At home in Ojai, Elisabeth Corrin Maurus loved watching TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) talks on YouTube. So she was surprised and honored when the intellectual nonprofit invited her, under her stage name of Lissie, to play the TEDGlobal Conference in Edinburgh, Scotland, in June.
“It was such a cool thing, and I thought I was just performing between talks to keep people entertained,” she says. “But when I got there, they were like, ‘No, you’re a speaker.’”
She suddenly felt quite queasy.
Lissie — who plays The City this week, backing her passionate sophomore album, “Back to Forever” (practically a TED dissertation in itself) — studied the topics and shuddered.
“There were people talking about everything from growing leather and beef in a lab to a guy who had escaped from North Korea. They said, ‘You’re going to sing, but you need to talk about what music means to you.’ So I spoke about how music has always been something that people turn to when they need a boost, and how important hope is to any endeavor. And it went over really well.”
Lissie got invited to TEDGlobal by a friend who was organizing its music. She milled around happily post-gig, chatting with as many brilliant minds as she could.
“I got to meet the guy who took over in Libya after Gadhafi was ousted, and there were these really nice, super-hip kids in this amazing band from Africa,” she says. “The company that was being kept there was just so fascinating. It was a really eye-opening experience.”
On “Back to Forever,” the ex-Midwesterner’s philosophies are more homespun. Like Bruce Springsteen — whom she recently opened for, then met, in London — the jeans-and-flannel-shirt-sporting guitarist sculpts imposing riffs around simple socio-political metaphors.
Her plush ballad “Mountaintop Removal” decries fracking and strip mining, a swaying “Shameless” slams the cutthroat music industry, and, in “Cold Fish,” she thanks God that she has been allowed to get up and do something with her life.
“But you can’t eat or drink money,” she adds. “When I think about the long-term implications of things we’re doing to the Earth while putting poor, innocent people in harm’s way, it makes me angry. Sitting in my kitchen, listening to NPR, it’s like ‘I’m going to write a song about this!’”
Lissie catches herself, even apologizes for being long-winded. She verbalizes her concepts best in song, she says.
“That’s the beauty of being able to take a big idea and whittle it down to three or four minutes, and then have this great, concise statement,” she says.
IF YOU GO
Where: Independent, 628 Divisadero St., S.F.
When: 9 p.m. Saturday
Tickets: $18 to $20