Lisa Marie Presley has several Fort Worth connections. Her latest album, Storm & Grace, was produced by T Bone Burnett. Elvis at 21, an exhibit featuring her famous father in photos taken long before she was born, just concluded a run at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History. Perhaps most notably, the Lisa Marie, the private Convair 880 jet that Elvis named for his daughter, was refurbished to his design requirements at Fort Worth’s Meacham Field.
But it’s mere coincidence that Presley’s show Saturday night at Queen City Music Hall was a late addition to a previously announced tour that’s taking her through small halls and festivals coast to coast, including a Sept. 21 show in her birthplace of Memphis, a city forever connected with her father.
“The music’s very intimate,” Presley says, adding with a bit of a chuckle, “It’s not for a stadium — I couldn’t even imagine that. For me, I’m more comfortable in this sort of venues. I love theaters, clubs, those kinds of venues. I think they work well with the tone of the music.” (During this tour, Presley is also working with World Vision, a charity dedicated to fighting childhood poverty and hunger around the world, and pamphlets with information about sponsoring children will be available).
There will always be Elvis connections, but this show is very much about Lisa Marie Presley and her voice — a smoky, blues-inflected instrument used to good effect on the aptly titled Storm & Grace, her first album in seven years and one that has moments of stormy toughness and graceful beauty.
“I had gone through a lot,” Presley says in a phone interview. “I think my first two records, I was kind of finding my way and needing to grow, but I had to kind of do it in front of everybody. There was always a question of where to market me. I think there was a push to get me into pop under previous associations, and that didn’t really work out, because that wasn’t where my heart was.”
Presley, now 45, made her recording debut in 2003 with To Whom It May Concern, but says she was writing in a variety of forms — poetry, short stories and songs — long before that. She says she has always considered herself a singer-songwriter, and she loves performing, but she needed the long break between 2005’s Now What and Storm & Grace, released in 2012.
“Everything around me kind of went up in flames,” Presley says. “My stability, all the things I was surrounded by, went away. I opened my eyes and realized that things weren’t always as they appeared. I was in a very toxic situation and got rid of everything and everyone, including my last record company, and moved as far away as I could because I wanted the freedom to see what would happen.”
Presley went to England (she still splits her time between there and L.A.), writing some 30 songs there, working with such writers as Richard Hawley of alternative-pop group Pulp and eclectic musician Ed Harcourt. She had wanted to work with Burnett, who was impressed enough with the demos to produce the album, skewing toward its rootsier material more than the poppier songs Presley had co-written.
“He responded immediately, which I was overjoyed with, because I felt like my light was going out,” Presley says. “When he agreed to take on the project, it sort of resurrected my flame. I had more confidence and I was really thankful that he believed in me and took me under his wing a little bit. Actually, a lot.”
It wasn’t all about writing and recording. During the seven-year gap between albums, Presley married Michael Lockwood, a guitarist who played on both Now What (on which he co-wrote songs) and Storm & Grace. She gave birth to twins, Harper and Finley, in October 2008. (She has two adult children, Riley and Benjamin Keough, by first husband Danny Keough.)
She was also famously married to Michael Jackson and to actor Nicolas Cage, and while she talks about shedding parts of her life, things like these high-profile marriages and her famous parents will always stick to her (Elvis and her mother, actress Priscilla Presley, divorced when Lisa Marie was 4 years old, and she spent time at both of their homes — including Graceland, where she was staying when her father died when she was 9 years old). But she’s standing on her own voice while doing the best work of her career.
“I wouldn’t say [my life’s] been turbulent,” she says. “It’s been interesting. It’s different, but I wasn’t born into a normal situation anyway. I didn’t live normally, I wasn’t raised normally, I wasn’t raised by normal standards. I’m very strong, but everyone has their moment where they can break. Life can kick you pretty hard. But I’ve had my share of hits, and I think this record captures that as well.”
Presley understands that there are some people who want to see her because of her father, and says that there’s often a faction that came for her and another that came because of him. The blend tends to differ depending on the city, and she adds that she has a fairly big gay following as well. But Presley’s tour has taken her to places where her father played, and at some of them, his shadow is larger than at others.
“At the Grand Ole Opry, when I played there, there was a shadow for sure,” she says. “I was really intimated by it the most, because he’d played there and was told not to come back a long time ago. That I was the next Presley that was on that stage was a lot to take on.”
Because of her father’s legacy, she had some hesitation about taking on her own recording career. But music has been too important to her, so she found her own path.
“Music has saved my life so many times,” she says. “If I could help people and do something productive with it, it’s in my heart and it’s what I feel and what I love doing the most, whether I was a kid writing or when I was in my 20s and started writing music. ... I meet people after the show, and they tell me what songs have done, how they’ve changed them, gotten them through something — that’s pretty much what feeds me.”