BY RYAN CLARK
MAY 29, 2007
When Lisa Shaffer was an 8-year-old girl growing up just outside Crittenden, she’d listen to the radio station and wonder what it’d be like to get interviewed or to sing a country song for the audience.
Twenty years later, she’s going to find out.
Shaffer, who went on to graduate with a business degree from Northern Kentucky University and make a name for herself in Nashville as a songwriter, will be a guest on Cincinnati’s WUBE-105 “Wake Up!” morning show at 7:30 a.m. today, to premiere her debut single, “Just One,” a song that “tackles the consequences of drunk driving,” according to her label.
But this is just the beginning for Shaffer. Her label, Disney’s Lyric Street Records, has already earmarked four or five of her songs as possible singles, Shaffer says. Her album is to be released in the fall.
“She’s going to do really well,” says Bill Whyte, host of WUBE-105 “Wake Up!” and a country music songwriter for decades. “She’s a terrific songwriter and her voice is a wonderful, traditional bluegrass voice.”
Shaffer’s taking it all in stride.
“This is all just a big dream come true,” she says while driving through Nashville on a Friday afternoon.
Then, for a moment, the 27-year-old decides to pull over and assess her career.
Question: Has music always been something you’ve been interested in?
Answer: Absolutely. No question. Music has always been something I loved. I remember being a little girl and listening to the radio and wondering how music was made. I wondered how all those voices made up that one song. Can you imagine a little girl wondering that? But I was singing since I could talk. And I was always writing songs. I remember sitting on a swing set, swinging, and coming up with words for a song.
Q: Who were you’re influences?
A: Patty Loveless. Alan Jackson. Dolly Parton. Ricky Skaggs. Those are the ones that really stand out.
Q: Those are true country voices, ones that remind you of real country music, not pop. Is that what you want to do?
A: Amen to that! But I just want to do what I do. If a song ends up crossing over into pop, that’s great. But this album will have a lot of influences. There’s an introspective song with strings that I co-wrote with Richard Leigh, who wrote “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue.” There’s another song that I would say is a power ballad. I co-wrote all but one of the songs on the album, which is important to me. But as a sound, the album is really indefinable.
Q: When you graduated college, you were in a band. But the band broke up and you moved to Nashville. How did you make it in Nashville?
A: Networking. I would go to bars and sing. Everybody is a writer in Nashville, so I would meet people and start writing with them. Eventually that led to studio sessions, where I would work as a singer on demo tapes. That led to me singing and writing and recording my own demos, which got me a record deal. I’ve been working on this record for about two years.
Q: Your first single is called “Just One.” It’s not a happy song, is it? You talk about a child in an accident with a drunk driver.
A: It’s not a happy song, no. But it’s an impactful song.
Q: Your voice comes across a bit like Alison Krauss in the song. Have you gotten that comparison before?
A: Thanks so much! I really admire her – and Alison is someone who didn’t really try to cross over musically, did she? It just happened for her. But yes, I have gotten that comparison before. But on other tracks on the album, I sound different, more honky-tonk. Maybe like a younger Alison, or one with a rougher edge. Like Patty Loveless.
Q: So many times in music now we see artists singing songs they did not participate in writing. Does it mean more to you to write your own songs?
A: Yes, it does. I’m not the best musician in the world, but I can play acoustic guitar, and I write to my guitar. I think it’s important for singers to be well-rounded, because when you write, you can express your feelings. The things I write about, they happened to me, or to someone in my family, or to someone I know. They come from an honest place.
Q: Tell me about your family – and about your guitar.
A: I have four sisters. And my mom and dad still live in Crittenden, Ky. They’ll be listening to the radio when I’m on. … My grandpa gave me a small body L-G1 Gibson guitar when I was 8 and I still play it on stage. He said it was his favorite guitar, and he even named it Sally Gibson.
Q: Are you ready for the fame this record could bring you?
A: Oh yes. My label has done a good job of preparing me. We’ve been working on this for a long time. I think I’m ready. This is just a really, really happy time now. I’m ready to go and do it!