Lisa Chappell
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Lisa Chappell

Band Folk Adult Contemporary


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"When Then is Now" - Debut Album



"This album was an absolute calling for me. I had to tell these stories. They come straight from my heart.” – Lisa Chappell

Ask Lisa Chappell to describe her debut album and she uses two words: raw and gentle. “The whole thing is so heartfelt. I listen to it sometimes and think ‘Oh my God’, it’s very fragile,” she says. “But most of all I wanted it to be truthful.”

Chappell grew up in Mairangi Bay in Auckland, New Zealand. Her family were all artistic. Her father is a painter, her older brother is a writer and sculptor and her older sister is a dancer. As a little girl, Lisa wanted to sing and act.

Surrounded by music in the home, the Chappell children grew up listening to Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, Joni Mitchell, the Seekers, Nana Mouskouri and the Irish Rovers. “ Which will explain why some of my songs have a slightly Celtic influence,” Chappell says. The first single she ever bought was David Bowie’s “Changes” and her first concerts included Dragon (“I snuck in a pub window!”) and the Split Enz farewell tour (“it was so memorable”).

Chappell wrote her first original song at 18 but had been performing in school musicals and choirs for years before that. Unfortunately, she suffered terrible stage fright and eventually stopped singing altogether focusing on her acting instead. After a successful 15 year career as an actress in New Zealand, Chappell relocated to Sydney to train at The Journey, a full time drama school.

In a bizarre moment, just after she’d performed in a student play, she was approached by a man who turned out to be Russell Crowe’s psychic. He looked at her intently and said, “you’ll sing”. He said, “your voice has been put down and quietened for too long but you need to be heard.” Chappell said she laughed at the time, “I thought that can’t be true because every time I sing, I cry!” But only a few years later, Chappell sure enough, found herself wanting to sing again.

The majority of songs for When Then Is Now were written as she finished up her award-winning role as Claire on McLeod’s Daughters. “I was very influenced by the landscape we worked in just outside of Adelaide. The environment was so harsh. In the summer it could get up to 50 degrees outside and the winters were very cold. I was out in the elements all day but I couldn’t wait to get home and practice my guitar and write songs,” she says.

“One of the main reasons why I left the show was because I was compelled to make this album. For me, it was all about stripping away any characters. I didn’t want to wear a costume or speak other people’s words. I wanted to connect to the audience directly, just as me”

During the writing process, Chappell was drawn to artists known for their strong story telling: Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Nick Drake, k.d. lang, Stevie Nicks, Cat Stevens and Eva Cassidy. Two albums in particular influenced her writing, Irish singer/songwriter Damien Rice’s O (“I played it every day for six months. It’s so raw and free”) and Lucinda Williams’ Essence (“it encouraged me to just sing from the heart, knowing it’s OK to write very simple songs”).

Once the songs were written, Chappell sold her car to fund a trip to Auckland to make a demo. She teamed up with her guitar teacher Johnny Fleury, a man she describes as “her angel and collaborator” and the co-writer of ‘Pheromone City’. “We worked every night for four months, often working until three o’clock in the morning,” she laughs. “I practiced guitar to the point where I had RSI and had to go to the osteopath!”

The practice paid off. Returning to Sydney, Chappell sent the demo to acclaimed singer/songwriter and producer Rick Price. He liked it, suggesting they strip the songs right back to just Lisa’s emotive voice and a simple piano, cello or guitar accompaniment.

“It was an incredible collaboration. Rick Price is very good at finding the soul of a song,” Chappell says. “Almost all the songs are just one main instrument and voice and many were performed live at the same time. Rick was extraordinary. He is so multi-talented and can play all the instruments.”

Recorded in Price’s home studio in Sydney’s Neutral Bay over a period of three months in 2005, the album captures 10 songs full of intimacy and longing. “You go on a journey with these songs,” she explains. “The songs are lots of little pockets and moments in my life.”

Price says Chappell is a unique talent. “She’s intensely creative and she’s very unique,” he says. “She’s not modelling herself on any other singer, she has her own sound. Her voice has a beautiful natural tone and she sings with a lot of soul. This is a very soulful record in a spiritual sense.”
“Expressing emotion is Lisa’s gift,” Price says. “It’s why she’s such a great actress as well. She can really draw the listener in through the emotion of the character and she does it very naturally.”
On a personal note, Chappell has just turned 37 and loves life as a single woman in Sydney’s Elizabeth Bay. She