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Friends & Neighbors - Going back to her musical roots

By the time you read this article, Detroit Lakes native Lisa Briggs will be back on her home soil, preparing to give her first live performance in the lakes area in more than three years.

"I'll be in Minneapolis on Saturday," Briggs said in a Wednesday telephone interview. "I can't wait."

Briggs, who is a 1990 graduate of Detroit Lakes High School, has made her home in Nashville since moving there in 1996 to pursue a career in music.

But she had already experienced some success as a performer before she made the move to Tennessee's musical mecca. Besides performing on stage at Detroit Lakes' own WE Fest and with "Prairie Home Companion" star Garrison Keillor, Briggs also released a solo album, "Coffee and Gifts," on the Fargo-based independent music label Barking Dog Records.

In 2003, she made a triumphant return with her new band, Bliss, for a live performance at DL's Historic Holmes Theatre. The band also performed at the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center, and lent their talents to a performing arts camp hosted by the Holmes Theatre. And that's not all.

"Somehow, we got roped into being judges for the Colgate Country Showdown during the Hawley Rodeo," she said. "It was a really fun summer, traveling around with those guys (in the band)."

But Briggs' return to the lakes area this coming week will be as a solo performer. She is slated to give a concert at the NYM Regional Cultural Center on Saturday, July 7 at 8 p.m.

Tickets for this event are $10 for Center members and $12 for non-members, and can be reserved by calling 218-385-3339.

A pre-concert dinner will be available at the Mills Creamery from 6 to 7:30 p.m. to celebrate Briggs' return.

"I just absolutely loved playing there (in NYM) in 2003," she said. "I played with the band I had at that time (Bliss)... we were there promoting our new record (Love and Let Down, released in 2002).

"This time it's just going to be me, flying solo, singing and playing guitar, with a pile of new songs," she said. "This will be the first time I've played some of these new songs -- it's going to be their big debut."

But other songs will be somewhat familiar to Briggs' Nashville fans, as she performed a few of them during a "writers in the round" show she hosted at the Bluebird Café in Nashville this past March.

"I played a lot of the new songs I've been working on this year (at the Bluebird)," she said. Though the venue was small, it was packed with music lovers who were eager to hear music being created on the spot.

The Bluebird's renowned "writers in the round" concerts use a format in which a small group of songwriters literally sit in a circle in the middle of the café and take turns playing their latest creations. The other songwriters are free to join in and make their own contributions to the song.

"They might sneak in with a guitar lick or a harmony part that's created on the spot," she said. "It's almost like going to see a comedy improv show... it's a spontaneous creation, not completely planned out."

But Briggs had to pay her dues before she could earn the right to host a writers' showcase at the Bluebird, which is one of Nashville's more well-known musical hot spots.

"I went through their (the Bluebird's) very extensive auditioning process," she said. "You're in a lineup with 100 other people -- they only do these auditions two times out of the year -- and you play a verse and chorus of a song. Just 30 seconds of one of your songs, that's all you get.

"If they like it, they will ask you to come back to play on their Sunday writer's show."

Once an artist has participated in at least four of these shows, which are held approximately once every six months, he or she has the luxury of calling up the Bluebird and saying they would like to host a show. Briggs has had the opportunity to host three or four shows at the Bluebird now.

"It's really fun, like playing in someone's living room," she said. "The Bluebird is a small place, but it's very famous, and very well attended. There's always tourists there as well as the locals. It's almost always sold out."

When she's not performing or writing new songs, Briggs' "day job" is as a music teacher, giving private lessons in voice, guitar and piano.

"I have a pretty loyal stable of private music students," she said. They have ranged in age from as young as 3 to as old as 73, she added.

"They inspire me so much," Briggs said. "I love my job.

"I love putting the bug of music into somebody, giving them that little spark," she explained. "Most people love music anyway, but when they realize that they can recreate this music they've heard and figure out how to do it... it's magical."

She also loves living in Nashville, where music is ever-present.

"There are so many great musicians here, and they're so accessible," Briggs said. "You have these excellent musicians just coming off the road from touring with somebody, and they love to do music, so even in their 'off' time they're still producing and recording.

"It's a small town, and a small network of people that you keep running into -- eventually, you will run into yourself," she joked.

But she's also looking forward to coming back to an area where a music concert is more of an "event."

"In Nashville, people take it (music) for granted -- it's everywhere," Briggs said. "It's in the Starbuck's lobby, the airport concourse, wherever there's an outlet that somebody can plug in a speaker, you will see people performing."

In Minnesota, by contrast, the venues are a little more "spread out," and concerts are more of an event than a daily occurrence. "It's fun to come home," she said.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454