Lisa Bigwood
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Biograph

“We don’t know whose record it was!” The room sparks with energy and animation. Bursts of laughter highlight quickly told vignettes, as the women lean forward to add a detail, to get a word in. These are Lisa Bigwood’s three older (“Much older!”one says, to laughter) sisters, and they are telling about their “baby sister”, who has lately begun to assert that she was born to be a songwriter.

Lisa BigwoodThere is evidence. The record in question is a Columbia 45 rpm recording of a song sung by Johnny Horton, called “Sink the Bismarck”, and one of the sisters brought it home. They may never really know which one it was, but ALL remember Lisa, at the age of three, with yardsticks for oars and a cardboard box for the British fleet, playing the record over and over (“...and OVER...”) (“...I think it turned gray!”) singing, and being, for some reason, Winston Churchill.

(Lisa says, “I was THREE. What did I know of diplomacy? I somehow thought he was the captain or something. And that he looked like, well, Gregory Peck.”)

In third grade Lisa sang “Love is Blue” in the school talent show, to the amazement of her father, who said, “I couldn’t believe it. It seemed like she did it out of nowhere. One minute she was sort of shy, and playing with her little cars, and then she just walked out Lisa Bigwoodthere onto that big stage and into the spotlight, she looked really small, all by herself.” Lisa says she loved the song so much she “had” to sing it.(“That gorgeous part where it goes, ‘when we met...’”)

Chuckling, Lisa remembers walking into the kitchen where her mother was innocently cooking. “Mom, you’ve got to listen to this. I’m serious. These words are just so...so..incredible. I mean, listen to this: ‘there’s a lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold, and she’s buying a stairway to heaven. ‘ I mean , MOM. Buying a stairway to heaven. Wow.”

Lisa ran away and married the boy next door, and she worked at an old-fashioned neighborhood store, and later went to nursing school while he worked in a factory. She worked in the same factory, in addition to attending classes, in the summers. They bought an old abandoned farmhouse in a rural part of upstate NY, which had no furnace and was heated with a woodstove. After graduating from nursing school, Lisa began to work nights, full time, as an RN in a city emergency room an hours drive away. In a couple years she had a daughter, (“The most wonderful baby in the world.”) and then a couple more years later, a son. (“The most wonderful baby in the world.”)

(But wait. This is not sounding like a musicians ”bio”. It IS starting to sound like a song. Don’t you think ?)

Lisa Bigwood singer song writer Like every life, Lisa’s life had some joy, and some heartbreak. Once, during a time of heartbreak, it seems that her heart was actually broken open, and through the opening her true nature began to flow quietly into the world. Sitting on the front porch of that old house, she made up a song. It seemed to possess an honest truth of spirit, which some say is as audible as sound. She found that singing it eased the heartbreak pain somewhat, and so she played the song over and over. And over.

Now her story starts to sound a bit like a movie...trying to locate an old friend, she attends, with another friend, an "open mic". Keep in mind that Lisa is truly a rural working mother, and has actually never even heard of an “open mic”. Nor has she ever heard of anyone writing their own song. At the open mic she discovers that , yes, people DO write their own songs.

It’s closing time, and the club is nearly empty. The hosts of the evening ask Lisa and her friend if they would like to play. Lisa declines, but her friend says, "This is my friend Lisa. She told me that she wrote a song, but she won’t play it for anyone."

"Songs are meant to be shared," says the host.

A guitar is loaned to her and Lisa is coaxed to play. She is very nervous, shaking so hard she can barely hold the guitar. But more than 20 years after standing alone on stage as a little girl, she is there again, this time with her own song. "My own song,”she says,”that was everything."

Her friend and the open mic hosts are quiet for a minute after she plays, and then one of them quietly breathes the words, almost in a whisper, “that was a REAL song.”

Four years after that open mic, she had written a couple hundred songs, was signed to an independent record label, and released 2 full-length recordings of all original material. She was a finalist in songwriting contests at Telluride, Kerrville, and Merlefest, was on the Grammy consideration list with both CD's, narrowly missing nominations in several categories including Album of the Year and Best Contemporary Folk Album. Her song Woodland Band was selected as one of the best new songs of the year at the Merle Watson Festival.

Lisa BigwoodLisa proposes that some, if not all, of us, were given our time on earth for some specific reason. Hearing her story, and listening to her now, her intense, real, unaffected voice can inexplicably raise the hairs on your neck. Her guitar, and most of all her lyrics, are both seemingly plain but secretly complex. She takes her one-woman's-life and sees the parts we all (sometimes privately) share, and sings it so truly that you leave feeling very-not-alone in this sometimes hard world, after all.
To give a message of purpose, which is a song of survival…… if she wants to think she was sent here to do it, what's the harm in that?

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