Singer Lisa Pac is Austrian-born, London-trained, but an international talent
Lisa Pac has everything it takes to make it big in Austria and beyond
Austrian singer songwriter Lisa Pac catapulted into my orbit when I saw her open for Simon Lewis at his album release party at WUK in Vienna earlier this month.
To say I was blown away by her opening set would be an understatement as, in my two and half years writing about music in Vienna, I have rarely seen a singer a crowd loved so much.
After all, when you are used to going to gigs in Vienna where the audience stands staring at the singer or band while they perform as if almost in a comatose state (sorry, Vienna, but you rarely have the liveliest of audiences!), to then be at a gig where the entire room is shouting, whooping, applauding and hell yes, dancing, was actually quite a shock.
As for Lisa, I decided a few seconds into her opening song, this woman was going to be amazing. By the end of her set, I knew without a doubt. She was.
Because Lisa Pac is one of those rare artists that not only has a superb voice, and writes fabulously deep songs — songs with heart and a message — she is also a powerhouse of an artist with a down-to-earth stage presence, and a lovely warm way of being that immediately draws you to her.
She is also so comfortable in her own skin, and with her own talent, when she dances on stage (and she dances a lot!), it truly is like no-one is watching.
So, after Lisa Pac’s superb opening, I was on my phone early the next morning hitting her up for an interview.
Because, if you are a music journalist out there looking for Austrian artists that have the talent, charisma and drive to make it big — both in Austria and internationally — someone like Lisa is an artist you definitely do not pass over.
An interview with Lisa Pac
I met Lisa this week at a traditional Viennese cafe on the other side of the city from where I live.
I knew she was going to be even nicer than I expected, when she almost ran across the cafe to meet me, gave me the usual Viennese ‘air kisses’ but with a warmth you don’t often get here, followed by a huge smile and an obviously meant “So lovely to meet you”.
First, the Viennese, who are some of the most reserved people you will meet, do not do that. And they certainly do not do it in a perfect British accent, which is what I heard emanating from this teeny tiny woman as she said hello.
An hour later I had learned, not only did Lisa Pac speak fluent English just as if she was British (hell, I’m British, and she sounded like she was my own nationality to me), but she also speaks fluent French along with her own native German.
“I wanted to be one of those translator ladies — you know, the ones that are in people’s ears when they are at events held in different languages to their own”, she laughingly told me. “Then I realized, studying for it would probably be quite dry and boring”.
Because it seems Lisa not only has an ear for performing and writing superb songs, but she has an ear for easily learning languages too.
But it was Lisa Pac’s music I wanted to hear about, as it is rare I come across someone this talented that is just starting out. Or so I thought…
I read somewhere your opening for Simon Lewis was the first time you have performed these songs live?
It was, yeah.
I mean, I’ve been producing the music for the last two years. I always wanted to produce music that I want to dance to myself. Well, I did it…but then it took me two years watching hundreds of YouTube tutorials to learn how to record vocals in Ableton (a digital audio workstation) – and how to set up a plug-in on Ableton etc – I had no idea.
After a year, I had six or seven songs and I definitely wanted to take them further. Then Simon asked me if I wanted to support him, and I was like “Oh my God, yes”.
So is this the beginning of your career?
No, it’s just the beginning of something new.
So, let’s start at the beginning then. Why did you move to London?
I wanted to study songwriting and vocals, so I moved to London when I was 19 as I thought it was a good place for music. And I love the UK songwriting style.
I graduated from the Institute of Contemporary Music Performance after three years, and then I stuck around for another year playing music all over London, but then moved back to Vienna because London is so expensive.
Back in Vienna, I set up my own studio and continued to do music.
And plus, isn’t it a lot more competitive in London?
It is. But that’s also a good thing, as you always want to be better than the person who was on before you. So, because I was doing lots of open-mic shows and other gigs, there were so many people playing and I would think “Oh my God, I can’t go on stage after this guy, because he’s so f*cking incredible”. Then I would learn from that.
But the weather, and everything is so exhausting in London – like, the lifestyle is so hard on you. It can be kind of depressing as well.
I mean, I love London in many ways – the nightlife, the music, the shows and the concerts are incredible — but then…I think if you come from Vienna, you get used to the more laidback Vienna lifestyle and so moving to London is a massive culture shock.
