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All Music Guide:
Lisa Germano is one of those artists who's never belonged to one core crowd. Doing the big rock thing wasn't important to her, although time spent playing with John Mellencamp in the late '80s and early '90s opened her eyes to the ever-changing ways of the music business. Germano worked her craft without becoming a conformist; music is her soul and writing is her fuel.
Born in Mishawaka, Indiana, at the dawn of 1958, Germano was the middle of six kids. Her parents were teachers and musicians who encouraged their children to play an instrument until they turned 18. At the age of seven, she wrote her first piece of music, a 15-minute opera on the piano and, in due time, learned the violin, an instrument that would ultimately guide her to a professional career in music. She made her debut as John Mellencamp's violinist and fiddle player on his 1987 hit album Lonesome Jubilee. Germano would spend the next seven years with Mellencamp, shaping a smooth, fearless playing style. Additional tours and recording sessions with Simple Minds and the Indigo Girls motivated Germano to do something on her own. She found her voice at the age of 30 and developed a quirky sound rooted in folk-rock and poetry. The lo-fi, shadowy On the Way Down from the Moon Palace was issued on her own Major Bill label in 1991, marking Germano's proper introduction as a solo artist.
Happiness was much more melancholy and acerbic when it appeared two years later on Capitol. Sales were fair, but Germano didn't care for the major-label buzz, so she signed with Ivo Watts-Russell's 4AD in 1994 and reissued a new version of the album. (4AD eventually included the fantastically dramatic Inconsiderate Bitch EP with its re-release in 1999.) Geek the Girl, which also appeared before the year's end, captured Germano's secrets of a wavering self-concept and her disgust for social ignorance. This particular album of sexual conflicts earned Germano her biggest praise from the press to date. People started to connect with her, and that's exactly what Germano wanted. Excerpts from a Love Circus was gushing in adoration when it arrived in 1996, but critics didn't take to this glossy body of work. The emotional double-cross of Slide (1998) didn't do as well, either, so Germano took some time off. Within months, she lost her deal with 4AD. She questioned her place in music and basically vowed to never make another record.
A move to Hollywood for a simple kind of life gave Germano a much needed break. She took a job as a clerk at Book Soup and enjoyed her anonymity. Songwriting remained an integral part of her life, but having it be a means to making a living wasn't a concern. Joining other artists such as David Bowie, Anna Waronker, and Neil Finn on their respective projects kept Germano connected. Luckily for fans, Germano inked a deal with the ARTISTdirect imprint Ineffable in 2002. Germano's classic, twisted sense of humor was at its finest on Lullaby for Liquid Pig, which was issued in April 2003. Her music found another new home, Michael Gira's Young God label, where Germano released In the Maybe World in summer 2006. After touring in support of the album, Germano took a break, then began recording her second Young God album, Magic Neighbor, which arrived in fall 2009. Around that time, Germano also collaborated with Neil Finn on his 7 Worlds Collide project, which also featured members of Soul Coughing, Radiohead, and Wilco. No Elephants, Germano's 11th studio album, arrived in early 2013.
Lisa Ruth Germano (born June 27, 1958) is an American singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who has released seven albums featuring her often-hushed vocal style, confessional lyrics, and distinctive violin. Her 1994 album Geek the Girl received widespread critical acclaim, including being featured as a top album of the 1990s by the music magazine Spin. She is also known as a guest performer and/or session musician on over sixty records by a variety of artists, including John Mellencamp, Simple Minds, David Bowie, Yann Tiersen, Neil Finn, Sheryl Crow, Iggy Pop, Jewel and Eels.
Germano was one of six children born into an Italian-American Catholic family in Mishawaka, Indiana. Her parents encouraged their children to learn instruments from an early age. Germano's first attempt at writing music was a 15-minute opera for the piano written at age 7. Later she took up the violin, the instrument that led her to a career in music.
She became a member of John Mellencamp's band during the recording of his 1987 album The Lonesome Jubilee, and continued to work and tour with him for the following seven years. During this time, she also toured and recorded with bands such as Simple Minds and the Indigo Girls, which prompted her to pursue her own music.
Germano issued her first solo album, the lo-fi On the Way Down From the Moon Palace, in 1991 on her own label, Major Bill Records. Without major distribution and promotion, sales were low, but the album helped bring Germano to the attention of Capitol Records, with whom she signed in 1992. Her major-label debut, Happiness, was released in July 1993, but just prior to its release, a personnel shake-up had occurred at Capitol, which resulted in the departure of most of her benefactors at the label. Once it became clear to her that the album was not going to receive the level of promotion that she had expected, Germano lobbied successfully to have the rights to the album returned to her, and later that year, she signed with the influential British independent label 4AD Records, who, at that time, had a manufacturing and distribution deal with Warner Bros. Records in the US.
