Musician Lisa McClowry says she doesn’t come from a military background. But one of her projects has brought her close to the military community. And with it, she’s giving back.
McClowry has recently released the four-track EP “Before the Tree Comes Down,” featuring a single by the same name. It’s available on her website. A portion of the money made from “Before the Tree Comes Down” will go to support Stars for Stripes, a nonprofit organization that provides celebrity entertainment to deployed military.
The song has a great pedigree. Besides featuring McClowry’s impressive vocals, it was written by Christa Wells and Grammy- and Oscar-winning singer-songwriter Jim Peterik. Peterik, who wrote the song “Eye of the Tiger,” also produced the EP.
The video, which Chicago-based McClowry had an active hand in producing, shows stories of military families missing loved ones at the holiday season.
McClowry recently visited the Washington, D.C., offices of Stars and Stripes and answered a few questions.
Q: “Before the Tree Comes Down” is a great song and a very sweet video. What inspired you to record "Before the Tree Comes Down?"
A: Actually, the writer inspired me…. Her name is Christa Wells, and she introduced it to me four years ago. I don’t come from a military background except my uncles -- there’s three uncles in the military, and my father-in-law was in the military. But it didn’t really start resonating for me until this song, because I started to see it from a family perspective. The lyric lends itself to what a military family goes through. What this song also did four years ago was it allowed me to play for military families. … So I got to hear different stories of how different families were affected by a loved one being in the military. And it really started to pull me in because of those personal stories. And that is why I wanted to re-record it this year with a better chorus, something that honed in a little bit more on what the song was all about and bringing [the song] more into the pop world. I wanted more people to hear it. I think it’s got a fantastic message, because it makes us, again, look at military families and what they’re going through because their loved ones are not going to be home for the holiday or they won’t always be home for the holiday.
Q: So your experiences in being with military families helped you shape the chorus?
A: Absolutely. I can’t say that I wrote the lyric. Let me say that Jim Peterik, the man who wrote “Eye of the Tiger” and “The Search is Over” … he wrote the chorus to this song; he freshened the chorus. So it was a wonderful collaboration with Christa Wells, the original writer, and Jim Peterik, and he produced it.
Q: What are some of your experiences with military families?
A: “There’s so many. … When I was doing the music video for “Before the Tree Comes Down,” I researched things like uniforms, and if we’re going to be showing baking cookies for someone in Afghanistan, how long would that take to get the cookies to Afghanistan. Two months? Three months? A week? How long would it take? So I would talk to different families about things like that. … But a specific story that I am familiar with is one of my girlfriend’s whose husband was in Iraq and the helicopter went down and he was able to save everybody. Just stories like that, it brings you into a piece of history.
Q: Were you really involved in the making of the video [for “Before the Tree Comes Down”]?
A: Absolutely. Every decision from casting – as a matter of fact, it’s my sister-in-law and brother and my niece and nephew, they’re all cast in It, and one of my best friend’s sons. We used two different households. And again, just researching the uniforms that they [would wear in the video]. Just wanting to make sure everything was correct, [such as] where the flag was placed. … I wanted it to be authentic.
Q: Have you gotten feedback from families yet?
A: I’ve not had negative feedback at all. It’s been really wonderful. People are thanking me and the people behind it just because it’s calling awareness to what families go through during the holiday season. Whether they’re in the military or not, you can really understand what it’s like not to have family around during the holiday season.
Q: What’s the best part of making music?
A: Everything. The best part of making music is everything. It’s all I know. I’ve been involved in music since I was two years old in one way or another. My mom used to say I’d stand by the radio or stereo whether it was on or off and just start dancing and moving. So at a young age it was already in my blood, and then I started playing piano at 7. And then I was in a rock band called Mischief, and started as the keyboard player and moved my way up to lead singing. So it’s just something that’s always been there. I don’t know any other way to be. I see the world through music and lyrics. In fact, if you look in my car, you’ll find napkins and paper everywhere with lyrics. Or just in conversation, if I hear anybody talking, I’ll have to write it down on my hand or some kind of lyric. I’m just always taken by everything that’s around me and people around me.
Q: I always ask this question of musicians: What’s on your iPod?
A: I don’t have an iPod. I’ve got an iPad. You know what, my iPad doesn’t really have music, it has self-help tapes. … I love Louise Hay and gurus like that. When I listen to music, it’s usually independent music. [Including] friends of mine who are working on projects and I’ll take a listen to it and we’ll help each other with improving a song. So that’s what’s on my iPad.
For a little more on her music video, including an explanation of the ending of “Before the Tree Comes Down,” check out the video below. Make sure to see the music video first, as her answer contains spoilers.