A self-taught multi-instrumentalist who studied bass at Hollywood’s prestigious Musicians Institute of Technology, Lisa Lynne bought her own first guitar while in second grade. She later played with neighborhood rock bands and at 21 was working full-time as a bassist, playing mostly classic rock in bars, on military bases and at biker events.
Then came her encounter with the harp. “I was really into Pink Floyd and would play my harp to their records. That’s how I learned the power of what you can achieve by going at a slow tempo – a slow, powerful tempo.”
“I never felt that the term New Age really embraced what I’ve been doing. It’s actually more Old Age because its more inspired by Renaissance times, lullabies and the pop music I grew up with. It’s a contemporary acoustic sound that transcends traditional boundaries of Celtic, New Age or Folk music.”
It was a pivotal day in the life of Lisa Lynne when she hopped a fence into a Renaissance Faire outside of Los Angeles and joined a gypsy dance troupe. “We were actually playing arrangements of Iron Maiden tunes on mandolins,” she laughs. But that fateful day, she spotted Celtic harps and found that, amazingly, “I could already play it – it was love at first sound, first touch.” Since then, Lisa has translated that love into a nearly unsurpassed track record of success as one of instrumental music’s most celebrated performers. Her recent releases through the venerable Windham Hill Records, as well as her current label, New Earth Records, have placed in the top 20 of the Billboard music charts and held top positions on the instrumental radio airplay charts as well, garnering her in excess of one-half million in sales.
In addition, in 2001, she was named as the first-ever Musician in Residence at the internationally-renowned City of Hope National Cancer Center outside of Los Angeles, where her Harps for Hearts Concert and Workshop Series uses the harp as a means to promote creativity and well-being. In fact, Hopes & Dreams (New Earth Records), Lisa’s latest release, was inspired by her work at the City of Hope and is comprised of all new original music composed during the past year. “I was spending a lot of time playing my harp at the City of Hope and interacting with the patients,” she says. “They are my inspiration for this record.” The result is music that is at once soothing, hopeful and goes right to the heart of every listener.
A self-taught multi-instrumentalist who studied bass at Hollywood’s prestigious Musicians Institute of Technology, Lisa bought her own first guitar while in second grade. She later played with neighborhood rock bands and at 21 was working full-time as a bassist, playing mostly classic rock in bars, on military bases and at biker events. Then came her encounter with the harp. “I was really into Pink Floyd and would play my harp to their records. That’s how I learned the power of what you can achieve by going at a slow tempo – a slow, powerful tempo.”
Lisa was soon playing the harp at weddings, restaurants and in storefront windows. “I played alongside many an open casket, too.” Still playing bass in a heavy metal band, Lisa would bring her harp to clubs and open a song with it. She also brought her harp to biker bars. “The bikers would congregate around my van in the alley,” she says. “They loved it. I would show them how to hold it and pluck the strings. Now that was a sight to see!”
A street performer at heart, Lisa used a $100 investment to produce a tape based on her performances on the world-famous Venice Beach – and sold over 50,000 copies. Set to play an International Street Performers Festival in Nova Scotia, she appeared on a Canadian morning show to promote the Festival, saying that the record was in stores. “It wasn’t. But the stores were flooded with people looking for it, so we got Canadian distribution.” U.S. distributors soon followed and her original $100 investment resulted in sales of 200,000 units.
After releasing several CDs on her own label, Lavendar Sky, Lisa signed with Windham Hill Records, releasing two CDs, several compilations and participating in four Winter Solstice tours. After the label was bought by BMG, Lisa signed with New Earth Records. As the first-ever Musician in Residence at the City of Hope National Cancer Center, Lisa was essential in developing the first program of its kind that encourages patients to create their own music to express their feelings and take a more active role in their healing process. The seed for the idea was sown when Lisa comforted the devastated family of one of the injured students of the Columbine High School shooting. “I was supposed to play for her, but she was asleep, so I played for her family,” Lisa remembers. “It was very therapeutic for them. Her brother, who had been witness to that day, spoke about it for the first time.”
Lisa understands the beauty of simple phrases and gives a voice to that wisdom through the melodies of a timeless instrument. She has been fortunate to have carved her own precious niche in today’s increasingly uncertain world. But she has one outstanding dream: to find her birth mother. “I always knew I was adopted. She was a single mother and gave me up so I could have a better chance. I would like her to know that the giving thing she did turned out as she must have wanted.
“And I would like to play my harp for her and let her know that I live in appreciation of her and, most of all, I am at peace.”
Celtic harpist Lisa Lynne Franco began studying music as a child; initially attracted to folk sounds, she took up the guitar and mandolin, later playing bass in a local rock band. While enrolled at Hollywood’s Musician’s Institute of Technology, she concurrently enjoyed a thriving career as a session player; upon discovering the harp in 1985, Franco also formed a progressive rock outfit dubbed Bigger Than Blue. After landing a deal with the German label Innovative Concepts, however, student visa problems forced the band to dissolve, so Franco instead played all the instruments on 1991’s debut LP Bigger Than Blue; three more efforts for the label – Romantic Dreams, My Way and Silken Wings – followed while she formed a new group, Celestial Winds, which earned a significant following playing the boardwalk along Venice Beach. A compilation of material from the group’s cassette releases, Celestial Winds I, appeared in 1994, followed later that year by Christmas Morning; after 1995’s Oceans of Love, however, Franco returned to her solo career, issuing Moonsongs the next year. A pair of independent 1997 LPs, Love & Peace and Fairy Tales (the latter recorded with Elfin Love Tribe), arrived simultaneously with a number of appearances on Windham Hill label compilations; Franco officially joined the record company in 1998, with her debut Daughters of the Celtic Moon credited simply to Lisa Lynne. Seasons of the Soul appeared in 1999. - Jason Ankeny, All Music Guide
Read our interview with Lisa Lynne from 2001.