2019 Kerrville Folk Festival New Folk Winner
2017 New England Regional Folk Alliance (NERFA) Semi-Formal Showcase
2017 Falcon Ridge Folk Festival Emerging Artist Showcase
2017 Rocky Mountain Folks Fest, Honorable Mention
2017 Mid-Atlantic Song Contest, Honorable Mention
2017 New Song Music/LEAF Festival Showcase
2017 Great American Song Contest, Grand Prize
THE TOUR PODCAST
In 2018, Lisa Bastoni was interviewed for The Tour Podcast, alongside such artists as Craig Finn, Marc Cohn, Alejandro Escovedo, Amy Helm and Lucy Wainwright Roche.
Host Ted Canova talks with Lisa Bastoni who reclaims her musical identify after a decade away, a path repeatedly influenced by Bob Dylan, busking on subway platforms, recording an exceptional breakout album, balancing motherhood, and the mysteries of her late-grandmother’s half written songs.
ABOUT (short version)
Lisa Bastoni is a Northampton, MA-based singer-songwriter. Following a ten-year break from music, her album The Wishing Hour (2017), produced by Grammy-nominated songwriter Felix McTeigue, was recorded in the kids' playroom in the wee hours of the night. It debuted as number one most-played on Boston's WUMB and led to a number of songwriting awards and an active performance schedule.
A 2019 Kerrville New Folk Winner, Lisa has shared the stage with Lori McKenna, Little Big Town, Arlo Guthrie, Regina Spektor, The Secret Sisters, Teddy Thompson, and many more. Her upcoming album, How We Want to Live, will be released in September 2019. The album, produced by Sean Staples, features guest performances by Mark Erelli, Rose Cousins, Lula Wiles and Naomi Sommers.
"Americana of the highest order...along the lines of Gretchen Peters or Patty Griffin." (Maverick-UK).
ABOUT (long version)
“Are we ready to decide how we want to live?” Folk singer Lisa Bastoni’s new album, How We Want to Live, chronicles life changes, including songs about the dissolution of her marriage and learning to live a new normal -- but more than anything, it finds the songwriter diving deeper into the life she craves. Throughout the album’s ten tracks, themes vacillate from romantic relationships to those with her children, parents, and friends -- weaved throughout, are her hopes for herself and the world around her.
As a teenager, Lisa would flip through the pages of her grandmother’s guitar notes, after she had learned to play the instrument as a 40-something-year-old. Her grandmother wrote her notes in the characteristic style of someone that age -- a particular penmanship we’re all familiar with, carefully crafted and written with a precision that was once taught but is no longer to be seen. After her grandmother died in 2017, Lisa inherited her grandmother’s guitar -- a 1971 Gibson J50 -- complete with her handprint on the upper bout, where the sweat and oils from her hand wore away the finish while waiting her turn in song circles. She also inherited her canvas bag full of handwritten cover songs.
“Looking through the pile once again, I was surprised to discover a folder marked ‘Private Album - Secret Words.’ I immediately opened it and found songs that my grandmother had written but never shared. They told a story of someone who was happy with her life in general, yet sometimes felt deeply depressed. Someone who was in love, yet sometimes longed for more. I don’t know how much of this was autobiographical, but I felt such a strong connection to my grandmother and to these feelings.”
One of her grandmother’s songs had a line that caught her attention, leading to the first song she wrote for the collection, the last track on How We Want To Live, “Pocket Full of Sighs.”
“It took my breath away, both the idea of songs that are never heard and to see a side of my grandmother that was new to me. The songs were so personal and real and relatable. I started to feel the routines of my own life shaking loose. As I was coming back to music more and more, I wanted to pursue the life of songwriting more fully. I wanted to reconnect with myself and my life -- I wanted to model for my kids that it’s possible to be present both to them and to myself.”
All of the songs on How We Want to Live were written when Lisa’s marriage was ending -- though it’s not a divorce album. Instead, it finds its creator doing the deep work of deciphering what she wants her world to be. Sifting through her thoughts and feelings about her relationships -- between her and a partner, both real and imagined; between her and a parent; between her and her children; between longtime friends -- and expressing what she’d like each of those people to hear and know. It was produced by Sean Staples and recorded at Side Hill Sound in Waltham, MA.
