Lisa Marie Presley is surprisingly normal
Surprisingly down-to-earth after a lifetime in the public eye, Lisa Marie Presley is a platinum recording artist in her own right. But she still wishes she had time to learn to knit.
Seattle Times columnist
There will be no questions about the marriage to Michael Jackson.
Same with the brief stint as Mrs. Nicolas Cage. Not a word.
And as for her longtime membership in the Church of Scientology? No. Just ... no.
But that still left plenty to ask Lisa Marie Presley, the child of Graceland with her father’s bedroom eyes, smile verging on sneer, and a lifelong desire to make her own musical mark.
Presley, 45, will be in Seattle on Aug. 28 to perform at The Triple Door in support of her latest album, “Storm & Grace.”
The stop is part of the third leg of a tour that started last year and that has not worn her down a bit.
“I love it, I personally love it,” Presley said the other day of life on the road. “I find it challenging and stimulating and exciting. The relationship with the fans, the reactions.
“I’m lucky because I have my husband and family with me, back and forth, between England and California.”
Presley spends most of her time in Tunbridge Wells, England, where she lives with her husband, the guitarist and producer Michael Lockwood, and their twin daughters, Harper and Finley, now four. Presley has two older children — the model and actress Riley Keough, 24, and musician Benjamin Keough, 20 — by her first husband, Danny Keough.
She moved to England in 2011 specifically to work on ”Storm & Grace.” And then she just stayed.
“I was writing, living over there temporarily to write the record and I just fell in love with it,” she said. “I loved having a whole ’nother option in another country. We started from ground zero and we just build a life for ourselves. Simple, and in the country.”
And yet, she still couldn’t get away from her father’s legacy.
“There’s a little shrine to him right near my house,” she said. “He’s very much alive and well in England. I just like to have a life, different places to go, away from other things. I need to have options.”
As the sole heir to the Graceland estate and all its tourist-fed trappings, Presley doesn’t need to work. But she does need to create, and music seems to make sense, with a last name like hers.
Her first album, “To Whom It May Concern,” was released in 2003. The album’s first single, “Lights Out,” reached No. 18 on the Billboard Hot Adult Top 40 chart.
Her second album, “Now What,” released in 2005, reached No. 9 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. Both albums have been certified platinum.
“Storm & Grace,” released last year, partnered Presley with award-winning producer T-Bone Burnett, known for his soundtrack work on “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” and “Crazy Heart,” as well as his work with everyone from Elvis Costello to jazz singer Cassandra Wilson to Washington state’s Brandi Carlile.
“The sound was already defining itself,” Presley said. “Sonically, it was already present, and T-Bone added the icing on the cake.”
The combination of Burnett’s distillery and Presley’s newfound calm and maturity has made for a soulful, retrospective sound that is more Americana than her other albums.
“It has all different things,” Presley said. “It’s organic, more rootsy.”
The video for one song, “Weary,” was shot at Memphis’ Sun Studios, where Elvis Presley made some of his first records; where Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison and U2 recorded; and where Bob Dylan famously kissed the floor.
“I didn’t kiss the floor,” she said with a chuckle. “But it was really great, and we recorded three songs there.”
Despite her father’s history with the place, Presley had never set foot inside Sun Studios before she and her band loaded in to perform three songs for a television show.
“I was pretty insulated,” Presley explained. “My father was no longer recording there when I was around.”
Presley is one of those people who was born famous, had access to presidents and pop stars (she married Jackson in 1994, after being friends most of their lives), but barely lets on. She’s like the person who will walk into an exclusive party, come out and tell you who was there and what they did, but really, it’s not that great.
She is also surprisingly straightforward. Her words and actions are her own, unvarnished and refreshing. (Once asked by Oprah Winfrey what she says to herself when she thinks of her marriage to Jackson, she replied: “Holy mother of God,” put her head in her hand — and put Winfrey and the audience in stitches.)
So it makes sense that there is no magic to her songwriting, no spells spun, no mystery.
“I sit with the intention to write a record,” she said. “When I’m doing interviews, I’m doing interviews and when I am writing, I’m writing. I sit there with a musician and I write. It’s the same process since I started writing in my twenties. I like to come in and leave with a finished song.”
At home with twins, her two other grown children off in Los Angeles and the Elvis business that never seems to slow, Presley has little time for quieter activities like reading or knitting.
“I wish I could get into something like that,” she said of knitting. “Riley was trying to reach me how to knit, and I am unteachable. I was trying really hard.
“I wish I could do horses, or have a hobby. Usually I am just running around. Between all four children and my husband, I don’t get to do much. But when I am in England I cook and I garden and it’s much more calming and relaxed.”
She has partnered with World Vision and is allowing the nonprofit to set up a booth at each show, where fans can choose to sponsor — and correspond — with a child in need.
The child of Graceland clearly knows how lucky she was.
“I like helping children,” she said. “I have a big thing with children. You can correspond with the child, send something to them as a gift. You know it’s actually getting there and you are doing something to help. I just thought it was a good thing to do. I want to help them because they are helpless.
“But they are also the future. They are going to run the world.”
Nicole Brodeur: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Every Sunday, I bring you a conversation with a local who is doing something great, or a great who is doing something local: media personalities, big thinkers, visiting artists, colorful characters and doers of all kinds.
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