It was a beautiful Sunday night in May when I had just walked out of a movie theater located on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica. Third Street is home to many different shops and restaurants but more frequently, I’ve been seeing musicians gather there to busk and play their preferred instruments. Growing up in Los Angeles, I’ve been to Third Street many times and usually walked by and laughed at the strange performance artists that perform on the busy street – anything from K-Pop Break Dancers to 60-year-old Opera singers. It was never a place in my mind to discover musicians. Well, until this night.
As i continued to walk to my car, I heard a young female vocalist with a full sounding acoustic guitar. She had just finished her song and I paused in the street because I wanted to hear her next song. She began to sing and I thought to myself, “Wow, she has a great sound.” but then continued to walk to my car. Until I heard her begin the chorus.
Few people practice and play percussion with their guitars. It’s a fun way of using the body and strings of the guitar as a percussion instrument as you tap and hit the guitar in different places creating fun and new sounds. Whenever I hear it, I get really excited and this young female musician was killing it on the streets of Santa Monica.
I turned around and listened to her finish her song and took down her information. I had to talk with her and share her music with you all. Enjoy!
I had a chance to sit down with Lisa Haagen and talk a little more with her and her story. Here’s what she had to say:
Why California? What about this state drew you to it?
The draw was all very much interlaced with my decision to pursue music as a career. There was a couple of layers to the decision to move to California, but the core of it was that I have always been a really content person- I loved my home town and never felt any need to leave. Santa Monica however worked it’s way into my mind and the persistence of it stuck with me and I thought I should listen to that. I had been to California a number of times in my youth, but I had never spent a significant amount of time here.
Do you have any musicians or bands that have been a big influence for you as an artist?
I grew up listening to a really broad range of music, and I think that the spectrum had more of an effect than any specific artist on my style. I always was drawn to lyrics, and really love artists that can be silly and serious at the same time- like Regina Spektor and Ingrid Michaelson. The thing that got me started writing however was definitely the people I was around…the everyday life of those close to me. Even now they are who I look to for inspiration.
What was the first instrument you learned to play? How old were you? Do you have a favorite?
This answer gets complicated. I started piano lessons when I was 3, drum lessons at 4, and guitar lessons at 5. At the time, I was much more interested in sports so I definitely didn’t take full advantage of the cool opportunity that it was. My siblings were much better at capitalizing on it at the time. Even though the technical aspects didn’t stick I do think it helped me develop a good ear for music. When band started in school I transitioned to the bass guitar and continued to play the drumset for jazz band through the end of high school. When I was 17 I brought an electric guitar with me to college with the intent to learn it, and found myself being completely sucked in by songwriting. One of my buddies had an acoustic guitar that they lent me for a while and that marked the point where I got really into it. I was messing around on the piano a bit during that time frame as well, and have recently started writing a little more evenly across the two. I can’t say I prefer one- guitar has definitely had the biggest effect on my songwriting, especially as I’m getting more into the percussive styling. I’ve really enjoyed getting a chance to continue with all of them in arranging my songs, but playing live with a band I tend to stick with the acoustic guitar and have other musicians play the additional parts with me. Because of that, I really love playing with other musicians as well because I get a chance to jump on the other instruments live. For instance, I am about to do a west coast tour with another singer-songwriter and we are providing backing support for each-others sets- in this case I get to play percussion and I’m really looking forward to it.
If you could tour with any musician (dead or alive) who would you want to tour with?
Oy. Ben Howard, Andrew McMahon, Mat Kearney, Sara Barielles, Brandi Carlile…… there are so many!
What kind of advice would you give to other musicians that want to come to California to pursue their dreams?
I don’t know that my advice is specific to California – but I think I’d just say wherever you are at, try to play in front of people as often as possible. It helps you hone your craft – live audiences help you figure out what works and what doesn’t. Failure is a huge part of artist growth. You can’t be afraid of it – now is the time to get that all out before anyone knows who you are. Playing live often also lets you form a lot of good connections. One of the best things you can do is be around other musicians because those are people that you can learn from and also the people you will be building shows with.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lindsay Vacek has a passion for style, details and design. As a Fashion Editorial Photographer, she's worked in the Entertainment Industry for over 10 years and has a love for adventure and travel. She spends her spare time globe-trotting her way through foreign countries and loves new cultures, food, music, and arts.
Being a California Native, Lindsay loves meeting new people and sharing her version of life with others. With an infinite list of things-to-do, places to go and sights to see - she believe everyone can have a little more California in their own lives.