Ty's Take: From The Farm To Fame: Lisa Engelken


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Lisa Engelken (pronounced EN-gel-ken) is preparing to drop her second album this year and has set the sights even higher for her newest project, “Little Warrior: anima explorations” than she did for her critically acclaimed and well received first album, “Caravan.”

“With ‘Little Warrior’ I hope to build upon the momentum of my last album ‘Caravan’,” that was very well received both popularly and critically,” she said. “The harmony and lyric content of “Little Warrior” is a bit more complex, but it is a natural evolution of my work. The album is the result of musical exploration, trusting instinct and drawing from the subconscious for creative direction.”

The big-voiced, multi-lingual, former farm girl from Nemaha County, Kan is also sticking with the formula that has led to her success: passion, love and hard work. Engelken also credits a strong support system comprised of her friends, family, fans and fellow musicians. Being the youngest of 13 children, Engelken has always had to speak above a crowd, which helped hone her signature powerful and emotion- filled vocals. Another of Engelken’s staples is her ability to perform in various languages and still maintain the sound that has garnered her so many accolades.

“I was classically trained (in singing in other languages). In operatic training, a singer is instructed in singing the languages in which the classic works were composed,” she said. “In addition to English, I have performed in Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, French, German and Japanese. I enjoy it. I find freedom in singing in other languages. Languages provide yet another opportunity to express myself, explore other dimensions of myself, of sound, of music. And finally, I find that lyric and melody are most effective when they are performed in the original language of the composer.”

Engelken’s dedication to performing in other languages is even reflected on her first album “Caravan.” The track “Canto De Ossanha” is sung entirely in Portuguese and Engelken had no fear in placing the song on her album.

“’Canto de Ossahn’ by Baden Powell is one of the most popular songs on “Caravan,” as well as in performance. I had no worries that an audience would dismiss it simply because the words are not in English,” she said. “People experience music on so many levels that go beyond simple lyric—-but in the case of ‘Canto’ it is precisely the rhythmic syncopation of the lyric that is integral to the groove of the piece. And I might add that Portuguese, for me is one of the most beautiful lyric languages—the Brazilians have it goin’ on!”

Despite her strong fan base, and an abundance of positive press from critics, Engelken faces the struggles of many in the music industry right now. She is very hopeful that “Little Warrior: anima explorations” will increase her audience and capitalize on the momentum that “Caravan” created.

“Ideally, I wish to garner a wider audience, which means more income and more touring dates,” she said. “In this day and age, it is so very difficult to be an indie artist, in jazz especially and financing a tour is so very, very stressful because of the risk involved.“

Engelken is a very positive person and likes to turn her tragedies into triumphs. Being struck by a car while walking in San Francisco and losing her older brother are some things she used to fuel her fiery passion.

“Suffice to say that any loss of such a profound nature is carried with you, it lives with you,” she said. “I find it also an opportunity for transformation and inspiration. Every loss brings the chance to be reborn.”

Performing is and always will be a part of Engelken. She got her first taste of performing on her family’s farm in Kansas where she would sing to the cows. Since those early days, she has sang from coast to coast and at numerous festivals, venues and clubs.

“I enjoy rooms that are listening rooms—- and I prefer them to be packed with living, breathing music lovers,” she said. “The audience for me is a crucial element of performance. The audience completes the circle, is integral to the creative process. We are a collective. As I said, music for me is meditation and healing. It is a gift; I want to share it.”

Engelken’s desire for music hasn’t waned despite the stresses that have come along with living out her dreams. However, she has no plans to stop recording or touring anytime soon. When asked if she ever plans to stop making music or performing, Engelken‘s reply was simple yet elegant.

“Ad infinitum. Forever and ever. Amen.”

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