Then you get so worn out, you just want to go home.
Plus, to have the standard you have in Vienna in London, you need a lot of money for a nice flat, good food, even to be able to afford to go out for a couple of beers.
But then I’ve been back in Vienna for a couple of years and now I’d like to move on again for a while. I like new places, discovering new things.
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What have you been doing now you’re back in Vienna?
Basically just music.
I’m employed at a company called Mixed by Nikodem Milewski as a singer songwriter/producer. I work with artists that come into the studio.
What do you do exactly?
Whenever there’s an artist that wants to work on a new project, do some songwriting etc, I’m the person that sits in the studio with them, writes lyrics, writes melodies, I’m there when they record vocals…I love it.
But then again, I’ve always done that. I’ve written top lines for lots of other artists, and I’ve always loved being in that process of writing someone else’s story. Because when you write for someone else, you’re not so invested as you would be if it was your own story, so it makes it easier to write.
I like songwriting, and I can write songs. Why not do it for someone else? So I’m really grateful for my job.
You have one song on Spotify (which I love, by the way) and a remix, but have you recorded others?
That song was the first song I ever produced, and I was so nervous putting it out there. I did release two others, but then I deleted them because I wasn’t happy with the way they sounded (and she laughed). Now I’m waiting for the single that’s coming out in January.
But all the songs you heard at WUK (Simon Lewis’s concert), they’re finished. I’ve been working with some superb producers that have mixed and mastered them for me, and they are now ready to be signed hopefully to a label some day. Now I’m just sending them out.
How do you record in Vienna? Because you record at home, right? Your neighbors don’t care? Or do you have people hammering on your wall at night?
Yeah, I’ve got a studio set up at home. And no, my neighbors really don’t care. I love them so much!
I mean nobody has ever said “Wow, I could really hear you last night”. Sure, I have acoustic panels set up everywhere, but you would think you could still hear something! But apparently not.
I have my own studio set up, though, and it’s lovely and comfortable, and really nice to be able to record at home.
I also produce a lot of my own music, as well as work with producers like DECOY! and Intertones.
So you’re looking at signing with a label next?
Exactly. I’ve got a single release coming in January, but there are so many other songs I’ve finished and that I’m now sending out.
What kind of response have you been getting, because it’s a difficult thing not only signing with a label but signing with the right label?
It’s difficult, but I’ve been getting good responses but….I dunno, I’m still waiting. I don’t really want to say anything yet, though, because some things I’m getting offered sound really cool. But then I’ll get bummed out if they don’t work out.
Some artists just put out their own stuff, like I did with my first single, but labels have connections to Spotify play lists, and influential people in the industry. So there are lots of advantages to signing with one. I think in the beginning, you need the support of a label to start something big.
At the moment, though, I’m happy. There are just so many great opportunities that are opening up, like the gig with Simon, so I can’t wait for the next year. I’m so excited.
Were you nervous when you went on stage? Because you didn’t look it. You looked so comfortable up there, and with an amazing stage presence.
I was nervous before. But the moment I sang my first song, I was like “That’s my song, and I’m going to tell you that story now.”
Then I told myself “You should be more afraid of the reaction of what the story is about, because some stories are quite harsh, but you shouldn’t be scared of your performance because you can do this.”
I don’t think I would have been that nervous, though, if my friends and family hadn’t been there. Because my parents were there as well, and my dad’s a musician too (he plays clarinet with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra).
My old music teacher, who is kind of a mentor, was also there. All my best friends. My aunts came from Upper Austria. My cousins…..
This was a huge deal for you then…
I know! And I didn’t really invite them all. I was just like, “Yeah, I’ve got a gig. Who wants to come?” and then everyone came. So I was so nervous, because it’s difficult to perform in front of the people you love the most.
Did you get a good response from opening for Simon? I would imagine so, you were fabulous.
Thank you. And yes, it was amazing. There were so many videos being shot, I got like 150 sent to me after the show, and people were dancing to my music.
I was like, “Seriously?”, because the Viennese are usually so reserved that beforehand I thought “Oh my God, it’s going to be such a tough one”, but people were screaming!
And I thought, “Should I say something”. Like “Seriously, guys, you like that?”
