Members of jamaicans.com have been sharing a lot of Lisa’s hopes and dreams over the past two years as a beloved Member (IrieStar), and we wanted to share with you a little of her background as well as the latest developments in Lisa’s career since her powerful performance in Star Search.
SD – Hi Lisa, thanks for taking the time from your busy schedule to answer a few questions for our Members and your new network of fans… Please tell us a little about yourself, where you are from, and what is was like growing up in your town.
LM – First of all, thank you SistahD for offering me the exposure on one of my favorite websites, Jamaicans.com. I love being a member cause I can laugh and I learn something new every time I visit. Anyway, I was born at Kimbrough Army Hospital in Ft. Meade, MD. My mother calls me her $7.39 baby, because at the time, she only had to pay for her meals because of my dad’s military status. We lived in West Baltimore City and when I was 4, my parents divorced. I guess my mom felt like she needed to get away, so we headed for the west coast. We lived in Orange County, CA for about a year, I actually liked it, but I think my mom was homesick, so we headed back to B-more. We stayed at my maternal grandma’s house a bit, then over to my paternal grandma’s house a bit (I loved these two women dearly, but unfortunately for me, they were GREAT southern cooks and showed their love by giving me food, thus the battle of the weight begins at 6), finally before my mom could get us a small 2BDR town home in Baltimore County.
My maternal grandmother, who I believe passed down her gene of good vocal chords to me (cause that woman could sang!), told my mom, that she secretly heard me singing and that I was really good,but my mom, not wanting to push me into something too early, said we would only pursue it if it was something that I REALLY wanted to do. Since I was a slightly overweight child, I was very conscious of it and thought people would laugh or make fun of me, so I there was no way I was going to stand in front of anyone and sing anything all by myself! I always would sing in church & school choirs because I felt I could hide very well and still enjoy singing. Also,at home I would close my door and sing my heart away to my little 45 records and if I even thought that anyone was listening, I would stop immediately.
It took a long while before I grew out of this stage and high school was even worse. So now when I meet up with people who know me from high school, they are truly shocked to see me singing.
SD – You have an impressive music and show related history of your life in Baltimore. Has singing always been a part of your life? How did you get started, and how did you know that this would be your path to follow?
LM – It wasn’t until I went to Bowie State University in Bowie, MD (that’s about 20min. from D.C.) and I started hanging out with some drama kids and fell in love with musical theatre. My first musical role was Missy form the musical, Purlie and I loved it! From that point it, it was on! I was singing in every theatrical event on campus, talent shows, doing karaoke and turning places out! One day, a few of my sorority sisters pumped me up to run for Miss Bowie State. I have to admit, I went along with it cause I felt outnumbered but I honestly thought, no one is going to vote for me, I look nothing like a pageant queen. But my sorors were right and to my surprise, I messed around and won, and not by a couple of votes either, but by a landslide! So I was able to represent my school in the Miss Collegiate African-American Pageant in Hollywood which was nationally televised and I placed as a finalist in the top 8 category. We taped it at the old Star Search Theater where Ed McMahon used to do the show and it was a great feeling, just be on that stage cause I always wished secretly as a little girl that I could’ve been on that show. After the pageant, I knew that I loved being on stage, so I can say this is the time that I actively started pursuing the thought of singing professionally.
SD – How did you get involved with Star Search and what was your experience with the competition like? Is it something you would recommend to others?
LM — In Feb. 2003, I was watching Star Search one night and both singers that were performing weren’t particularly too dynamic and I thought to myself, I could do that. I had wanted to audition for American Idol, but they have a strict age policy and I was over 25, so that wasn’t happening. Anyway, as the show was ending, Arsenio Hall says that they are holding auditions and to go to the website & ray-ray. So, I found out that they would be in Philly, so I lied to my job so I could take off, grabbed one of my friends and headed for Philly at 4:30am. We got in line by 7am and there were already 300 people in line. It was sooo cold too, mind you, it was March, and raining, and Philly. Well they let us in around 9:45am. I was seen about 1:15pm and despite the harsh conditions, I had a really good audition…this one was meant for me, I just didn’t know it yet. When I left about 1:50pm, there ware at least 1000 more people who had shown up. Later, a P.A. told me they saw 1500, that day alone! Well after this, I got a phone call in 2 weeks time that they wanted to fly me out to be on the show. It was a great feeling, because after dealing with that audition, and seeing all those people I didn’t think I had that much of a chance.
Star Search was a great experience for me. It definitely kept me on my toes, cause with all the rehearsing that they do, you never know when you’ll be singing all times of the day. So I learned how to really take care of myself like trying to get plenty of rest, drinking fluids, wrapping my throat and head so that I could always be in good voice. It was good to meet so many other talented people as well, and I still keep in contact with some of the other performers that I met. Also, speaking with Naomi Judd and Patti Labelle was probably the highlight for me. They are both very sincere, maternal women with nothing but encouraging words for me and I felt honored that they took the time to express their feelings with me.
I would recommend this experience to any performer in pursuit of making this a career, because the exposure was phenomenal ( I still get recognized even though it was 2 years ago) and there’s so much to be learned about performing on tv.
