Lisa Vitale of Duo Terror Jr is On the Road Again
One half of alternative genre chameleons Terror Jr, Lisa Vitale is sitting on a bed, eating a biscotti a couple of hours before she gets on stage when we catch up with her. “I can’t begin to describe how incredible it is to be on the road again,” she says. “For a while I was asking myself: do you still have a job in music? Are you still doing this? Seeing people enjoying your songs in person, it’s the most rewarding part of this industry. So yes, I cannot stress enough that I am so grateful to be on the road and hanging with Terror Jr fans in person again.”
It doesn’t take us long to get into her relationship with the great Linda Perry (also featured in this month’s issue). At this year’s SXSW, Perry’s EqualizeHer initiative hosted a stage which saw Vitale both performing live and also being part of a panel with Perry herself. “Linda called me up out of the blue one day and said ‘do you want to come and perform at my SXSW showcase, bitch?’” Vitale exclaims. “And I was like ‘hell yeah!’” They’ve been friends for nearly 10 years it turns out, and Vitale’s boyfriend Luis Flores is Perry’s right hand man at the studio.
I didn’t want our relationship to be rooted in nepotism. So I said to myself: ‘you’re going to become friends with Linda Perry and it’s gonna happen naturally.’ After a few years in LA trying to get my music career going, I started a band, Terror Jr, with my friend David Singer-Vine in 2016. We had a couple early songs take off online and before I knew it we were signing to Atlantic records. Linda reached out to me around then- she called me and gave me some of the most solid advice about what to say ‘yes’ to and what to say ‘no’ to. She told me not to take shit from anyone and taught me to stick up for myself at a time when I was pretty meek and shy. That was how our relationship started.
It’s this relationship that saw Vitale singing backing vocals on the Perry-produced Dolly Parton album for the soundtrack of Dumplin’. An album that has one hell of a line-up: alongside Vitale and Perry including Macy Gray, Sia, Mavis Staples and actress Jennifer Aniston. “It was truly an unforgettable experience!” Vitale laughs, “I sang in the studio with the entire band and Linda recorded us live on the spot–drums, guitars, keys and me. I’d never experienced that before. I was used to singing over a beat into a laptop. It was also the first time I sang with musicians who are such pros at their instruments.” Initially brought in to be a demo vocalist on the record—essentially performing Dolly’s parts as a placeholder—the iconic Parton decided to keep Vitale’s voice as backing vocals. “When I met Dolly afterwards, she took my hand in both of her hands and told me I did a great job. It’s something I’ll always cherish. I teared up because not only is she one of the greatest female musicians and songwriters…telling me I did a good job singing her songs, she also reminded me so much of my grandma, both being generous and loving Southern women.”
As well as her Terror Jr work, Lisa writes for other artists, notably H.E.R., Natasha Bedingfield, Bella Thorne and Dev. She’s an artist that moves between genres (both with writing and performing) with ease, adding elements of hip-hop, reggae, indie, rock to Terror Jr records or as a gun for hire. “I think that the creative process should always be changing,” she explains.
If I’m doing the same thing over and over again, I might as well have a normal day job. It’s easy to bore yourself, even in music. Lately what I’ve been doing with my band is we write a song and cut a demo. Then we listen for a day or two, go back in and completely redo the production, only take the strongest parts of the song and start it over again. We’ve been getting some really great music by approaching it that way. For a while we were just writing songs and putting them out quickly. I don’t think one way is better than the other. What’s important is always changing it up.