Singer says it loud and clear: I Have Ar­rived

ARTS & LIFE

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - THE SOCIAL PAGE - By Jen Zoratti

AT 51, Lisa Lester is liv­ing proof that it’s never too late to re­al­ize your dream. After decades marked by ca­reer­stalling set­backs — a lost demo; a du­ti­ful daugh­terly re­spon­si­bil­ity to her fam­ily’s business; the 2012 ac­qui­si­tion of EMI, whose pres­i­dent had ex­pressed in­ter­est in her — she’s fi­nally find­ing trac­tion with I Have Ar­rived, an EP she recorded in Nashville with pro­ducer Mark Oliv­erius. In ad­di­tion to hav­ing a big, rich voice that skews more gospel than coun­try-pop, she’s de­ter­mined. She’s built her own buzz via a mu­sic video she shot with Michael San­ders for the up­lift­ing ti­tle track, which has also been get­ting air­play on NCI. And she will per­form the an­themic sin­gle at Rainbow Stage on Sun­day as part of the Ovar­ian Can­cer Canada Walk of Hope. “I’ve taken it upon my­self,” she says of pro­mo­tion, “but be­ing a sin­gle mom, it’s tough.” (Her son, 12-year-old Pres­ley — named for the King, of course — is one of her most ar­dent sup­port­ers.) Still, the hard work’s been worth it. Lester isn’t just liv­ing her own dream, but that of her grand­mother, Vic­to­ria Nault, who was once in­vited to Nashville on the strength of her voice. Nault’s Mu­sic City dreams were quashed, how­ever, when her hus­band died, leav­ing her alone with eight chil­dren. While her grand­mother never made it to the Grand Ole Opry’s stage, she never stopped singing. “She was dear to my heart,” Lester says of her grand­mother. “She had a great voice, a Patsy Cline voice. She loved to sing.” Lester, too, has al­ways loved to sing — a gift from her grand­mother — but she didn’t re­al­ize other peo­ple might like to hear her un­til some­one over­heard her belt out a tune at a party. Still, the pull of fam­ily was strong and she ded­i­cated her en­ergy to help­ing run her fam­ily’s con­struc­tion business — un­til one day, it burned to the ground. Lester found her­self at a cross­roads. She could res­ur­rect her fam­ily’s business and hon­our that legacy or pur­sue her dream. It was her ail­ing fa­ther — who is memo­ri­al­ized in the video for I Have Ar­rived — who set her on her cur­rent course. “On the eve of my birth­day, his last words to me were, ‘Happy birth­day, my love — you go sing.’ I still get choked up think­ing about that. He knew that I stayed and put things on hold for the fam­ily business.” Four years later, Lester re­leased her de­but al­bum, Take Me Away, in 2009. Record­ing I Have Ar­rived in Nashville, mean­while, was a mo­men­tous oc­ca­sion. “It was an ex­pe­ri­ence I’ll never for­get,” she says. “To see my grand­mother’s dream come true through me — it was amaz­ing.” The five-song col­lec­tion of coun­try­rock tunes was knocked out in just three days with some of Nashville’s finest ses­sion play­ers, who have worked with the likes of Wil­lie Nel­son, Sha­nia Twain, Terri Clark and Kenny Ch­es­ney. The EP is avail­able on iTunes, but Lester is hop­ing to have a for­mal CD re­lease for it in the com­ing months. She’d also love to tour.

Lester’s songs are rooted in pos­i­tiv­ity, in over­com­ing strug­gle. Her idea of suc­cess is mak­ing a dif­fer­ence with her mu­sic — and, she hopes, in­spir­ing oth­ers to reach out and grab what they want in life. “You al­ways have the op­tion to do what you want to do,” she says. “I hope I can in­spire other women to ful­fil their dream. It doesn’t mat­ter how old you are.”

SUP­PLIED PHOTO

Lisa Lester hasn’t taken the di­rect route to suc­cess, but she’s fi­nally reap­ing the ben­e­fits of pa­tience.

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