It was just an ordinary Tuesday… until Don Lifted announced that his new album, 325i, is dropping on October 22! Lucky for you (and for us, tbh) we got a chance to catch up with Don recently on the record, his plans to tour, his artistic evolution and more.
Let’s talk about Don Lifted, the concept, the artist: Alero and Contour were albums that felt very much of a time and a place. How are you moving forward with and evolving this persona?
I think that theme is definitely still present, just a more expensive version of that. The new record is the first project since my December LPs that was written in real time, so there is very much a “coming to understanding” story arc that wasn’t in Alero and Contour. They were written from reflection and me trying to tap into things years from me but sang as if I were experiencing them in real time. My tense in both projects remains purely based in trying to capture nostalgia. So if we’re chronological about it within the trilogy people haven’t heard any feelings I’ve had about anything since 2010 when Alero takes place. So now 10/11 years later you’re hearing me talk about my life and love which has greatly changed and expanded. I’m a completely different human but still fighting every day to be better, to heal and to find sanctuary doing so. It may be less about literal place but it’s very much about a place within my life and my story as a whole.
We know one big thing has changed since your last album – you’re now signed with Fat Possum! How did that relationship come about? Was a label deal something you’d had your sights set on?
I think for years signing was a goal, but I had got to a place where my goals shifted to more sustainability based things. Being able to release, sell and perform music and it pay for itself. I knew I was making what feels like very niche music here in Memphis but I also knew I didn’t want to leave the city because it informs so much of the art I create. I had a very 50/50 way of going about things. I had my outward plan and the things I was telling people about wanting to stop but the reality was I was doing everything I could behind the scenes to give myself a shot beyond the glass ceiling I felt like I hit locally. I was constantly meeting with people and putting money together to take the show on the road, collecting data, doing whatever I needed to do while literally telling people I was quitting. Maybe if the plan didn’t work it would have been an easy transition…. I had covered my butt, I said it was over already so it wouldn’t have hurt so bad but the reality is I never stopped recording, I never stopped practicing, I never stopped planning. I was getting ready for what came next and thankfully at a show at The Green Room, Matt Ross-Spang who my manager Jim Thompson invited saw me and made some calls and next thing you know I was crying in the car getting emails from the folks at Fat Possum about meeting. It happened very fast but when I look at my life it was 10 years of working to get to the place where anyone would even be interested in investing in me. I’m forever grateful for them believing in what I had going on.
We’re SO excited that you’ve got a full-length album on the way after releasing two singles (“Lost in Orion” and “Golden (The Wait)”) this spring and summer. Those two singles have given us a preview, but tell us what to expect with the full-length. Did you write all of these songs in 2020?
It’s funny cause those aren’t my favorite records. Just the ones that “seemed” right. I have a lot more beautiful stuff to share and I can’t wait. I think just expect a lot of beautiful records. All but “Golden” were written in 2020 and the majority during the pandemic. It was a gift and a curse obviously the extreme losses the world suffered not to mention the damage done to our mental and emotional health, a record will never be worth that. It just allowed me time to focus and lock into self in ways I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. All of the unfortunate trauma and tragedy of the year from the protests to the pandemic, it also plays a part in the tone and background for a person locked inside trying to understand their multiplicity. It’s an interesting thing to be surrounded in but they both felt like life or death. So yea you’re getting another moody Don Lifted album….
We’re obsessed with your music videos and we noticed that one of our fave Memphis artists, Nubia Yasin, was the co-director for “Golden (The Wait).” What can you tell us about the concepting for that video and how the vision came to life?
It’s such a blur to be honest. We’ve been shooting these videos in like two days and editing them in a week or less before turning them in. It’s been a really fast process compared to sitting on stuff for months, sometimes years, before anyone sees them. Nubia is a brilliant creative and partner and it’s been great to have them working on these visuals alongside Studio One Four Three, Amber and Martin. For a lot of this stuff it’s been me bringing everyone imagery or trying to explain stuff I see while listening to the records. We pull a lot from painting and photography. It’s a really collaborative process once it gets to that place and I’m sure they can speak to me being hard to direct but I have these visions in my mind and my goal is to find people that I can trust to help me make them a reality and lead a set. Nubia and Joshua Cannon have done an amazing job of that, being leaders in bringing forward my vision and Amber has done an amazing Job of making me look like art.
Last but so very definitely not least: we can’t wait to see you live again. Your live performances always level up – when can we see you next here in Memphis, and do you have any plans to tour the record?
I can’t say exactly but within a month of this record being shared with the world people will see me. I recently signed with the folks over at Anniversary Group so I’ll be back on stage here and beyond…It’ll be nearly 2 years since I last did a show so best believe I’m trying to push it creatively and sonically in ways I never have. That’s my goal every time I touch a stage or microphone is to leave the audience with an experience they can talk about for long after….