Andrew H. Walker, Getty Images Nine days after the deadly tornado that touched…
- Posted on Feb 19th 2010 2:00PM by Dan Reilly
Growing up in Illinois, the country-folk rocker's trouble with school started as a freshman. Her choir instructor kicked her out of the group for taking a role in a dinner theater production of 'The Little Mermaid,' preventing her from ever singing for her school, while another teacher would embarrass her by calling her "Ditzy Lissie" or "the booty shaker" -- a reference to her cheerleading -- in class. On top of that, a clique of classmates took a page out of 'Mean Girls' by repeatedly telling her they wished she'd die and leaving chicken guts on her car to freeze in the frigid Midwestern winter.
"I had all these intense things that were going on that I didn't really feel like were my fault," Lissie tells Spinner. "I was always sort of an enthusiastic, outspoken kind of person, so I think that some of my energy and excitement about what I wanted to do with my life. I felt like I bore the brunt of a lot of people resented that I was trying to do certain things, like 'you think you're some hotshot. We'll put you in your place.'"
Though Lissie dealt with it, things came to a head in February of her senior year. After years of performing in theater productions and working on her own music at home, she decided she wanted to share her passion for singing by performing 'The Star Spangled Banner' before a big basketball game that preceded a father-daughter dance for the senior girls. After a successful audition, the same choir teacher who had previously failed her said she would alert the band director that Lissie would perform before the game.
"All my family came in to town and I told everyone at school that I was singing," Lissie says. "I got to the game thinking I'm going to sing and the band teacher said, 'I'm sorry, the band always plays the national anthem.' I was like 'well, I'm sorry [the choir teacher] isn't here but I was told I could do this, my whole family's here, I told all my teachers and friends and I just really think that it's crappy for you to just decide that I can't do it. It's not my fault that you're not communicating.'
"I got real sassy and kept talking like 'please, please, please,' and he wouldn't look at me, wouldn't answer me," Lissie continues. "Finally, he turned and said, 'Young lady, you have nothing to say. You need to shut your mouth and go and sit down.' And I just snapped. I was like 'You know what? F--- you and f--- this school.' I don't know why I expected for anyone to be on my side for once. I started freaking out and hocked this enormous loogie right into his face."
Unfortunately, that spit constituted assault on a public official and Lissie was seized by security and placed under arrest. To make matters worse, when her father, not knowing his daughter had been arrested, went to take her home from the principal's office, he was tackled by a school cop, leading to a small scuffle that ended with him also getting arrested for assault. Both father and daughter were led out in cuffs in full view of Lissie's schoolmates.
"I had to go to jail and it was scary, but I ended up singing the national anthem for the ladies in the jail, which was kind of funny. I got kicked out of school, I had to do all this community service, I had a misdemeanor on my record," Lissie says. "My dad was publicly embarrassed, and they ran a story about it every day in the paper, on the news -- my mugshot was on TV. It really traumatized my entire family. A lot of people say 'that's so rock 'n' roll that you got kicked out of high school' but it's a long, complicated tale."
Still, after all that, Lissie, who's at work on the follow-up to her buzzed-about EP 'Why You Runnin',' got her diploma through another school and has made peace with her hometown, as well as the band teacher she spat on. "He was at a show of mine a few years ago. He came and talked to me and we apologized to one another. That was really nice," she says. "He said, 'oh, it looks like you're going to be doing well, so I guess I have to be prepared that I'm going to pop up in all your interviews,' kind of jokingly. I was like 'yeah, you might. Sorry.' I've moved past it. I've come full circle and now I love being home."