Diary of a Chameleon
The music of Lisa McClowry is an expression of the musical passion that inspired even as a child growing up on Chicago's Southwest side. One of a family of seven, and the oldest of five siblings, Lisa'a home was always filled with music of every genre, while planes near-by Midway Airport roared overhead. Her maternal Grandparents lived across the park and had an old Wurlitzer up right piano which Lisa expressed an interest in playing at age six. Her grandmother recognized Lisa's musical instincts and her ability to play by ear. At the age of seven Lisa's Grandmother arranged for her to take piano lessons. Taking all she learned Lisa composed her first song at age ten, winning first place in a national grammar school competition. In her sophomore year of high school, a friend introduced her to a neighborhood rock band called Mischief. The young tomboy joined the band where she played keyboards and sang backup, all the time hiding behind her shyness. But when given the chance to sing lead for the band, it was soon discovered she had a large voice and electric presence that was captivating. Lisa soon took center stage and became the bands lead singer. 'I remember the first time the band asked me to sing lead at a rehearsal, it was as if someone took a pop can, shook it up and then cracked the top open,' she said. 'It was the first time I felt that I was really able to express myself. Singing gave me confidence.' The band began playing the rock club circuit on weekends. 'We must've played every dive in the Chicago land area. But at the time we felt like we were rock stars.' Lisa was only 16 at the time so she creatively obtained a fake I.D in order to perform. To build her vocal endurance and explore her range Lisa began working with vocal coach Janice Pantazelos. 'I would take three buses to get to a lesson and two to get back home. It was miserable waiting for the buses during our Chicago winters, but I believed it would pay off someday.' Continuing her private vocal study, Lisa also began studying music at Columbia College in Chicago, where she later graduated with a degree in music, and a minor in theater and dance. McClowry worked as an aerobics instructor and sold computers to pay for her education. After graduating college Lisa began performing five to six nights a week with partner Thomas Linsk in downtown Chicago clubs. While performing at the well-know Redhead Piano Bar she met her longtime writing partner Lavant Coppock. Lavant had access to a downtown recording studio that sat above the famous Billy Goat Tavern. There they began collaborating and recording on a daily basis. "Many times we would put in ten hours of writing and recording before I would go and sing my usual six hour shift at the Redhead. I didn't get much sleep and had no social life but I absolutely love it! We lived off of Billy Goat cheeseburgers and Hostess cupcakes that year." On warm Chicago days, many of the writing sessions were spent away from the studio writing lyrics in downtown coffee shops and writing music in parks. 'Because there wasn't a piano available, I would bring along an acoustic guitar and began teaching myself to play so I wouldn't forget any musical ideas.' A few years later Lavant landed a job as a composer/engineer for Mark Mothersbaugh of the well-known 80's group Devo. After meeting Lisa and learning of the teams musical ambitions, Mothersbaugh allowed access to his West Hollywood recording studio. Coppock, McClowry and Mothersbaugh would begin to collaborate and write 'Through the Eyes of a Child,' for the motion picture The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle. Lisa performed the song in the movie and for the soundtrack. It was there in Hollywood that Lisa was discovered by film makers and selected to sing the voice of 'Princess' in The Rugrats in Paris: the Movie. She also sang the theme song 'Bridge to the Stars' for The Wild Thornberrys movie sound track. Back in Chicago Lisa received a call about a songwriter who is performing near by and promoting his new book. "A few friends called and said the guy who wrote Eye of the Tiger was going to be appearing at a bookstore in my neighborhood." The "guy" was Grammy Award winner singer / songwriter Jim Peterik whose history includes; Survivor, The Ides of March, Chi-Town Hustlers, and 38 Special. After Peterik's performance at the book store Lisa went up to him and talked about a mutual friend that he had mentioned in the course of his presentation. One week later, Lisa sent a demo CD to Jim and was called to his home studio to sing for one of his demos soon after. Over the course of a year the two would collaborate on several songs. Lisa continues to perform throughout the Chicagoland area. Music is her life, Lisa said, "it's what I do it's who I am. Besides spending time with my family, I am the happiest when I am performing or writing music." But writing the universal language of music is a struggle. "You have to keep writing and performing to stay on top and keep your chops warm", she said. 'Throughout my life and especially at this point in my life, I give my music all I've got. I just keep pushing forward.' Written By: Louise Brass.