I know! I got there and was expecting the usual semi-dead Viennese gig, with just me and one other person dancing, then everybody started dancing. And I was looking around like “What the hell. This is bizarre!” And then it continued on with Simon. Who was also amazing, by the way.
I know! I was in the first row, and he was so good. I’ve never heard him live before, but I was really blown away by his voice on stage, and his stage presence as well. When he was talking about how he was gonna go for a run in the morning, because he wanted to be fit for the gig, and now he’s exhausted and his muscles hurt. (and she laughed).
He’s really honest, and real on stage. I like that. People that don’t seem to be pulling a show, or it seems to be made up.
But you are really honest too and, from a music journalist perspective, very easy to deal with. You answer my messages quickly, you’re professional, polite and friendly (and no, that’s not always normal from bands and singers!). Is that something you learnt from being in the music business, or have you always been like that?
No, I think I’ve always been like that. My dad’s quite humble, and he always taught me to be very thankful for what I’ve got and to be supportive of other musicians. Don’t talk nasty behind their backs. Support each other. Be kind.
I always remember at a Robbie Williams concert, he was so natural on stage, and he was so normal even though he is huge. And he was so nice to the backing singers. And I thought, “I never want to be on stage and be like this James Brown type of really aggressive musician whose”….anyway…I just want to be nice. (and she laughed).
I was listening to your single this morning, and your songwriting is mature too. The lyrics, the whole atmosphere of the song is incredibly mature. It seems like you’ve been doing it for years, and it sounds so international.
Thank you so much!
Yeah, I’ve been songwriting seriously since I was 14 or 16. I wrote my first song called “The Puppet” back then, but then my style changed a lot. I went from being jazzy and soul, to pop electronic, and now I guess it’s probably R&B/pop/electronic? It’s really difficult to define your own style!
I think now I’m probably UK pop?
Where was your first ever gig? Where did you first perform?
My first gig was actually at school, as I always sang in school choir. But then I got into songwriting and pop, and my old school teacher really supported me.
The first Lisa Pac gig, though, was at B72 in Vienna with my old band. I was 17.
And what are your plans coming up?
I’m releasing my next single on January 18th, and then I want to get more gigs. I’ve written a couple of new songs this week, so I’m writing, recording music, producing, but I just want to release a lot more music.
I’ve actually got a label for the new single. The song is called ‘You&I‘, and I’m releasing it on One Seven Music, a sub-label of Disco:wax, so I’m excited to see how it’s going to go. It’s my first label release, so I can’t imagine what they’re going to do with it!
Hopefully, it’s going to be on the radio and we’ll get more gigs!
When you write lyrics, what tends to be your inspiration?
Oh my God…well, I guess love. Just love.
Pretty much all of the songs I played on Tuesday were about one or two people in my life that really changed my life a lot.
In a good way, or a bad way?
Both. I think that’s the way it always is.
And I’ve written some other songs – about having a night out, I’ve written a song about war – but the ones about love are the ones that move me.
Who are your favorite artists? Whose music influences you? Is there anyone that you think “I wish I could write like them?”
My major music influence is Jessie Reyez, as I’ve been really blown away by her music and her talent. (see video below)
I love Jorja Smith. She’s a relative newcomer from the UK. She’s got this incredible voice.
I would love to write like Ed Sheeran, obviously. Julia Michaels, she’s an incredible songwriter. I love Mahalia – she’s a newcomer as well. I actually saw one of her first live shows when she didn’t have anything released yet, and that was amazing.
I love Anne-Marie too – she’s got great stage presence. I’ve seen her live twice.
Final question. What do you think your chances of success are within the Austrian music scene? Especially as you’ve already spent four years in London. Do you think it’s a good fit for you?
I hope so.
I haven’t been gigging in Austria much yet, but I want to start growing a strong fan base here, then start gigging somewhere else — Germany, maybe go back to London for a few months?
But I don’t know a lot of Austrian artists that do the kind of music I do, because there’s lots of electronic music going on, lots of electronic singers, but they are maybe not as pop-focused as I am? They’re more indie, which I am in some songs as well, but then I just fell in love with good pop music.
Basically, I’m just hoping the new single will do well, and there will be a lot more gigs. I had so much fun playing at WUK last week, and want to do it again. Soon.
Other Austrian artists to also check out: