdens — of success: That was Lisa Marie Presley’s unusual place as she launched into a music profession in her mid-30s after a long time of tabloid notoriety introduced on by a collection of high-profile marriages and naturally by her intimate connection to one of the consequential cultural figures of all time. The singer, who died Thursday at age 54 after struggling cardiac arrest, launched three studio albums, starting with 2003’s “To Whom It Might Concern,” which featured “Lights Out” and went on to be licensed gold for gross sales of greater than 500,000 copies. ; a second LP, “Now What,” got here out in 2005, adopted seven years later by “Storm & Grace.”
Every showcased Presley’s bluesy vocals and a songwriting expertise she used to light up her sophisticated household historical past. “Somebody turned the lights on the market in Memphis / That is the place my household’s buried and gone,” she sang over the pealing guitars and driving groove of “Lights Out,” “Final time I used to be there I seen an area left / Subsequent to them there in Memphis, within the rattling again garden.” (On Friday, a spokesperson stated Lisa Marie could be buried at Graceland, her father’s property in Memphis, close to Elvis and different relations, together with Lisa Marie’s son, Benjamin Keough, who died in 2020.)
But regardless of the acquainted snarl in her voice—to not point out the darkly sensual eyes that immediately evoked her dad in photographs—Presley was decided to create her personal path within the music business, in accordance with individuals who labored along with her.
“Lisa Marie by no means needed to commerce off her standing and fame,” stated Glen Ballard, the seasoned songwriter and producer who co-wrote a lot of the fabric, together with “Lights Out,” on “To Whom It Might Concern.” “It was like being born a princess—type of an accident of beginning. She all the time felt there was some unearned capital there.”
Slater says “Lights Out,” which peaked at No. 18 on Billboard’s grownup pop airplay chart, was initially referred to as “Memphis” however that Presley was “very apprehensive” in regards to the title and so modified it. “I revered that as a result of she wasn’t making an attempt to attract too laborious a line [between her and Elvis],” Slater stated. “She was doing music for the correct purpose, which was that she had one thing to say and music was the automobile for her to specific herself emotionally.”
Certainly, Presley had begun writing songs when she was 20, she informed Playboy in a 2003 interview, “for cathartic causes, as an outlet. I simply have not been doing it publicly.” She wanted time to “discover my approach, stylistically,” she stated. In 1998 she struck up her collaboration with Ballard, who’d co-written “Man within the Mirror” by Michael Jackson (to whom Presley was married from 1994 to 1996) and who’d produced Alanis Morissette’s 1995 blockbuster “Jagged Little Capsule, which Presley recognized as an inspiration.
Although she was cautious of taking advantage of her father’s famend — or at the least of being seen that approach — “the bizarre circumstances of her life could not be ignored, in her personal psyche or as an artist,” Ballard stated. “We had many conversations about it, and eventually she got here to the conclusion that she might write about her experiences of her. I imply, to disclaim it might have been artistically fraudulent on some degree.” Different tunes on “To Whom It Might Concern” take up her string of damaged relationships — Presley was additionally married to musicians Danny Keough and Michael Lockwood and actor Nicolas Cage — and the media’s therapy of Elvis close to the top of his life.
As Ballard factors out, Presley had “completely no expertise grinding it out in golf equipment to form of carve out her efficiency id” earlier than she made her debut. “Elvis earned his approach via a few of the worst golf equipment on the earth, and Lisa Marie was anticipated to have the ability to simply step onstage and be nice like her father,” Ballard stated.
But Slater says she had a pure charisma that made all that irrelevant. “I both imagine a singer or I do not, and I believed her,” he stated. “So did everybody at Capitol. She was powerful and passionate however actually delicate and humble.” Humorous too, in accordance with Ballard. “She would take the piss out of all the pieces,” he stated. “She She had numerous angst but in addition numerous humor. On a regular basis I spent along with her was enjoyable.”
As the pinnacle of Capitol, Slater oversaw “Now What” — which featured a droll rendition of Don Henley’s “Soiled Laundry” — earlier than he left the corporate following a company merger in 2007. The impression he had of Presley at the moment was of “ an artist originally of their profession,” he stated. “To me all of it regarded prefer it was moving into route and she or he was feeling the facility of changing into a performer.” Slater sensed that she may ultimately transfer in the direction of a darker rock sound; he remembers her curiosity in Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath and remembers introducing Presley to Fiona Apple, whose smash debut, “Tidal,” he produced and whose profession he is managed for years.
“I neglect the place we had been—might have been a Christmas get together or one thing,” he stated. “I do not know what they talked about however they spent a while collectively and I bear in mind Fiona saying, ‘I like her.’” For “Storm & Grace,” Presley recruited producer T Bone Burnett for a rootsy, barely goth-inflected LP that regarded again to the stripped-down data Elvis minimize at Memphis’ Solar Studio within the mid-Fifties. It was the final album she’d launch, although she contributed vocals to a digital duet along with her father de ella for a gospel-themed Elvis compilation from 2018.
Requested if Presley was happy with the music they made collectively, Ballard stated he thought she was. “However there have been so many different pressures in her life from her that I do not know if she ever actually obtained to really feel the validation from it,” he stated. “Simply because she was the princess, you recognize? Hopefully someplace on the market she’s feeling it now.”