Children of rock royalty have to tread lightly while pursing careers in the music biz. For every Jakob Dylan, there's a Julian Lennon who's talented but could never successfully come out from under his iconic father's shadow. But that doesn't scare Lisa Marie Presley, daughter of the King, who has lived her entire life in the public eye. With a major-label record deal, two albums and a slew of tour dates under her belt, Presley is already on her way to establishing an identity divorced from her famous rock lineage '- and her infamous, short-lived marriages. "I'm just doing my own thing," she says.
Now What, her sophomore release, is a manifesto to this point. She confidently croons on the album's title track, "Dammit if I didn't try to do everything that I was supposed to." She says lyrics like this that bare it all are her way of reaching out to people who "feel like they're an outcast or not where they're supposed to be."
With the experience from her first album, To Whom It May Concern, Presley expands her musical boundaries on her new release. Where her smoky and husky pipes previously wavered, they're now solid. "I had to find my way with my voice, because it's not like a technically trained, perfect voice in any way, but I'm good at emoting. I had to finally get comfortable with that. So my finding confidence with that was a big step," she reveals. And where Presley's lyrics were once self-deprecating, they're now fearless. On "I'll Figure It Out," she sings optimistically about self-growth, and on "Dirty Laundry," a remake of the Don Henley classic exposing the malicious intent of tabloid journalism, she offers a growling tirade against mainstream media.
"I just think that our entertainment right now is insane; it's kind of a blood bath," says Presley. "What is our fascination with watching other people fall or be humiliated? I think [the media] is out of control right now, and I wanted to point that out."
She makes it clear that she will not talk about certain topics, like the particular legal proceedings involving a particular ex-husband. She's been able to eschew the negative media attention and instead focus on her career by knowing that her music is helping others. "I want my music to do for others what it's done for me emotionally," says Presley. "I just make certain subject matter universal, and I think that's what keeps me going."
But with a whirlwind schedule of promoting her new album, Presley often feels ready for a break. To overcome the slump, the singer thinks of the nonconformist musical antics of the Ramones, particularly the late Johnny Ramone, who changed the course of music with his raw and nihilistic musical aesthetic. Presley says that the punk-rock veterans' commitment to their craft is what inspires her. "[The Ramones] weren't really played on the radio and they certainly weren't glorified. But they were very committed to what they did, and they changed culture and music."
While she may appear, as she admits in her own words, "hostile" or "sarcastic," Presley says that's just her way of being guarded. She opened up a little when discussing what she wants to be remembered for: not for her rock and roll legacy, not for her past drug problems, not for her fleeting marriages or scandalous ex-husbands and, above all, not for doing what she's supposed to do. Rather, Presley wants to be known for her individuality amidst all the curiosity attached to her name: "I want to be remembered for having integrity and making my own way."