For Immediate Release Oct. 26, 2015
Rising singer-songwriter Lily Meola readies debut album
featuring duets with Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson
Fresh off third Farm Aid, sultry-voiced artist targets early-winter release
Performance Dates Added
MAUI, Hawaii —Maui-born singer-songwriter Lily Meola is just now finishing her first album, but her name and voice are already familiar to fans of Farm Aid, its co-founder, Willie Nelson, and frequent performer Jamey Johnson. She’s duetted with both — not only at the last three Farm Aid fundraisers, but on Nelson’s To All the Girls … album and Johnson’s The Christmas Song EP. She’s also toured with Nelson, and her upcoming album contains their collaboration as well as one with fellow Hawaiian Islander Kris Kristofferson.
“You may know it: ‘Me and Bobby McGee,’” she says with a slight laugh, quickly adding, “Normally, I would never touch that song; it’s Janis Joplin, nobody can top that. But it’s a duet with Kris Kristofferson, so I feel like, ‘Yeah, I can put that out because he wrote it.’ I feel like I’ve earned the right to sing it.”
Actually, she earned the right to sing it because she can nail it, just as she nailed “Will You Remember Mine” with Nelson and “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” with Johnson. Allmusic.com called that one “a wonderful exercise in honky-tonk swing.” Their Farm Aid rendition of “Dream a Little Dream of Me” is equally alluring.
Meola’s got the kind of voice that can deliver swingin’ honky-tonk, cool jazz-blues or a gospel-pure “Hallelujah” with equal dexterity. Though barely in her 20s, she’s been cultivating that voice since childhood. Her singing career started when she was 11, after playing Dulcinea to a classmate’s Don Quixote in a school production of “Man of La Mancha.” The two began getting together for fun, and soon, her mom was booking them gigs around the island. She also happened to be close friends with the daughters of Bob Rock, Michael Buble’s producer. (She cites Buble as an early idol and current influence. He calls her “a force of nature.”) Rock hooked her up with David Foster in a development deal with Verve Records, which gave Meola her first recording-studio exposure.
Now, she says, “I’m addicted to it. I love going into the studio.”
She landed in one with Willie after his wife took him to hear one of Meola’s weekly gigs in Paia, Maui at Café des Amis. Her older brother, professional surfer Matt Meola, had been in a homeschooling program with Nelson kids Lukas and Micah, so the families had become friendly.
“One time, Willie sat in and sang ‘Crazy’ with me and told me he wanted to do a couple of songs if I wanted to,” she recalls. Of course, she did. They recorded the tracks, but nothing came of it until a couple of years later, when he asked her if she wanted to sing on To All the Girls … .
“Willie and his whole family have just been incredible,” she says. “I can’t even believe how much they’ve taken me under their wing and helped me out and inspired me.”
Her “adoption” into the Nelson family included opening for Willie and his Family Band on tour, and playing events like his South By Southwest Heartbreaker Banquet, where she also delivered a beguiling cover of the Norah Jones/Lee Alexander song, “Sinkin’ Soon,” for a Jam in the Van session. It also led to Micah’s role as her album producer; the pair recorded quite a bit before Neil Young summoned Micah and Lukas to join him on tour, so producer Eric Helmkamp took over the reins for the home stretch.
Meanwhile, music publisher Leslie DiPiero of Tom Leis Music, wife of renowned songwriter Bob DiPiero, caught Meola on YouTube and invited her to Nashville, where she had writing sessions with Steven McMorran (Satellite), Tiffany Vartanyan (Maddie & Tae, Demi Lovato) and up-and-comer Greylan James.
“I wrote everything from a country song to really extreme pop,” Meola says. “It’s been cool for me to experiment. I have so many styles that I’m inspired by and want to draw from.”
The album will contain at least two of her songs, she says, in addition to tracks written for her by her friends Tabitha Coldiron, Luke Houglum, Lukas Nelson, and Jim “Moose” Brown.
When she “dreams a little dream,” she imagines fronting Amy Winehouse’s band, The Dap-Kings. “I just love the horns and the funkiness,” she says. But for now, she’s just ready to get her music out there and build her own family of fans.
Audiences will have a chance to see Lily perform as concert dates are being added to her schedule. With a stop in the San Diego area at the Belly Up in Solana Beach, CA on November 4, she will return home for a show at the BMI Maui Songwriters Festival presented by Grand Wailea on December 10 at Charley’s Saloon in Paia, HI.