An authentic American singer-songwriter fast gaining recognition in the music world, Lisa McClowry has a voice to die for – a four-octave range with soulful R&B, pop and jazz overtones. Those qualities are expressed in abundance in her critically acclaimed major-label debut, Time Signatures, by NuGroove\Worldstage labels and distributed by Sony/Red. Embraced by smooth-jazz radio as well as other traditional and Internet radio formats, McClowry recently picked up a International Vocalist of the Year nomination from the WAVE Awards, formerly known as the Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards. McClowry was also selected to present an award at the American Smooth Jazz Awards in Chicago. A vocalist who writes about universal emotions and situations, McClowry’s songs are feel-good without sounding sappy, positive without turning trite. Combine that with a voice that’s been compared to Bonnie Raitt’s, and with one that’s similar to Mariah Carey’s – but with a grittier and warmer tone – and you know why the music industry is taking notice of this Chicago native. Time Signatures is 12 songs written or co-written by McClowry and Jim Peterik, who also produced the CD that was engineered, mixed and mastered by Larry Millas. Peterik is a Grammy Award-winning writer and singer whose is known for two of the most iconic songs in American music history: “Vehicle” with the Ides of March, and “Eye of the Tiger” (the theme from the motion picture Rocky) with Survivor. McClowry’s inspiration for her lyrics is taken from rich life experiences. “I am inspired on a daily basis. I can find it anywhere, but especially people, friends and family move me to write. We look at moments in life and can usually remember a song that goes with it – a first kiss, pivotal moments that form a soundtrack. Time Signatures is that soundtrack of people’s lives.” Highlights of Time Signatures include the bouncy, irresistible title track, the blistering “Born Twice,” the heartfelt “Come Dancing,” the empowering “Powerful Day” and the romantic and sexy “Waiting for You.” “That song is very sensual,” McClowry says. “It’s a story about waiting for right person to come along. Everyone can relate to this. The song has an R&B ‘slither’ to it. That’s my term. I like all my songs to have a ‘slither’ of R&B and soul.”
“When It Comes From the Heart,” a Peterik/McClowry bonus track on Time Signatures, comes from a documentary titled When It Comes From the Heart – The Journey of a Song. It premiered at the Naperville (Illinois) Independent Film Festival and chronicles the creation and birth of a song from the idea phase through songwriting and recording and culminating with a live performance. Chicago jazz guitarist Nick Colionne is featured in both the documentary and on the song. Colionne is also displayed on “Unconditional Surrender,” a powerful song McClowry originally co-wrote with Peterik for his 2008’s contemporary jazz CD Jim Peterik’s Lifeforce. “That song was written at a dark time in life for me,” says McClowry, “but it’s a song about hope, about taking your hands off the wheel of life and letting things happen, not trying to over-control it.” Although McClowry is new on the national music scene, she’s been a whirlwind force in her native Chicago since 1992, performing five to six days a week in the musical-savvy Windy City. Through professional appearances at clubs to all-request shows in piano bars, McClowry honed her musical versatility with pop, blues, jazz, funk and rock influences. “My background has forced me to learn all types of music, to know music in a deeper way,” she says. “I’ve been a bit of a chameleon.” Her versatility extended to national TV spots for Applebee’s (“eating good in the neighborhood”) and TRESemme shampoos and conditioners (“TRESemme, ooh la la!”). McClowry’s musical life began as a precocious 2-year-old, dancing and singing by the radio. She began piano lessons at age 7 and later joined a couple of local pop groups. She expanded her repertoire to acting at age 15, starring in professional & community musicals such as My Fair Lady (Eliza Doolittle) and Sound of Music (Maria). She earned a bachelor’s of arts from Columbia College in Chicago as a music marketing major who also studied dance and acting. She’s studied with independent vocal coach Janice Pantazelos for more than 20 years.
In the late 1990s, McClowry eventually made her way to Hollywood, where she was working on her debut indie CD, Spyglass Hill. Recording at Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo fame’s Mutato Muzika studio on Sunset Boulevard, she caught the attention of Mothersbaugh himself. Impressed with her voice, Mothersbaugh asked her to record and co-write a song for his latest movie soundtrack, “The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle.” That song, “Though the Eyes of a Child,” is included on Spyglass Hill.
McClowry then worked with Mothersbaugh on the soundtrack to Rugrats in Paris: The Movie where she provided the voice of the Princess. Although 2010 saw McClowry’s major-label debut, it also saw her returning to her acting roots. She was asked to co-star in a narrative short film that features a four-minute dance sequence/music video at Joseph’s Café in Hollywood in a segment titled “Vampire’s Dance” for the new “Twisted Tales” series by horror legend Tom Holland (Child’s Play, Fright Night). The video, “Born Twice,” can be viewed at lisamcclowry.com. In a way, participating in the project was part of McClowry’s lifelong pursuit of challenges. “I was afraid of vampires as a kid,” she says. “This conjured up a lot of old feelings. This was a far stretch to what I’d been doing, but I’m a big fan of jumping into fears, situations you may be afraid of. Anything that scares me I go toward.”
As McClowry becomes more noticed by the music world, she definitely is jumping into new opportunities. She’s collaborated with classic rockers Fergie Fredricksen and Jami Jamison, and recently recorded a Christmas song she co-wrote with Peterik called “It Wouldn’t Feel Like Christmas.” McClowry also continuing to support her solo career with live shows where her energetic and life-affirming spirit comes to life. For her, a strong role model would be the great American actress Audrey Hepburn. “I just love her class and grace,” she says. “It’s important for me to retain my femininity while being strong at the same time. That’s one of the powerful things we can do as women – to maintain our femininity and strength.”