Singer says it loud and clear: I Have Arrived
ARTS & LIFE
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.”
Lisa Lester hasn’t taken the direct route to success, but she’s finally reaping the benefits of patience.