Even when she’s at home in Texas, Lisa Morales does a lot of traveling.
The singer-songwriter is currently dividing her time between San Antonio (where her children are attending school) and Austin (“a boyfriend move,” as she puts it).
“If you visualize my room, there’s always an open suitcase in there,” Morales adds.
Given that she does a lot of songwriting and recording in Austin, living in the self-proclaimed Live Music Capital of the World makes perfect sense for Morales, whose second solo album, the multi-language Luna Negra and the Daughter of the Sun, arrived in January.
Medleyville.us: Among the Austin-connected heavyweights on your new album is the late Jimmy LaFave. What do you remember from recording “Avalanche” with him?
Lisa Morales: “How that came about is I recorded the song, and then I wanted background vocals on it, and he came to mind. I had seen him a few months before, and he had told me he was sick. My mother had passed from cancer nine years ago, and when she was first diagnosed, they gave her two weeks to live. And she said, ‘I’m not going anywhere,’ and she lived almost two more years. So when I saw Jimmy and he said, ‘I’m not going anywhere,’ I figured he had a long time.
“When I thought about having him record a song with me, it wasn’t, ‘Let’s get Jimmy in here because he doesn’t have very long.’ It wasn’t like that at all. I loved his voice, and we had talked about singing and writing together. This was a great song to put him on, and when I thought about that, [I realized], ‘I’ve got to make this a duet instead.’ ”
What determines your language choice in your songs?
Morales: “It just comes out that way. I’m one of those people, when I’m writing by myself, I’m a receiver. When I was a kid, my grandparents spoke Spanglish, and it drove my mother crazy. She was a linguist and spoke 11 languages, and she would look at them and say, ‘One or the other’ (laughs). But she would love that I was using [Spanglish] in an art form to express myself. So it’s just in my head and comes out that way as I’m writing.”
Are you able to write songs about heartache or sadness while you’re going through those feelings, or do you tend to tap into those experiences at a later time when you’re in a different frame of mind?
Morales: “It’s usually when I’m in it. Sadness is a great writer for me — that deep, dark hole (laughs). I can feel it; it’s like a pull, and the songs just spring out.”
What’s the best piece of advice your cousin Linda Ronstadt gave you about the music industry?
Morales: “You know, we met when I was a teenager, but we’ve been spending time together now, hanging out as friends. … I told four people in my life that [Linda and I] were cousins, and the fourth person told everybody. I’ve always kind of kept it private because I was trying to make my way and create my own style, and I had a fear of imitating her. So I consciously listened to male musicians than female musicians. This beautiful friendship we have now in our later years is so great because it’s about family; it’s not that I want something from her.”
Finish this sentence: At this year’s South by Southwest, I will …
Morales: “ … enjoy the showcase I’m on because there are a lot of great artists — and then I have to leave for Atlanta the next morning (laughs).”
— Introduction and interview by Chris M. Junior
Lisa Morales at South by Southwest (schedule subject to change):
• 10 p.m. March 13: The Continental Club — 1315 S. Congress Ave. (official SXSW showcase)