Daddy's girl: At 35, Lisa Marie Presley finally enters the family business

  • Article by: JON BREAM , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 7, 2003 - 11:00 PM

Lisa Marie Presley likes to do things her way.

Backward, that is. And we're not talking about marrying Michael Jackson (huh?) or Nicolas Cage (duh?). We're talking about this rock 'n' roll thing.

This year, Presley has rocked in front of 60,000 people at the Rose Bowl, performed for millions on "VH1's Diva Duets" and sung on several talk shows. But the only child of rock's biggest star ever had no performing experience.

"I'm kind of backward. I'm going on tour to get my chops down," said Presley, 35, who makes her Twin Cities debut Saturday.

How is she doing?

"I see her getting hotter and having more fun every night," Chris Isaak, the headliner for Presley's first tour, said last week. "She's new at this as an entertainer. At first, she was kind of frightened, and then she realized she could do it. Literally on the third day, I noticed her going, 'Hey, the audience came to see me, too.' "

Presley, who released her debut disc, "To Whom It May Concern," in April, has done more interviews than concerts. Having an over-chronicled life, she's a pro at dealing with the press, whether it's TV's Diane Sawyer -- remember the surreal 1995 interview with Jackson? -- the Rolling Stone writer who visited her house in Los Angeles or the newspaper guy at the other end of the phone.

Speaking from home two days before her tour started last month, Presley discussed her dad, her mom, her two kids and some of her three ex-husbands. And she talked about herself and her career.

A songwriter since age 21, for years she turned down overtures to make a record -- especially from RCA, Elvis' label. She sent RCA a demo recording, but said the songs were "so damn dark and scary, I knew they would run. I knew they had some other idea for me. I wanted to be recognized as an artist, not a commodity they could sell."

She also had other priorities: religion and children. When she finally decided to go into the studio, her debut was four years in the making. Her initial producer, Glen Ballard, known for his hits with Alanis Morissette, wanted her to go in a pop direction. Then she teamed with Rob Cavallo, who had worked with Green Day, the Goo Goo Dolls and L7.

"I didn't want to sell out," she said, "and it was a struggle for me to do anything that could be on the radio."

A breakthrough came when Andrew Slater -- who had managed and produced Jakob Dylan's Wallflowers, Fiona Apple and Macy Gray -- became president of Capitol Records. He produced "Lights Out," Presley's single about her heritage that has received some radio play. However, most of her songs are as dark as Elvis' jet-black hair.

"I write out of pain because it's cathartic," said Presley, who likes to listen to Pink Floyd and Jeff Buckley when she's feeling down. "Maybe someday you'll hear some happy-ass song, but I don't think so."

Tabloid image

Although it's fun being a recording artist, "I keep feeling I've got to prove something," she said. "I had to prove that I was somewhat credible on my own. Substantiated as a human aside from my lineage and my marriages. That there was something else to me."

She was burdened by her tabloid image: The self-indulgent princess, the teenage drug years, her embrace of Scientology, her marriages to Wacko Jacko (for 20 months) and Elvis fan/fiend Cage (a mere three months).

Until this year, she avoided talking to the media. So what is she really like? Not surprisingly, she rattled off a series of contradictions:

"Tough, soft, forlorn, tortured, happy, schizophrenic, crazy, wild, naïve, relentless, ridiculous."

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