SD – Looking back as a younger girl, who you recall that stands out most as an influence in developing the beautiful and talented woman you are today?
LM – That role actually belongs to a few women in my family. Definitely, my mother cause she raised me. She was never a showbiz mom, but when I did finally express to her that I wanted to sing, she has always been my #1 cheerleader, not to mention, she is one of the executive producers on this cd. Both of my grandmothers, because they helped my mom to raise me and being strong black women from the south, they had to overcome a lot of adversities. They both had limited educations because they had to drop out to help with farming, but they managed to make it to the north, never went on welfare and always had a helping hand for others because they remembered their own struggles and where they came from. I always want to be like that.
SD – Which artists / genres contributed most to determining the style of Lisa Mack’s music?
LM – Being a singer, it’s no doubt that I love singers and being a child in the 70’s, I was highly influenced by Chaka, Gladys, Patti, Donna Summer, Martha Wash, Gloria Gaynor and all those other Disco divas cause they had big voices like me and it was easy for me to imitate. I used to go to my maternal grandmother’s church and I sang on the youth choir and being a black Baptist church, of course they got down every Sunday, so that’s where I get my Gospel influence from. It wasn’t until the late 80’s that I started listening to Reggae and bwoy, mi cyann believe mi ears. I’m thinking, what took me so long to learn about this music? Of course like so many, my first was Mr. Marley and I had a crush on him and loved his music. I also started listening to a lot of Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn and Dianne Reeves and this has helped me with my own styling because jazz singers are very in tune with what’s going on with the instrumentation around them and I am always working on my listening. While my cd is R&B/Soul, I am hoping to get a Reggae re-mix of one of my tunes (wink, wink Dahjah) and I am hoping that on my next project I can do a Reggae track as well as a Jazz and a Blues track.
SD – Early in your career, shortly after Star Search, you added another little something special to your future, with a lovely wedding – tell us a little about your husband, and how have you both balanced being newlyweds with the pressures of developing your rising career?
LM – This is a difficult question for me because I was never able to balance this. Unfortunately, things happen and we decided that we need to go our separate ways, so we are in the process of divorce. This has been struggle for me (and partially the reason for my long absence from the boards), but I know it’s for the best, so that I can be happy , and so I’m moving on.
SD – On November 26, 2005 you released your first CD “Dreams to Realities”. Where can Members and Lurkers purchase their copies?
LM – Go to www.LisaMackSings.com and click on Sounds. It will take you to CdBaby, where I have a page and they take care of selling my cds.
And…if any members (or lurkers) happen to be in the Balto/DC on 11/26, please join me at my cd release party in Baltimore. The details are on my website. I will perform live around 10:30pm and there will be a slammin’ after party till 2am. I can’t wait!
SD – Has a release tour been planned yet or in the works? Any preferences in mind?
LM – I wish…right now, I am very much a independent artist. I have been told by industry heads that I need to sell at least 8000 copies to get any major label interest, so I’m plugging my life away. For starters, I’m trying to get more club dates, in Baltimore, DC and Philly. I hope by the spring that list will increase. But if you want my preference? Jamaica, of course! For the past 2 years, I have emailed the organizers of Sumfest my bio & clips of my performances to ask them to let me have a small opening spot on International night…and I would do it for free, even getting there would be on me, but I guess they’re not feeling me yet 🙂
SD – What words of wisdom or encouragement would you like to project to the youth as they grow to becoming young adults?
LM – If you don’t believe in yourself, then nobody else will, so with that, stay focused and go after what you want, cause nobody’s going to do it for you. Be aggressive, but not pushy. And remember, with any talent, that you are always learning, so always work on enhancing your gift. Don’t ever think that you are good enough not to practice or take lessons cause there’s always something that you don’t know no matter how good you are. Lastly, learn how to take criticism like a pro, but not abuse. When people know you can listen & take criticism, (especially industry folks) they are more likely to work with you and recommend you for other jobs. However, just know, that everybody will not be feeling what you do (thus the saying, you can’t please everybody) so if you feel like you’re being abused, then you probably are, so don’t stand for it.
SD – Your story is truly one of Dreams to Realities. What lies ahead for Lisa Mack? When can we expect to see your next CD released?
LM – Yes, I can agree with that statement…right now, I just have to go wherever these cd sales take me. I am hoping that I can get another buzz going like I had from the show. It’s hard though when you don’t have that national exposure. But really, I’m down for whatever…my cd has gotten a few sales in Japan and the U.K., so who knows, I may be headed overseas, whatever it takes. This is a dream that I have worked hard on and prayed hard on and with God’s will, it will be fulfilled. As far as my next cd, I can’t quite calculate the time just yet but I’m hoping it won’t be too far off. There’s so much more good music that I would love to create!
Thank you so much for sharing so honestly with us Lisa! We wish you the utmost success with Dreams, and certainly look forward to hearing your magnificant voice, seeing you perform, and of course visiting us as often as possible on jamaicans.com.
Keep on top of Lisa’s success at http://www.lisamacksings.com/index.html
Fans can also order their copies by calling 1-800-BUY-MY-CD