4AD founder/president Ivo Watts-Russell was a big fan of Germano's work, and took an unusually active role in her first releases for the label, remixing some of the tracks from Happiness with John Fryer, who had produced and/or engineered several other of the label's acts and had been involved in Watts-Russell's This Mortal Coil project. In early 1994, 4AD issued a limited-edition EP, Inconsiderate Bitch, which contained five of the remixed tracks; and in April of that year, Happiness was reissued in a radically different form. The new version had very different artwork, and the songs, some of which were remixed, had been completely resequenced (two tracks, including her cover of "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'", were omitted, and replaced by two others that had been recorded around the same time, including "Destroy the Flower"). Her third album, Geek the Girl, was also released later in 1994. The album earned Germano the most praise she'd yet received from the press, becoming a critical favorite and a noted album from the 1990s. Much attention was given to the track "...A Psychopath," which contains audio taken from an actual 9-1-1 emergency phone call placed by a woman who was being terrorized by an intruder in her home. In 1995, Germano contributed the song "The Mirror Is Gone" to the AIDS benefit album Red Hot + Bothered produced by the Red Hot Organization.
Her next album, Excerpts From a Love Circus, arrived in 1996, and received a fair amount of acclaim in music-related magazines including Spin and Rolling Stone. Earlier that same year, Watts-Russell approached all of 4AD's artists with the idea that each act would find another artist or band to collaborate with on three songs, and the resulting recordings would be released by the label as a monthly series of EPs. Germano chose to work with the Tucson-based rock band Giant Sand, but after their tracks had been recorded, 4AD decided that the series would be unfeasible, and scrapped the idea. Germano and the members of Giant Sand liked the results and enjoyed collaborating, and despite the labels' lack of interest in the recordings, recorded a studio album of new material together in less than a week. The managers for Germano and Giant Sand worked together and struck a deal with Thirsty Ear Recordings to release the album as a one-off project under the name OP8, and the album, Slush, was released in February 1997. In April 1997, 4AD began servicing "I Love a Snot" (remixed by Tchad Blake) to radio and retail in America, but sales of the album remained static at best. Another Germano collaboration of sorts was released later that year, when another Excerpts From a Love Circus track, "Lovesick", was remixed by drum & bass producer The Underdog (aka Trevor Jackson, later of Playgroup), and released as a single on his Output Recordings label.
Sales began to sag noticeably with the release of Slide (produced by Tchad Blake) in July 1998. 4AD's distribution deal with Warner Bros. had come to an end, returning the label to its independent status; for Germano, that meant that Slide received less promotion, since her label no longer had Warner Bros.' resources to draw upon. That summer, just before the album's release, she was invited to join The Smashing Pumpkins (whose fourth album, Adore, was released just weeks before Slide) on tour as backing vocalist. Initially, she turned them down, but Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan convinced her that her role would be somewhat collaborative in nature, and she agreed to the tour. She joined the band in Chicago for four weeks of rehearsals in preparation for a four-month tour, but then, the night before the tour was to begin, she was dismissed by Corgan (via their tour manager) with no explanation, and the Pumpkins embarked on the tour without her. That fall, intent on resuming the promotion of Slide, she went out on tour, first opening up for Eels, and then later headlining smaller clubs; but while on tour, she was notified by 4AD that they were dropping her from the roster. By the end of 1998, she announced that she was done with the music business, and dispensed with her management.
Germano moved to Hollywood, and began working at an independent bookstore. Songwriting, however, remained an integral part of her life, and she kept connected musically by collaborating with other artists, such as Yann Tiersen, David Bowie, Neil Finn, and Joey Waronker, on various projects. She returned to her solo career in 2002 with a flurry of releases. Independently, she released two compilations of songs from her back catalog: Concentrated is a selection of "greatest hits" with a few oddities (such as the Underdog remix of "Lovesick"); Rare, Unusual or Just Bad Songs, however, is composed entirely of rarities (like "Breathe Acrost Texas", which was omitted from the reissue of Happiness) and tracks that had never been available before, and each copy came with an insert painted by Germano herself. Later that year, she began gathering songs she had been writing and recording (mostly by herself at home) over the previous two years, and sent CDs of these tracks to a few labels and various friends in the music industry; the first to respond was her longtime acquaintance, producer/label executive Tony Berg. After the relative success of the ARTISTdirect family of music-related websites, co-founder and then-CEO Marc Geiger decided to start an actual record label, leading to the creation of the Ineffable imprint with Berg in 2002, with Germano as the label's first signing. Her sixth album, Lullaby for Liquid Pig, released in April 2003, features performances by guitarist Johnny Marr (formerly of The Smiths, currently of Modest Mouse), Neil Finn, and Wendy Melvoin. As before, the album met with critical acclaim, but the label itself was not successful enough for its owners, who shut it down shortly thereafter.
In 2006, Germano was invited by former Swans leader Michael Gira to join the roster of his label, Young God Records. Young God released her sixth solo album, In the Maybe World, in July of that year, and then reissued Lullaby for Liquid Pig in June 2007 with a bonus disc of unreleased live recordings and demos.
In 2012, Germano was the violinist on two national tours by artist Tammy Lang; the "Chelsea Madchen" tour, in which the singer parodied Nico, of Velvet Underground fame, and her outing as subversive traditional country-and-western alter ego Tammy Faye Starlite. Drummer Pete Thomas also played on both tours, as did bandleader/guitarist Peter "Petey" Andrews. The band "played some of the best blues rock music I've heard in years," wrote Huffington Post music correspondent Wendy Block."Tammy Lang". IMDb. Retrieved 31 December 2014. "Channeling Nico in Silverlake". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 31 December 2014.