Lisa Fischer can sing just about anything

I have said this on more than one occasion: When God created the perfect singer, the result is Lisa Fischer.

Her instrument is divine. She has an understanding of artistic vernacular that allows her to cross countless styles. She has tone and technique that are nothing short of pristine, but she doesn’t eschew emotion or mood.

She’s a Grammy winner who’s been featured in the Oscar-winning documentary 20 Feet From Stardom, and she’s graced stages the world over with renowned artists of all time, including Chris Botti, Chaka Khan, the Rolling Stones, Sting, Nine Inch Nails and more.

Ahead of her performance with Ranky Tanky at Koerner Hall in Toronto on Thursday, Dec. 1, Fischer joined us for a conversation.

This is going to be your fourth appearance in Toronto. I know you connect strongly with your audiences. Is there something about a Toronto audience that you can put your finger on?

It’s just a sense of honesty and purity. I remember my first [time] going to Toronto and being in someone’s home, and they thought it was strange that I would come into the house and then lock the door behind me. I was like, “What? I’m moving here!” It’s the people.

You remain active with a couple of different ensembles, and this is your first appearance in Toronto with Ranky Tanky. How did that collaboration begin?

You know, we have the same booking agent, and so what happened was I was working at Sony Hall in New York and they started the show. I just sat back and listened to the sound check and I was blown away. [We] talked about doing shows together. The way that they approach music is just so pure. The whole premise behind what they do has a lot to do with my mother’s region: She was born in Statesboro, Georgia, and that region and Charleston, [South Carolina,] where they’re from, and a collection of other regions is the Gullah Geechee region. So, they’re reimagining the Gullah music. There are so many similarities and things that feel so familiar to me because of my mom, so it felt like it was spiritually the right mix.


You work in so many different genres. You can sing almost anything. How do you approach all these variations of styles?

I do give it a lot of thought, but I also give it a lot of air. There’s a thin line between preparation and choking the life out of something. You don’t want to have a baby and then imagine your baby’s going to be a brain surgeon, or whatever it is. Maybe you do want to imagine that, but you also want to have the freedom to allow the child to be who it’s meant to be. There’s a certain kind of musical preparation, and listening, and memorization, but there’s also this freedom that I love.

This interview has been edited and condensed.