GIRL ON AN UNMADE BED GETS UP TO GO
Lisbee Stainton is a remarkably talented young lady who recently released her third album entitled ‘Go’. The first, ‘Firefly’ was released in 2006, long before she graduated from the prestigious Goldsmith’s College in South East London with a degree in Popular Music. Her second album, ‘Girl On An Unmade Bed’, followed early in 2010.
In addition to her talents, she is particularly unique in a number of other ways; she is the first unsigned singer/songwriter to have played in the O2 Arena (to an audience of around 30,000), she plays a custom made eight string acoustic guitar (the ‘Lisbee 8’), and she is currently in the process of promoting her latest album by performing on a ‘Living Room Tour’.
For an unsigned artist there are clear benefits associated with such a tour as associated headaches such as identifying and hiring venues, and selling sufficient tickets to break even are all removed from the equation. Hosts were identified who were prepared to give Lisbee a space in a room to play whilst being entirely responsible for inviting guests to their own private party – Lisbee just had to turn up and play. Certainly there are disadvantages too, as the audience numbers would be restricted, but this would always be an issue for an unamplified voice and guitar. Then there is the ‘journey into the unknown’ aspect of such a venture with all the associated personal safety concerns.
Undeterred, Lisbee made initial enquiries, hoping to secure eight venues. She is now about halfway through a tour of over twenty venues! I first heard about the tour during during an earlier interview, on my show, and managed to arrange two locations in the Scottish Borders; and so it happened that early in December she visited Scotland. The day before she was due to travel caused some slight concern as that was the day that Scotland ‘battened down the hatches’ in response to a ‘Red Alert’ weather warning about exceptional winds. The forecasters were proved fairly accurate, the storm abated overnight and I picked her at Berwick upon Tweed station on a virtually cloudless, cold, moonlit evening, and drove her to the first living room.
A former manse provided the venue and two thirds of local band ‘Where’s George’ provided the support act. The room was packed, with around twenty six guests all keen to listen. Lisbee began by explaining her intention to break down the barrier between performer and audience. She invited interaction by offering to answer questions, preferably asked between songs! As she progressed through the set she added biographical details about the route to her current status as professional musician, including the story behind the eight string guitar. I have previously written a review of the album ‘Go’ and found it such a privilege to be able to hear some tracks from it being performed in such a special setting.
During the evening she encouraged audience participation by allocating singing parts to groups, and getting a backing rhythm of finger clicks. Playing live did not change my feelings about Lisbee’s music, I still feel that timeless best describes it. As a singer/songwriter I am reminded of others from years gone by such as Joni Mitchell, Nick Drake, Al Stewart, Laura Nyro, David Crosby, Janis Ian, Cat Stevens, Suzanne Vega, James Taylor and Tracey Chapman. The breadth of work produced by such artists and others, serves to underscore her uniqueness, she certainly has a distinct sound and could never be accused of seeking to emulate any particular predecessor.
Waking up to discover that we had been hit by a significant fall of snow overnight got me wondering if I might experience difficulties in transporting Lisbee to the Saturday evening’s venue. The morning forecasters proved to be correct as the temperature rose and no fresh snow followed. We stopped off at Generate Radio’s studio where we recorded an interesting interview along with two live songs. Following a brief chat with Kyle and Grant we then continued to make our way further inland ready for the second evening.
The evening in Kelso had a completely different ambience; with the exception of one small child, Friday night had been an adult audience. Saturday was a family oriented affair with a number of small children who were playing in the hall way and other rooms, occasionally venturing in whilst Lisbee was playing. She took this all in her stride and wasn’t phased at all. This audience, too, got involved with the singing and finger clicking, and a few audience members quizzed her about her eight string guitar and playing techniques. On the first night of the 2011 ‘X-Factor’ final, it was so refreshing to be able to witness true talent that has been developed and honed to perfection over time – a complete antidote to the manufactured, artificially moulded, and generally ephemeral products generated by such television projects.
After returning Lisbee to Berwick station on Sunday morning, I reflected on the weekend; it seemed to have gone very well, with many very positive and encouraging comments having reached me. I certainly look forward to following her blog reports about the remaining gigs – including one in a submarine (well somebody has to live there)!
Lisbee has had a varied career so far, playing to a massive audience in the O2 Arena, supporting Joan Armatrading on almost one hundred dates, touring Europe with Paul Carrack, collaborating with the idiosyncratic Dimbleby & Capper at the Kendal Calling festival, and supporting Judy Collins in Worcester Cathedral. Following this living room tour she is looking forward to touring in support of Gretchen Peters next year – Lisbee is determined to continue to develop – very much a name to watch out for in the future.
Thanks to hosts Fiona and Kathy, and their families, to Where’s George? Members Millie and Penny, to Kyle at Generate Radio, to my wife Winnie for helping with catering and accomodation overnight on Saturday; and most of all, to Lisbee for being such a genuine star.