We know her now as a superbly talented musician and songwriter with a lilting, sweeter-than-sugar voice that laced the tracks in her debut album Forever and Then Some – and she’s coming to San Francisco this Wednesday, the 6th of September. But 27-year-old Lillie Mae Rische’s love affair with music began years ago, right from when she turned three. Her father, Forrest Carter Rische, was a traveling musician who taught her to sing and eventually, together with her siblings, Lillie Mae joined in on the performances that the Rische family band gave as they journeyed along the American highway in a mobile home. Together, the Risches entertained folks across America.
This nomadic lifestyle gave her the opportunity to grow up in the company of other well-traveled singers, songwriters, musicians, and bands, but it didn’t prevent her from having a sheltered childhood, rooted in religious beliefs and protected from anything her parents believed was too materialistic. This strengthened the bonds Mae shared with her sisters Scarlett, Amber-Dawn, and McKenna Grace, and her brother Frank Carter Rische.
It’s a classic American story – the music, the highway life, the religion; but above all, it’s about talent. Later in life, Lillie Mae and her siblings came together to form their own band, christened The Risches, and were regular performers at Layla’s Bluegrass Inn, a cozy, spirited bar on Nashville’s Broadway.
To this day, Lillie Mae looks back on her time at Layla’s with an obvious pride, perhaps because that was the scene of so many unforgettable performances in collaboration with her family. Later, the close-knit band, whose bluegrass-pop-country fusion music was a huge hit with both audience and the press, changed its name to Jypsi and went on to release their self-titled debut album in 2008.
Aside from her musical family, there have been a couple of huge influences on Lillie Mae’s music. Among them was Cowboy Jack Clement, an exceptionally skilled musician, songwriter, and record and film producer. Clement recognized the wealth of talent that the Rische siblings possessed, and encouraged them to cultivate their unique voice. Lillie Mae: “Cowboy was closer to me than any grandparent I ever had. His influence on me is still strong. He always pushed me to play different instruments; he saw how I would pick up everything in the studio. He was a good friend to me and we remained close until he passed away.” It’s American song and the artist’s life that’s made Lillie Mae; but it’s the inheritance too, of the talents that have gone before her, than come through in every song.
And of course, no account of Lillie Mae is complete without a mention of Jack White, no stranger to great stories and great music from the American expanse himself. Mae shares a rare musical chemistry with White, and she recorded her first album under White’s label, Third Man Records, writing and arranging the songs while her brother Frank handled the guitars and her sister Scarlett strummed on the mandolin.
The album, which was released earlier this year, was loved by fans and critics alike – and now it’s time for it to hit San Francisco, Wednesday 6th September at Café du Nord.
Lillie May plays the Cafe Du Nord on Wednesday, Sept. 6 – Doors 7:30 PM / Show 8:30 PM