The all-singing, all-doodling Melbourne waif talks to us about her path from Idol dropout to indie princess
Lisa, Bless this Mess is something our grandma used to say – it's a funny name for an album. What made you choose it?
You're exactly right, it's an old-fashioned thing, something you see in your grandma's house, cross-stitched on a pillow. I really like playing with phrases like that because it's something that everyone knows and it's a beautiful thought. You're just embracing the messiness of life.
You're embracing the messiness theme by doing a free magazine – fans can submit their doodles and you'll include them in a magazine you're giving away at your shows.
Yeah and honestly you should send my some scribbles because I need more.
You aren't getting many?
No, no, we're getting a lot. I've actually been really surprised by how many people are sending stuff. So many weird and wonderful things are coming in. It's basically a free little paper magazine that I am going to make in honour of the album. I'm just fascinated by people's little notes that they leave to their friends, on their table, or like little drawings that you accidentally do when you're drifiting off. I find there's a real mahic in them. I love the idea of people putting forward these little things that happen in the edges of their day, and grouping them all together.
What's been the strangest doodle you've ever received? Wait, let us rephrase that...
[Laughs] One that springs to mind is one that my publisher from the UK sent to me. He's got this idea of making a book that is all about animals that have superpowers. Let me pull it up on my computer... Well, this one is of a wizard that is the size of a cat, and then he has a cat that doesn't really look like a cat. And then there's some kind of dog in the ocean that he's written 'Sea Dog' next to. Someone else sent me a plan of their new kitchen. Someone sent a picture of an overflowing suitcase. Lots of things like that.
OK, let's go back a little bit, before messes and doodles, to Australian Idol. You must have had a bunch of offers coming off the show – you were robbed, by the way – but you decided to go with a smaller company in the UK. That was some strong thinking from a 16 year old...
Yeah, we're talking about the music industry here, so there are no rules. I find this industry endlessly surprising and fascinating... and frustrating, and my experience on Idol was no exception to that. I guess everyone just has a different path. I was lucky enough to hook up with some really intelligent management – they were really beautiful and nurturing and really helped me develop my music rather than just put a record out quickly. I still obviously have my own intuition about these things, but I owe so much to the people around me who really helped me.
One person you hooekd up with early was Dan Hume, of Evermore. And you've written with him again on Bless this Mess. What is it about Dan?
I love working with Dan because he is not only a producer, but he is a fantastic songwriter. He produced my first EP, which was actually his first production job as well. So there's a real feeling that he kind of opened up his production wings right when I was opening up my songwriting and recording wings. He's basically just a really talented guy. I find with my own writing and my own songwriting that it's such a personal thing. But I've become a lot less precious with it because there are so many possibilities after you write the song, and when you go into production. The song keeps growing. I feel like a I really trust Dan to go in there after the song is written. It's almost like were operating on a child or something – that sounds so full on, but it's kind of what it feels like. So you've got to have a good surgeon in the theatre next to you.
What can we expect from this new album?
I think content-wise it feels a lot more hopeful. I mean, there was definite hope in the last record, but with this album I feel slightly more grounded. I'm still feeling vulnerable, because I think that is such an important emotion, but.. yeah, this is always where I get stuck in interviews.
So we'll all have to listen to it to find out...
Yeah [laughs]. No, but I totally understand the question and it's solid. I guess production-wise the record is a little grander. I really wanted to get across the feeling of openness with lots of vocals, lots of people singing, and friends. Like Clare Bowditch offered her beautiful influence on one song on the record.
Finally, an inevitable question for someone who's first album was such a hit: just how nervous are you about the new one?
I won't lie. I've definitely got feelings of... expectation. It's that intangible feeling of almost like you're asking a question, an open-ended question to the word, and waiting with baited breath for the answer. But it also feels like a release of these songs. All I can say is that I get so much out of listening to other people's music that I feel like it's calm putting out my own music as well. I'm excited.
To submit your doodles for Lisa's paper mag, send them to email@example.com or tweet her @lisamitchell.
Bless this Mess is out Fri Oct 12.