Lis Harvey, a 24-year-old folk artist, is currently attempting to set the Guinness book record for the fastest tour of all 50 states. At the time of this interview, the Madison-based musician had already made her way to Kentucky and will return to Madison for a show Saturday, Sept. 14, at the Café Montmarte.
Badger Herald: Where did you come up with the idea to set the Guinness book record?
Lis Harvey: It was just like a personal dare kind of thing. I tour a lot, and I tend to do pretty intensive stretches and cover a lot of ground, and so I got to thinking about the whole country and wondered if I could do it sort of all at once. Then that became a “Why can’t you?” thing.
BH: What is the current record?
LH: According to the Guinness book, there is no record period for the fastest 50-state tour. However, it is common knowledge that George Thorogood and the Destroyers did 50 states in 50 days in the ’80s; they just don’t have the Guinness world record. So that’s why I’m setting the world record for the fastest 50-state tour by a solo musician.
BH: Has fatigue interfered with your shows at all?
LH: Oh, no, not at all. I don’t think I’m really gonna be fatigued, per se, until the Texas/Colorado drive. Later on in the tour, Helena, Montana to Laramie, Wyoming is a horrible stretch; it’s like 700 miles. I’m nervous about that, but I’m sure it’ll be fine.
BH: Since you’re based in Madison, will your show be any different here compared to any of the other shows you’re doing on this tour?
LH: It’s the CD-release party for my new record, which is called Topography. It just came out on August 1, and it’s been doing great. It got a wonderful review in the Washington Post that I’m excited about.
BH: Who would you say are your roots and influences?
LH: Well, my roots tend to be firmly planted in everything that’s around me. In terms of influence, it’s really hard for me — and I think for any folk artist — not to be influenced by everything. I grew up in a classical music household, playing classical piano for 12 years as a child, and I was immediately drawn to rock ‘n’ roll when I was old enough to have friends outside of my family. You know, they sort of sheltered me and didn’t introduce me to anything, and then I got really into rock ‘n’ roll. I mean, early influences in terms of songwriting were Juliana Hatfield, the Cure, certainly Violent Femmes; big influence on my music and my theory towards music, which is that simplicity reigns. But now, I listen to Tom Waits, Everything but the Girl, Ben Folds, and Beck.
BH: It sounds like you’re leaning more towards rock with those.
LH: Yeah, my roots are in rock. I’m not your traditional “folky” in that a folky’s response is always Dylan, Joni Mitchell, and Pete Seeger. And I love them, but my interest in that kind of music came much later in my life, and I’m only 24, so it’s kind of a joke to say later in my life. Yeah, I’m much more rooted in rock and pop. Folk speaks to me because through folk, I’m allowed to say exactly what I want. You know, I don’t have to write just songs about love and feel-good situations. I can write songs about the death penalty, and how it sucks, and I can write songs about euthanasia for elderly people, and all kinds of weird political issues, and that’s acceptable in folk music, and it’s not with pop music.
BH: What’s in your CD player right now?
LH: It’s a three-CD changer, so I’ve got Anne Heaton’s disc Black Notebook, a band out of Boston called No Michael No — they just broke up, which is terrible — and the new Tom Waits CD, Blood Money.
BH: How would you classify your music?
LH: Usually we say “intellicoustic alternative folk,” since there’s such an emphasis on lyrics with my style, and they tend to be so quirky and so much a part of what it is that they do, so that’s where the “intelli-” part comes from. And then, “-coustic” for acoustic, which is kind of a joke, since I always plug in anyway. Alternative folk sort of puts a little edge on folk, because really, I’m not so sweet. I try, but I fail miserably.
You can catch Lis Harvey this Saturday at Café Montmarte before she leaves for yet another state.