Singer Lisa Fischer has collaborated with some of the biggest names in the industry, and also shone on her own.
She's worked with acts such as Luther Vandross, Tina Turner and The Rolling Stones, among many others. However, R&B fans may also recognize Fischer from the lush 1991 ballad "How Can I Ease the Pain," for which she won a Grammy. She again came to the forefront as one of the featured subjects in the Oscar-winning documentary 20 Feet from Stardom, a 2013 film about the lives of background singers.
In an email interview, Fischer discussed "Stardom," the music industry and Vandross.
Windy City Times: What is the first song you remember hearing? What genre of music did you grow up listening tosoul, gospel or something else?
Lisa Fischer: There was a lot of music in our home because of my parents love for Motown and whatever was popular in the day, but my earliest vivid memory was the theme song from the movie The Sound of Music. There were always soul, pop and jazz at home with gospel on Sundays at church as well.
WCT: Has the LGBT community influenced your performance or style in any way?
LF: There was an amazing makeup artist named Rene. I met him on my first tour with Luther. Rene sat me down in a chair and had my back facing away from the mirror while he did my makeup. It took about an hour or so.
You see, I was used to buying red lipstick and an eyebrow pencil, and that was my version of "makeup." I had no clue as to the mysteries of what contour and base could do. As he finished sweeping my hair in an up-do, he swung the chair around and I was like, who is this person? It took me a little while to acquaint myself with the image in the mirror. It was an amazing feeling. I felt beautifully and lovingly transformed.
WCT: "How Can I Ease the Pain" is such an intimate, sensual song. Is there a secret to conveying that intimacy and sensuality to an audience?
LF: For me, it's about being as emotionally open as possible.
WCT: Congratulations on the success of 20 Feet from Stardom. What do you think is the biggest misconception about background singers?
LF: Thank you so much. I'm honored to have been a part of it.
I think sometimes people may believe that singing background isn't "work." It's hard work but beautiful and soul-satisfying work. And it's mixed with pleasure and sometimes pain but, at the end of the day, it's about serving the music and the artist.
WCT: Who's a singer you'd love to collaborate with?
LF: There are so many unique and wonderful singers in the world, but there's something about [Spanish singer] Concha Buika that truly moves me.
WCT: What's been the biggest change you've witnessed in music between, say, the '80s and now?
LF: How much more difficult it is now for most songwriters and artists to survive in the digital age.
WCT: Describe what fans can expect in a show with you and the band Grand Baton.
LF: We hope to get lost and found within the melodies and songs that have left an impression on me in my life as a background singer and vocalist.
WCT: Are there any rising singers who impress you?
LF: They'd be Laura Mvula and Brittany Howard/Alabama Shakes.
WCT: Luther Vandross will always be one of my favorite singers. What three words come to mind when you think of him?
LF: I think of excellence, delivery and deliverance.
WCT: If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be?
LF: I would like to see more time and energy spent on helping artists find ways to become more whole during their journey. I think it would lead to more fruitful music being created, re-created and shared in the world.
Lisa Fischer and Grand Baton will perform at Thalia Hall, 1807 S. Allport St., on Saturday, March 5, at 8:30 p.m. See ThaliaHallChicago.com .