While she was growing up in Rock Island, Ill., Lissie’s feistiness and outspokenness often got her into trouble with those in authority.
“If you grow up in a small town and you stick out or draw attention to yourself, you’re going to attract some unwanted people who try to put you in your place,” says Lissie, a fast-rising singer-songwriter whose real name is Elisabeth Corrin Maurus.
“It motivated me to say, ‘I’ll show you. I’m going to get out of here and make something of myself.’”
Indeed she has.
On “Back to Forever” (Fat Possum), her sophomore album, Lissie’s teenage rebellion has evolved into a knack for sharp commentary about adult themes — unrequited love, dead-end jobs and environmental degradation. Her country-tinged folk-rock songs are filled with emotional urgency and huge pop hooks.
Lissie, who performs with her three-piece band Thursday at the Crocodile, began singing at an early age.
“I think I was just born to sing,” she said in a phone call from LAX airport in Los Angeles. “I had a big, loud voice. For as long as I can remember, I was always singing and wanting to perform for people.”
Despite a fast-moving career that includes a recent European tour and appearances on “Conan” and “The Late Late show with Craig Ferguson,” Lissie returns to Rock Island every couple of months and still considers it home. Most of her songs are keenly autobiographical.
“I can only write about what I know from experience,” she said. “On this album, I felt like I pulled from my entire life to reflect on relationships. It’s a way for me to say things out loud so that I can move on and make other decisions. It’s a cathartic experience to make an album.”
“Further Away (Romance Police)” is a cautionary song warning listeners about the red flags in relationships.
“You realize that this person is just going to take what they want from you and move on. They’re not going to be there for you … I’m saying, ‘Trust me, I’ve been there. Just walk away.’”
The most riveting song is “Mountaintop Removal,” named for the environmentally brutal Appalachian mining practice of removing the tops of mountains to extract the coal seams inside. More broadly, the song is about environmental exploitation and the compromises made for jobs and profits.
“America, Americans / What are we doing?” Lissie asks.
“Mountaintop removal is a metaphor,” she said. “In the name of progress, we’re basically destroying our quality of life.”