Another in a series of world-class concerts is coming to the Norman Bird Sanctuary on Friday, August 5 when Americana singer-songwriter Lisa Morales makes a stop in Newport. We’ve got a pair of tickets to give away to the show courtesy of Newport Live. Just e-mail Ken Abrams at email@example.com by Thursday August 4 at 9AM to enter. (Please put “Lisa Morales tickets” in subject line.)
The Texas-based singer grew up in a musical family in Tucson, Arizona, playing traditional Mexican music while absorbing the popular music around her. She recorded six albums as “Sisters Morales,” the sibling duo with her sister Roberta, who passed away from cancer in August 2021. And notably, she is a cousin of Linda Ronstadt.
I interviewed Morales last week by phone as she was preparing for a brief East Coast tour. Sisters Morales played Common Fence Hall several years ago but this is her first time solo in Newport. Morales shared a little about her new release She Ought to be King due out in late August. The album features songs recorded and English and Spanish, something Morales has done previously.
“I recorded it during the freeze down here (last winter); we went out to do a few songs and we were stuck there because the highway was shut down, but we were able to record and ended up making this beautiful album,” she shared.
While there, she bumped into Greg Rolie, an original member of Santana and vocalist for Journey who joined in on the recording. “He put some B-3 (Organ) on it and sang on “Freedom,” said Morales. “I also did a duet with Rodney Crowell. I asked him if he would sing on a song, he called me the next day and said ‘I’ve listened to this like five or six times and I think we need to make it a duet.’ So we rewrote ‘Flyin’ and Cryin,’ as a duet. I was honored because he’s one of my favorite writers,” she added.
“David Garza produced it and he just got this great band together, Tim LaFave on bass, Rachel Eckroth who is touring with St. Vincent on keyboards, and Beth Goodfellow on drums. She’s touring with Allison Russell right now,” said Morales. “David knows Mexican music like I do so it was great to have him understand it, to feel it. I got to do my culture and show my real self on this album.”
Her bilingual heritage is woven into her songs, some of which contain lyrics in English and Spanish. I wondered how her background affects her creative process.
“It’s whatever I hear in my head,” she says. “My mother was a poet, she and I would have these conversations and the way she would speak to me was kind of like poetry. She took me to the ocean when I was a little girl and she said ‘Lisa, look at the ocean, the ocean is a gypsy’s skirt and the waves are her ruffles.’ It’s kind of the way we spoke with each other so that’s the way I wrote this album.
“She would probably be upset with me for doing Spanglish, she would always say ‘One or the other,’” laughed Morales. “I found it to be my thing, I found this voice by doing this, for me, it’s an art piece in the way that I’m writing.”
Morales reveals the lessons taught by her parents in her music.
“As a woman, you go through life having to speak up louder, having to be better … and being Mexican-American, you have to be even louder and even better to be heard, and you don’t complain. My dad taught us it wasn’t about being Mexican or not being Mexican, it was about being really good at what you do, be a good person, and don’t complain. Put your head up and move through life that way. And then people will respect you,” said Morales.
“My mother spoke 11 languages and was a Ph.D. in literature. She specialized in Mexican playwrights, she was always bettering her mind. They just taught us to move forward in a beautiful way. So it’s really important to say hey, I am strong, I’m important, I have value.”
What can we expect at the show?
“I’m very excited about being up in that area, my performance is about the emotion of it and about giving my all, and that’s what I really hope to do. I’ll do a lot off the new album as well as some old songs. I want to give everybody a sense of who I am, because they probably haven’t heard me before or even heard of me, I want to give them my best … hey this is me, see if you like it!