Lisa Germano | Review
Nuvo Magazine, Indianapolis, Indiana | Leslie Benson
the fairy tale bringerSimilar to how Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm cultivated Germanic folklore in the 1800s ‹ fairy tales tinged with seedy truths ‹ singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Lisa Germano bleeds lyrical shadows behind the veil of dreamy songs.
"I want my own music to be in a fairy tale, a mythical place," she says.
"Some of the messages might be kind of sad, but they're easier to take [in such a context]."
Singing like a wispy, cracked ballet dancer in a child's musical jewelry box, Germano brings darkness on fluttering wings over piano melodies.
Incessant guitar and splattered flute pieces resound beneath intimate vocals, yet, her violin is the instrument most closely relating to the raw underbelly of her songs. It aches and creaks on "A Seed" (In the Maybe World, 2006), urging her subject to just "let the love go." And the most polite "f*** you" insult you could ever imagine is repeated on "Red Thread" from that same album.
"[My family] wishes I wrote happier music," Germano says. But since 2003's Lullaby for Liquid Pig, which Young God Records will reissue this year as a double CD digi-pack, she swears she is a more positive person. "I'm looking outside instead of in," she says. "I'm writing more about nature."
Her new interests have been peaked by the music her peers are producing. "I really like Joanna Newsom," Germano says. "It's beautiful music with a strange twist, and I like Laura Veirs. I like what she writes about ‹ the galaxy and the universe."
The violinist, fiddler and vocalist, who debuted on John Mellencamp's 1987 album The Lonesome Jubilee and worked with him for seven years, began at age 7, writing a 15-minute opera on the piano. She's been able to make a living from her art, throwing out her time waitressing at the Runcible Spoon in Bloomington for performing as a guest on Sheryl Crow's The Globe Sessions
(1998) and David Bowie's Heathen (2002), among other musicians' albums. "He [Bowie] was excited about music, like a little boy," Germano recalls.
Before rubbing shoulders with stars, Germano wasn't fully embraced by the public as a solo artist until her album Geek, The Girl (1994), which Spin praised as one of the top alternative albums of the decade. Germano has gained a cult following here in the U.S., but it's her European fans that really grasp her music. "I really wish my mom and dad could hear me play in Rome, where everybody's seated, listening, and you can hear a pin drop," she says.
Whether she makes people laugh or cry, Germano ultimately just wants listeners to respond. "I want people to be moved," she says. "I've gotten letters from people who've said, 'Your music saved my life.' I know I didn't actually save their lives, but it's wonderful when you can connect like that."