'Love Makes Me Go Haywire'

Lisa Marie Presley has been a de facto celebrity since she was born to Elvis and Priscilla 35 years ago. But the L.A.-based mom--she had a son and daughter with her first husband, musician Danny Keough--has avoided the spotlight, marriages to Michael Jackson and Nicolas Cage notwithstanding. Now the reluctant pop heiress is set to release a debut CD of bluesy rock, "To Whom It May Concern." The album is hard-hitting in spots, middle-of-the-road in others, but her lyrics are honest and revealing, and Presley has an appealingly deep, smoky voice. In one of her first solo interviews ever, she talked candidly about life with Michael and living in the shadow of the true king of pop--her father.

Your parents divorced when you were 4, and your father died when you were only 9.

I feel like I've lived four lives in one. I dealt with death early on. It wasn't just my father, it was my grandma, my grandpa, my great-grandfather, my aunts--all in a two-year period. I didn't have much of a runway into life. I was, like, a deep, dark kid who was always melancholy.

Regardless of what your dad meant to the world, he was still your dad.

I was so astounded by the hundreds of thousands of people who were clearly in mourning. They were having these violent reactions in front of me. Thousands of people were coming through my house to look at his body. I remember watching them all and being so confused. I couldn't really have my own grieving time. It wasn't until a month later at camp--where my mom sent me to get away from it all--that I lost it.

Were you there the night that your father died?

I was, but I won't go into it. I just won't go there.

You grew up singing at the kitchen table at Graceland. Why did you wait to make an album?

I always avoided singing in public. I just felt I would get crucified. I thought of acting--maybe playing some whacked-out psychopath to shock and scare people, but that lasted, like, two weeks. I got over that and started singing again. There are those who will say, "She's actually got some of her own talent, or some credibility as an artist," versus those who will say, "She's not her father, she never will be--and who the hell does she think she is?" That's why I named it "To Whom It May Concern." It's kind of a sarcastic thing.

It's an awful lot of pressure for your first album.

It's intimidating. I hate it. But there must be people who are interested in getting beyond the superficial tabloid bulls--t. Because of no direct communication from me, there is this funnel of b.s. that travels straight to the public. It has a life of its own. When I meet people, I know they're trying to sift what they've heard. But if they listen [to my album], I hope they will hear somebody who's being pretty damn honest and not throwing up smoke screens.

Your dad's stardom wreaked such havoc on your family. How did your mom feel about you getting into music?

The one time we talked about it she said, "Those are some serious shoes you are going to have to fill." I think she was afraid of what I was gonna run into, crucifixion-wise.

You've been in plenty of surreal situations by now, like being married to Michael Jackson. You must have known that it was going to be a circus.

I was naive on that front. I was in this constant struggle that went something like this: a man who's with me who has nothing is gonna be stomped on and have no identity left by the time [the press] get done with him. He'll be Mr. F---in' Presley. I thought, I need to be with someone bigger than I am--or at least comparable--so they don't get trampled. Michael wanted to meet me earlier in my life, and I said, "No way." I thought he was a freak, and I had no interest in meeting him. But when I finally did, he immediately dashed any preconceived idea I had about him. We had a perfectly normal conversation, and I completely forgot who he was within 20 minutes. I actually did fall in love with him, but I don't know what was on his menu.

You married Michael at 26. You seemed miffed that people didn't believe the marriage was real. Now can you understand why everyone thought it was weird?

Absolutely! But at the time I was like, "What the f--- is the problem? Why am I getting all this bad press? They think I married him because I want to be a singer or I want publicity? All I ever did prior to the marriage was stay the hell away from that!" It took me a while to realize that maybe he manipulated stories or did things for public reasons, and that I was getting dragged into it. I can see that now.

Do you think he was truly invested in the marriage? [Jackson married --Presley only months after he was accused of child molestation.]

I can't say what his intentions were with me, but I can say it was the most real thing I think he's had. My mother was like, "Timing--hello! Wakey, wakey!" But I rebelled against my mom, of course, and tried really hard not to think like that, not to believe that.

Was it a mutual decision to break it off?

No, it wasn't mutual. He was in the hospital, and I couldn't figure out what was wrong with him. I started asking questions, and it was always a different story. He said I was "causing trouble" and "stirring up problems." He told me, "You're making my heart rate go up," and asked me to go home, and I said, "Good. I want out." This person is one of the biggest entertainers out there. He is not stupid. He's very charming when he wants to be, and when you go into his world you step into this whole other realm. I could tell you all about the craziness--all these things that were odd, different, evil or not cool--but it still took me two and a half years to get my head out of it.

You say you were naive, but you seem tough and savvy in person.

Well, when it comes to love I'm naive. I'm a noodle. I go haywire. I'm getting better at it, though. I'm getting faster at coming to the conclusion that something's not right.

What went wrong with you and Nicolas Cage?

With people like me and Nic, it's difficult because there's the camps. You've got 15 people around. That's something that contributed--same with Michael. They may be claiming to love you or seemingly happy you're together, but any minute they can throw a wrench in, they do. They're so dependent on that person that you may be raining on their parade.

You and Nicolas were only married two months.

We dated for two years before that, but Nic and I were just two pirates, and pirates can't marry each other. They need to marry someone in another profession--a nice little quiet mermaid. Otherwise they sink the ship. Which is what we did.

Is it difficult doing interviews after avoiding the press so long?

I've been so candid, I hope I don't end up getting grossly misquoted and decide I'm not gonna talk anymore. I don't want to be one of those people that's willing to be cool, then gets slammed and has to have the publicist in the room yelling, "No comment!"