Lillie Mae Rische never set out to strike it big as a solo artist. Yet she appears poised to take the Americana-country scene by storm. Her debut solo album, Forever and Then Some, was produced by none other than Jack White. But the way Rische describes it, her life has seemingly been strung together by one musical performance to the next. "Our family band went full-time when I was 3," she says. "I think I was 4 when I started playing the guitar ... guitar first, then piano, then fiddle."
That band, Jypsi, played together for around 20 years, touring the bluegrass circuit and signing with a major label. However, Rische says the group was never fully embraced by the bluegrass community. "I will say we were not very well-received in bluegrass and we were kind of always outcast," Rische remembers. "Which was always a little sad because it was like, 'We love this music, we play this music and you're gonna be so narrow-minded about something just because people play Beatles songs? Or have pink hair?'"
Nevertheless, Jypsi found its niche catering to the country music fans of Nashville's lower Broadway. For years, Rische and her siblings played at Layla's, a live music venue in downtown Nashville.
After Rische's brother, Frank, left Jypsi, the band broke up and Lillie Mae was holding it down as a regular fiddle player and performer at Layla's. That's when a friend recommended her as a fiddle player for Jack White.
"Jack was looking for a fiddle player for some session work," Rische recalls. "My sister and I went in there and did a few sessions with Jack. And I was on the last song of Blunderbuss and that was right around the time he was going to be touring, so he asked me to be a part of the touring project."
It was while touring with White for Lazaretto, his second solo record, where Rische wrote most of Forever and Then Some. Shortly after, White offered to record and produce Rische's body of work.
"I had written a bunch of songs, Jack showed me some interest, the timing was right and I was just following my path," says Rische. "The title track came from the period of playing with Jack and being out of this hectic environment. I had written so much when we were touring and Jack gave me a huge platform to do my own thing."
The duo turned out to be a perfect creative pairing for an authentic, honest record. "As far as musicianship and all that, Jack let me bring in people I've played with for 15 years. ... It was just like breathing," says Rische. "He's letting me do my thing, like who does that? You hear about these things getting fought against when working with producers. ... The same people who worked on this record played on our earliest recordings with Jypsi. Jack gave me such freedom to make [the record.]"
When asked about what musical inspirations and influences went into the making of Forever and Then Some, Rische says that she doesn't really even ever listen to music. "I mean, honestly, I don't have a CD player in my truck. I don't have music in my car, I don't have a computer, I don't have TV. I don't even have speakers to my record player. I have no way to listen to music except for on my phone, and I don't listen to it on my phone. So, I barely even listen to music," she says. "Real-life situations inspire me. I was just writing that shit. I don't know man, I don't know where it comes from, it just comes out."
The result is an impeccable marriage between earnest songwriting and mastered musicianship, landing itself a well-earned spot on Rolling Stone's "25 Best Country and Americana Albums of 2017 So Far" list. Lucky for music lovers around the globe, Lillie Mae is already thinking about making her next record.
"I'll keep practicing my fiddle licks probably till I die," she says.
Lillie Mae Rische performs with special guest Craig Brown Band on Saturday, Aug. 26 at Third Man Records Cass Corridor; 441 W. Canfield St., Detroit; 313-209-5205; thirdmanrecords.com; Doors at 7:30 p.m.; Tickets are $10.