How We Want to Live is a contrast to 2017’s The Wishing Hour, which she recorded in the wee hours of the morning in her kids’ playroom. The album marked her return to music after a 10-year absence -- though she was once a full-time busker in Boston after college, making her living playing on T platforms in the winter and in Harvard Square in the summer, she eventually burnt out and needed a break. Lisa got married, then had her two kids, and became a stay-at-home mom. She experienced postpartum anxiety and depression, and finding music again, years later, was like therapy.
"I keep picturing my grandmother, who was always encouraging me to keep at it -- I was just getting started again when she died. I wish she knew what a gift she gave me when she taught me to play the guitar all those years ago."
Lisa started writing songs again with a renewed passion in 2016 and put out The Wishing Hour the following year, in 2017. Her return has served her well; she’s a 2019 Kerrville New Folk Winner.
As she began to dig deeper into her songwriting and recording career, it started to become clear that these passions and her relationship would not be able to co-exist. The title track of her new album, "How We Want to Live," featuring Mark Erelli, chronicles her feelings around that time.
“I desperately did not want my marriage to end, but it did. We tried to make things work -- I kept thinking that things might get better once the kids started school and we had a little more time to breathe and to create. At a certain point, though, there was a shift, and I began to think, ‘Well, how do we want to live?’”
“We sold our house. We’re on good terms again - and the world didn’t end. This isn’t the story I’d hoped for any of us, especially for our kids, but we’re learning how to navigate difficult situations, how to communicate better, and I think we’re better parents for it.”
That said, even when things are broken, there are slivers of light that are protracted off of the remaining pieces; situations that reiterate that everything works out in the end. The summer after the end of her marriage, Lisa met up with old friends she hadn’t seen since high school, and spent a weekend catching up, inspiring “Take The Wheel.”
“We spent a weekend together, the first time in probably 20 years - drinking, laughing, singing and sobbing over old letters and songs and mixtapes. Discovering that we were all in various stages of relationships ending or beginning, we were all a little bit in awe of the fact of so many years passing, and how much we needed old friends to help us through.”
“Silver Line” recalls what it can feel like to end a relationship with someone you love, but need to let go. While “Dogs of New Orleans” captures the lesson of being in the moment, inspired by a dog-loving friend.
“Never Gone To You,” with background vocals from Rose Cousins, examines a relationship with a parent who doesn’t have the capacity to stay involved.
“I know that I’m not alone in this experience of missing a parent who doesn’t have the capacity to stay involved. It’s been about eight years since my dad and I spoke regularly. As I was driving my own kids to school one day a couple of years ago, it occurred to me that I didn’t know if he was alive or not, or if I’d ever see him again. And how I’d always love and forgive him, no matter what.”
There are other tracks, though, that are a bit more carefree: “Nearby” is about those moments where love feels just right, without trying and without any effort. “In the age of dating apps, it’s kind of refreshing to think of a situation where you realize the person that you love is right in front of you and has been there all along.”
“Walk A Little Closer,” featuring Lula Wiles, is a simply sweet song about a first date. The bluegrass-tinged tune is helped along by perfect harmonies and Isa Burke’s infectious fiddle.
“Beautiful Girl,” featuring Naomi Sommers, is an encouragement to her daughter -- to keep the sometimes-softer edges that can seem like a liability.
“I love the image of a girl in the woods with a knife, bread, and wild dogs - it’s like a fairy tale. I really want my daughter to know that she is loved, and beautiful, and that all the feelings she has and will have are valid and worthy of expression. That it’s okay to speak up for yourself, and for others. I want her to keep that seven-year-old sense of justice and fairness, and to remember that there’s enough for everyone.”
The sole cover on the album is Bob Dylan’s “Workingman’s Blues #2.” Lisa maintains she’s happy to speak at-length about Bob Dylan whenever given a chance, but this one, in particular, gained special meaning during her divorce.
“With each listen, I hear something new - but the one line that kept getting me was, ‘I got a brand new suit, a brand new wife, I can live on rice and beans’ — thinking about the absolute courage it takes to start over. I will live on rice and beans if I have to — I will do whatever it takes to live my life the way I choose.”