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Posted at 12:10 PM ET, 01/27/2011

Be specific: Singer-songwriter Lissie talks about her unusual route to success

By Allison Stewart

lissieLissie's popular covers helped her gain a wider audience.

Lissie was just another faceless female singer-songwriter until her fondness for unlikely, well-chosen covers turned her into a blogosphere sensation. On YouTube, view counts for Lissie's covers of Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" and Kid Cudi's "Pursuit of Happiness" stretch into the millions. For Lissie (born Elisabeth Maurus), the covers have done what years of touring and promotion didn't-given new life to her 2010 full-length debut, "Catching A Tiger."

"It didn't go, like, Number One or anything," says Lissie, calling in from her hometown of Rock Island, Illinois, where she's preparing to play a show. "But it still has a lot of life left in it." Click Track talked to the singer, who will be playing the 9:30 Club in support of the disc on Sunday, about her unexpected route to stardom.

I assume this isn't your first homecoming show. Or is it?

In a way it sort of is the first show home for me since things have been going well, I guess. And it's sold out and all my friends will be there.

Is it like a John Hughes movie, where all the people who were mean to you in high school now want to be your best friend?

No, not really. There weren't people who were like, super mean to me, but there are maybe some parents who used to [disparage] me, like, older people in our town who were nosy and opinionated. People who are now like, "Oh, it's so nice that your career is doing well." But so much time has passed, maybe they forgot that when I was a teenager they gossiped about me.

It seems like just the other day you were [getting attention for your] Kid Cudi covers, now you're everywhere. Does it seem like it happened in an instant?

No, it does feel like I've been building towards it. But those covers obviously helped. It's sort of become something people have randomly happened upon. It was great marketing, because otherwise, people didn't hear about me.

(On tenacity, craziness and her first hit single, after the jump.)

You became famous in the U.K. first.

I did. I signed in the UK to Columbia in 2007 and started recording my album in 2009. Then my album came out in the UK, so I was over there really hitting the circuit...and I had the support of Columbia really pushing me over thereā€¦.But here I'm on Fat Possum so it's been more of an indie route, with public radio stations and Triple A, not as quite mainstream stuff.

[Years before that] you had a hit with the song "All My Life."

I had played music my whole teenage and adult life and was doing shows and having tiny successes. But that song I did with DJ Harry, I was still in college and it started getting licensed and that was my first taste of success. I heard myself on the radio and on a TV show and I was like "Oh my gosh, I can do it!"

Did you think it was always going to be that easy?

Well, if I'd started to think about how challenging it is to be a professional musician and be successful, that's sort of a self-defeating mindset. I'm just like, I'm gonna keep doing my thing and work hard and it'll-not be easy, but I believe that it will happen because I'm dedicated to it. I always believed that it would work out in some way, shape or form.

It seems like it takes equal parts dedication and craziness to make it as a musician.

Yeah, I think my crazier times have yielded my best work. You need a balance of personal struggles with the other side of your brain that's the focused, organized person that can see the long term. So I have to balance my emotions with my practical side.

By Allison Stewart  | January 27, 2011; 12:10 PM ET
Categories:  Be specific  | Tags:  Lissie  
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