Interview with Lisa Panagos
by Blake Wright
Lisa Panagos has mastered one of the most entertaining and nuanced styles of R&B / Soul entertainment we’ve come across in recent years, and her new single ‘Know My Soul’ shows why you’ll be hearing a lot more of her.
With undeniable vocal talent and fine-tuned production served straight up, Lisa Panagos is an artist that any R&B / soul music enthusiast will thoroughly enjoy. Yet there’s something special about Lisa Panagos that sets her apart from other R&B acts. In a musical generation characterized by manufactured pop acts, Lisa Panagos’s originality and sincerity do more than stand out. They reveal qualities that cannot be engineered in the studio. There’s also an unpretentious realness to this artist out of West Hollywood and judging by her growing fan base, she may be precisely what the new generation didn’t know it was missing. Independent reporter Blake Wright recently caught up with Lisa Panagos to get an inside look at this exciting new artist and to learn what she has in store for fans this year.
BLAKE: Let’s just get this out in the open- What is the craziest thing that has happened to you in your music career?
LISA PANAGOS: Hmmmm. I think I’ll keep that private. It’s been a great and really fun ride though.
BLAKE: Your song ‘Know My Soul’ is receiving a positive listener response on radio. What was your initial reaction when you first heard your song playing on radio?
LISA PANAGOS: I was shocked and excited! It’s an amazing feeling to have such a positive listener response on radio for my original music. It’s great to know that the program directors like what I’m doing and my fans are tuning in. Radio airplay is so important and I love getting the positive feedback.
BLAKE: What was the inspiration behind your radio single?
LISA PANAGOS: I co-wrote this song with award winning hit songwriter Alex Forbes(Cyndi Lauper, Taylor Dane) and it was an amazing experience. I was inspired by a break up and reflecting about the person I lost and pushed away. I was getting tired of some of the superficial encounters I was having and decided to write about it!
BLAKE: It is often said that great art arises from difficult experience. Is there something in your life experience thus far that you would describe as the ‘catalyst’ or ‘fuel’ for your desire to create music?
LISA PANAGOS: Yes, very much so. Basically a need to stay alive despite a lot of heart ache, abusive situations and family drama. Music kept me alive and still does. I can’t stop the music! Life can be really challenging and if it weren’t for the outlet of music, I may not be here today. It has been a lifeline for me throughout my life.
BLAKE: How would you characterize yourself as an artist/musician?
LISA PANAGOS: A soulful artist full of passion who loves great grooves! I’ve been told I do sensual vocals with funky grooves and write catchy melodies. I love to write all kinds of music but since I also love to dance, I gravitate towards writing something that’s sexy, soulful, meaningful, heartfelt and incorporates a great groove.
BLAKE: What has your experience been like working with the other people on your team?
LISA PANAGOS: It’s been amazing! I had a lot of support while I was recording this record and that always boosts my confidence in the studio. Producer and keyboard player Mike Rosenman was great to work with and all of the sessions were a lot of fun. Jason Wilkes also contributed to the vibe of the record with his original beats and Alex Forbes is always a blast to write with. I had a really great team for this record.
BLAKE: Did you come from a musical background? Are there other musicians in your family?
LISA PANAGOS: Yes. My father John Panagos owned radio stations and hired Xylophonist Lionel Hampton as his Musical Director for a cable TV show he created to help African American Artists. Especially those artists needing to make a comeback and get more exposure at the time like Natalie Cole, Mahalia Jackson and Leslie Uggams to name a few. He also started the first Hispanic radio station in the DC area to help the Hispanic community. We always had music playing in the house growing up. My Mom and Dad loved the classics like Nat King Cole, Barbara Streisand, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. Other than that, my mothers’ cousin played for the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra and my brother Bruce played drums for a while. My Mom had an amazing voice! She would sing while she was cooking and sing to me before bed. She also looked very similar to Ann Margaret. She always would say she was too shy to sing professionally. I was so lucky to have all of that exposure as a child. I soaked it up!
BLAKE: What do you find most rewarding about being an artist? What do you find most challenging?
LISA PANAGOS: The most rewarding thing about being an artist is having a blank canvas to work with and then miraculously seeing my work come alive. It’s really amazing and I feel closer and more in touch with the Universe every time. It feels like I am the vessel and the song arrives through me onto the canvas. I would say the most challenging thing is coming up with all of the funds necessary to get myself to the next level as an Independent Artist. I have to do my own publicity and marketing and shoot my own videos and the list goes on and on. It sometimes gets frustrating not to have the funds available to do everything I want to do and bring all the ideas in my head alive. I often wish I had the budget of the major artists out there with major label budgets at their disposal. On the flip side, where there is a will there is a way so I’ve managed to do a lot and will continue creating music. It’s a blast and my passion.
BLAKE: Who are your role models in music?
LISA PANAGOS: I have so many role models and I don’t want to leave anyone out!!! Prince, Madonna, Sade, Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, Cher, Lisa Stansfield, Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson and the list goes on and on…
BLAKE: Describe your best or most memorable performance.
LISA PANAGOS: My most memorable performance is performing the role of the Soubrette in ‘Sophisticated Ladies’ with the Duke Ellington Orchestra. It was so amazing to have had the opportunity to do the show while Mercer Ellington was still alive to conduct. There are so many others! Performing with Reba McIntyre on Broadway at the Marquis Theatre in ‘Annie Get your Gun.’ When it comes to my original music, I would say performing ‘Mind’s Eye’ Dance mix with my amazing male dancers at the Avalon Theatre in Hollywood, California. It was a hot show and so much fun to perform at one of the larger venues in Hollywood.
BLAKE: What advice would you give to young, aspiring artists out there who are unsure and need guidance?
LISA PANAGOS: It’s so hard to give advice because I feel everyone has their own Journey. However, I guess I would say that if the music is in your soul, go for it and don’t let anyone get in your way or stop you! People will definitely slow you down and sometimes send you on a wild goose chase but just stay as focused as possible. It gets really hard to sustain the focus for the long haul and it can get rough. Some people are lucky and hit it right away but for others, it can be a long journey. Stay with it!
BLAKE: What’s next for you as an artist? Is there an album in the works? If so, what can you tell us about it?
LISA PANAGOS: I have an album in the works and talk about a long journey!!! There have been so many obstacles to get this one complete. I really had to take some breaks and just step away for a while and come back to it. I have some really amazing musicians on this record and I’m proud of who I brought in. It’s definitely old school but with a modern twist. I hope it’s well received.
BLAKE: Wonderful! Thank you for sharing some insights into what makes you the artist that you are. I wish you continued success in your career.