Lisa Marie Presley’s To Whom It May Concern debuted at #5 its first week out, but does she really need the sales?
As Elvis’ daughter and one of the administrators of his estate, she’s estimated to be worth $500 million. But despite her heritage, her vast wealth and her already cemented celeb status, Presley still wanted to work — well, on her songs at least.
“I’m doing it because music’s been such a profound influence on me and my whole life and gotten me through everything,” Presley said. “I thought I could use this album as a vehicle, an outlet of whatever I’ve been through, and I wanted to see if I could affect others. It’s as simple as that.”
She sang as a child, encouraged by her dad; when asked if she was good, she smiled and said, “Probably not.” But it wasn’t until Presley was 21 that she started penning melodies and lyrics in her home studio, just to help her get through whatever was ailing her at the moment, be it a very public divorce from a world-famous pop star or more private struggles.
“I never really did it with the intention to put it out there,” she said. “I would just write, just sit there and write, and record it on eight-track, until I graduated to ProTools, but it was always just to get myself through things.”
Thanks to her family connections, plenty of people were interested in helping her get it out there, even if that wasn’t her original goal. “I’ve had producers coming around, saying, ’If you want to do it …’ and record company people saying, ’Let me know, let me know,’ most of my life,” she said.
Daunted by the prospect of the inevitable comparisons and expectations, she demurred, preferring to take it slow. “I just liked the idea of easing into it,” she said. Plus, she knew that being the daughter of one of the greatest rock legends of all time only takes you so far. “I think it just sort of goes with the territory that it can open a door,” she said. “But [from there] I’m pretty much on my own.”
Presley started seriously considering the idea of an album in 1997 and worked with producer Glen Ballard in 1999, and later Billy Corgan when she signed to Capitol. She nearly completed an album three years ago, but most of those sessions were scrapped as she kept re-recording the songs until she felt they fit her.
“Re-recording, fine-tuning, writing more, taking away,” she recalled. “The biggest struggle, and why I took so long, was to get me to compromise enough to put records on that were sort of safe and radio-friendly. What I tend to go towards is ambience and a vibe. I didn’t go for a style, which is why the whole thing is a potpourri of I don’t know what.”
Though her three failed marriages were a great impetus to start putting her life on paper, and much will be made of songs that seemingly reference her second and third husbands Michael Jackson and Nicolas Cage, it’s Presley’s first husband, Danny Keough, who’s all over this record. Presley worked with Keough in addition to producers Eric Rosse (Tori Amos) and Andrew Slater (Fiona Apple, the Wallflowers), but there’s not enough drama in their peaceful reconciliation and collaboration for anyone to notice. But Jacko or Nic? Could the breakup song “Gone” be about one of them? She won’t say, except to say that she’s “done worrying” about them.
“God, I don’t know, lately I can’t follow any of it,” she said of the past year’s Michael Jackson news. “He’s seemingly progressively more [unusual] lately, more in these last couple of years, more than when I was around.”
While some songs seem to be about past partners, two seem to address her dad — or at least his legacy: first single “Lights Out” and “Nobody Noticed It.” But Presley doesn’t want to say that they do.
“Lights Out,” she said, “is “just a concept of a time, a place, a thing, but not my dad specifically.” And though she co-wrote “Nobody Noticed It” following a viewing of E!’s “True Hollywood Story: The Last Days of Elvis,” she explained it away as “a general ode to someone who’s close to you who’s passed away.” She refused further clarification except to say, “He was a good dad. He was part of my life.”
Presley will appear on NBC’s “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” on May 1. An episode of VH1’s “Driven” dedicated to her debuts on June 1.
—Jennifer Vineyard, with additional reporting by Kurt Loder