Lillie Mae Rische’s recent debut solo album — the widely celebrated and remarkably dynamic Americana tour de force Forever and Then Some — is the first time most have heard about the talented singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. But, though only in her mid-20s, Rische (who performs as simply Lillie Mae) is a seasoned veteran who built up a lifetime of experience before she even began recording her “debut.”
Born in Illinois, Rische’s musical training basically began at birth. Her father taught her and her four siblings how to sing and play as early as possible, taking them around the country as children in the Forrest Carter Family Band, a Bluegrass ensemble. In 2000, the group caught the attention of legendary producer Cowboy Jack Clement, who became a mentor to the young musicians and was particularly impressed with Rische’s multifaceted skills. She, her brother and two sisters moved to Nashville and eventually became club favorites as The Risches. With Rische moving into more of a frontperson role, the siblings (then teens) changed the band name to Jypsi and, in 2008, released their debut album for major label Arista. Though they had a minor hit, the Jypsi sound was a little too multi-dimensional for the corporate music machine at the time, but that same characteristic — meshing together elements of Bluegrass, Pop, Country, Rock, Folk and Blues — would become something of a calling card for Rische.
In 2012, she joined Jack White in the studio and on the road, lending fiddle, violin and vocals to White’s 2014 album, Lazaretto. White’s Third Man Records also released a single by Rische in 2014, and two years later, the pair began working on what would become Forever and Then Some (released on Third Man in April).
The rich and enigmatic album (which includes contributions from her longtime bandmates/siblings) is an excellent showcase of Rische’s deft ability to draw from a variety of styles and blend them together elegantly and seamlessly, as well as for her unique gifts as a vocalist, musician and songwriter. She says White was a good creative partner and credits him for providing the kind of open artistic setting that she likely wouldn’t have had recording another major-label album.
“There’s so many situations where you’ve gone in to record and you don’t get your best product because you’re not comfortable,” she told Billboard in June. “(But) I’ve worked in Jack’s studio before so many times. It’s an incredibly creative space. He gave me the freedom to do what I wanted to do. He listened to all my ideas. For the type of person I am, that’s the best-case scenario.”