It seems Goodyear’s loss was music’s gain.
Rather than the rote replies of “actor,” “poet” or “teacher” when asked what he’d have chosen if not for his actual career track – John Lisi, in keeping with the decidedly atypical approach he carries from studio to stage, thinks a few thousand feet outside the box.
“I knew since the age of 5 or 6 that I was going to be a musician when I grew up,” he said, “but to be honest if I wasn’t a musician I would love to be a blimp pilot.”
And while he ultimately went for a more gravity-based profession than steering free-flying aircraft, neither the zigzagged path he’s followed since nor the variety of work he’s produced while doing so is any less eclectic than the initial reply might suggest. He played, sang and co-wrote on Rockin’ Tabby Thomas’ “Long Live the King of the Swamp Blues” in 1998, then, a year later, released his debut “Blues For Chloe” – featuring guest bluesmen Big Jay McNeely, Henry Gray, Larry Garner and J. Monque’D.
His first album with Delta Funk, “Preachin’ to the Choir,” was released in 2000 and yielded the follow-up “Can Ya’ Dig It” in 2004. Elsewhere, he co-wrote and played on Big Chief Monk Boudreaux’s “Rising Sun” in 2006, teamed up with Cody Dickenson and Jimbo Mathus on “Dead Cat Bounce” in 2007 and was prominently featured on the Devil Dolls’ “Return of Eve” in 2008. He’s also co-fronted the band Six Strings Down, and, in 2009, received the Slim Harpo Award for Blues Pioneer, alongside Dr. John and Alvin Batiste.
Bottom line, Lisi not only thrives on the work…he loves what he does saying “I have an unshakable belief in my original songs and being able to deliver them live, as well as honestly enjoying creating and performing,” he said. “I don’t have to do this. I get to do this.”
The creative edge was honed along the way on many stops since he first caught the musical bug as a kid in his native New Jersey. A love affair with the trumpet was soon supplemented when he saw an old film of the original Woodstock festival in 1969 and was instantly captivated by the guitar prowess of Jimi Hendrix, Pete Townsend and Alvin Lee, among others.
An initial move to the Gulf Coast brought stints in several Tampa, Fla.-based bands, with which he began developing the dynamic stage presence that’s ultimately become a trademark. From there he went to Los Angeles and worked in genres from blues and funk to rockabilly, swing and metal, toured with several acts and picked up studio guitar work for major network television shows including L.A. Law and Quantum Leap. Relocating his base to New Orleans provided opportunities to play with several Delta staples, including Dr. John, Cyril Neville, Big Chief Monk Boudreaux, Raful and Kenny Neal, Rockin’ Tabby Thomas, Bryan Lee, Galactic, Tab Benoit and Jason Ricci.
“In Jersey, I learned to play with drive and intensity and in Florida we would play insanely long shows. It was a musical marathon training camp,” he said. “In California, I learned to appreciate it is a business and to approach it that way, but in Louisiana I learned to play with soul and not think about what I learned everywhere else. I did set out to play, write and sing. I honestly didn’t think there was any other choice. It’s nice not having to rely or wait around on anyone to finish songs.”
”His offbeat outlook, distinctive voice and instrumental versatility were all put to work on his 2010 release, “Super-Most-Fantastic!” a compilation of eclectic blues that yielded Lisi a glowing review from New Orleans-based OffBeat magazine, which said he “snorts and stomps like an unholy cross between the Chili Peppers’ ‘BloodSugarSexMagic’ and Led Zeppelin’s more wonderfully obnoxious moments on ‘Physical Graffiti.’ The future of New Orleans music.” Other critiques from Living Blues magazine, the Orlando Sentinel newspaper and LiveNewOrleans.com website are similarly positive, calling Lisi “reminiscent of John Hammond Jr., “ saying he “shows that some blues musicians still write songs like the old masters did” and recommended fans “go see (his) band before they get too big for your britches.”
“It’s fun to mix it up while maintaining some form of a musical identity. I love for the band to flex our musical muscles a bit live. When you make a record you owe it to the song to keep things brief – the old saying, ‘Don’t bore us. Get to the chorus.’ If the audience can walk away shocked and amazed, then I’ve done my job – that and with a handful of our music!”
“Stunning guitar riffs with blues and funk to create music that is just downright fun.” – Gia Pecoraro, Times Picayune
“Amidst a plethora of talent, the young man made a name for himself through his offbeat portrayals of life, the honesty ringing from his sultry voice and his ability to make his fingers fly…as the mood took him.” – Times Picayune