Still in her teens but with the romantic experience of a whole cast of Austen characters under her belt, we talk to singer, songwriter and producer, Laurel.
Weaving melodious yarns in her uniquely atmospheric alt-pop style, Laurel’s music is at times melancholy, others glorious, and always pretty chilled. With songs that seem to be always on the brink of something unattainable, she seduces you with an electronic love that will be forever unrequited – Laurel knows all too well that a broken heart can be the best catalyst for the type of confessional music she is so adept at making.
With haunting vocals layered over exquisitely understated electronics, her new single ‘Come Together’ from her second EP, ‘Holy Water’, released today, washes dreamily over you like a lovelorn wave upon the shore. We talked to Laurel about everything from crap music lessons to digesting heartbreak, coffee addiction, the importance of solitude and why us Brits are far too polite. She left us one resounding message: Love big!
So you’re a classically trained singer, how do you think that has helped you develop as a performer?
Oh it has massively! It’s probably the only reason I can sing! Being classically trained has helped me a huge deal as I’ve been able to develop quite a big range. I can sing really high and really low, so whenI’m writing I don’t have any vocal restrictions. It’s allowed me to write and sing anything that comes into my head.
We know you didn’t enjoy your music classes so much – could you say that you found them restrictive?
Just slightly pointless I guess. I had to learn things that were unnecessary, like the whole history of music and how to write and read a piece of music. All I wanted to do was write and perform. Just because you aren’t good at the theory of music and remembering the time periods of classical movements doesn’t mean you’re not a great musician – I think it’s harsh to judge kids based on that knowledge. Music isn’t something that can be judged and assessed really, it’s completely subjective.
We’ve heard that your two biggest musical idols are Britney and Laura Marling – how much of that is true? We know you’re a fiercely independent song writer – would you say anyone has influenced you hugely at all?
This has been said a few times now! I wouldn’t say I count Britney as an idol, I did when I was about four like all of my friends at the time, and she was the first artist I was wowed by and who gave me the idea of being a singer. Now I take inspiration from more alternative music I would say. Laura Marling was really the reason I started writing songs. It’s the lyrics in songs that I am so attached to. I love that they can tell stories, I can read them like diary entries. I think Florence Welch has also been a huge inspiration for me, not only her music but also the type of artist she is; she just seems to be doing everything her way which is awesome!
Talk us through a typical song-writing day for Laurel. How does this magic happen?!
Everyday seems to be a song-writing day for me! I am so surprised that I have not once got bored of it. I write in the spare room of my flat that I’ve named ‘The Studio of Ermentrude’. Coffee is usually in hand throughout the whole day, I have quite a mad addiction. I usually just start playing the piano and sing whatever comes into my head, the lyrics are always about how I am feeling in that exact moment. Before I go into the studio I usually have an idea of what I want to write about, I collect words and phrases from magazines and poetry books and write lists and lists of them, that’s where I get all my lyric ideas from.
It’s been noted that for such a young artist your music is heavy with some very serious emotion – does all of that come from your own experience? Would you call yourself a romantic?
Yes, and a hopeless one too. All my songs are from my own experience. I guess I’ve been lucky and perhaps unlucky to have experienced some big love already, and a lot of heart break! But it’s ok because it means I have plenty to write about. Once you have loved that much you can write about it for years after even if you don’t feel like that for someone anymore. It seems that in the moment of heartbreak I can’t write anything at all, I have to let it digest for a while before I can put it into music.
What does being able to produce your own music mean to you – we know you’ve done a huge amount of it yourself?
It means that everything I write is 100 percent me, and nobody else’s take on me. It also means that I can write millions of songs whenever I feel like it and not on someone else’s time schedule. It means that when I am really feeling and really want to write I can! Which I think gets the best songs out of me. It was deliberate, and although I was more than happy to work with other people before I learnt to do it myself the songs never really connected to me, not like they do now. I love to write in solitude, I’m one of those people that don’t mind being alone I guess.
How important do you think live performances are in this digital day and age?
I think they have always been important – there is nothing like seeing your favourite artist or song live! And of course these days with record sales down the toilet (this is what I hear anyway) it’s one of the ways that musicians can still make a living from music, which means they can still dedicate their lives to it.
How do you prepare for a show – are you nervous, do you wear lucky pants? Or have a favourite show-time lippy?
I don’t really have any rituals or anything, I try to just stay calm and almost forget I’m going to go on stage, that gets the best performance out of me, when I feel relaxed up there. There’s nothing worse than over-stressing yourself before you go on.
What have your experiences been like in the States? Working with people like Lester Mendes and Diane Warren must have been incredible. Do you have a favourite US moment you can describe to us?
The States has been amazing! I’ve been quite a few times now and love it more every time I go. Back when I worked with Lester and Diane I was just starting out and had no idea what on earth I wanted to write, so that visit was pretty different to my last few. My management kinda threw me in at the deep end I think to get me ready for all of this! The last couple of times I went I played shows in New york and LA – the crowds over there are incredible! I apologise to the UK but we all need to loosen up a bit. When you sing there everyone gets involved and shouts out encouragement and dances! They even dance to slow music! Over here we stand like rigid statues and wait for our turn to clap. We’re too polite.
Your latest track is a collaboration with Sivu – how did ‘Come Together’ work in terms of the creative process and working with someone else? How would you describe this latest incarnation of your sound?
‘Come Together’ was so fun to write. I already knew Sivu and we had hung out a lot before so it was such a chilled writing day. He just came over to mine and we played around with sounds on the computer and ‘Come Together’ just came out! I’m not sure we even knew what we where writing about at the time but seemed to all fit together in the end! I love writing with other artists as the vibe is so nice. There’s never any pressure, unlike my old sessions with writers where you needed to finish the song by the end of the day!
If you were able to send out one message to your listeners through your music, what would that be?
Love big! So big and don’t be afraid for it to hurt, because at some point it probably will but it will be worth it, and its so much better than never loving or feeling at all.
Final question: if you had to pick your favourite song in the world (not your own!) what would it be?
‘Wake Up’ by Arcade Fire. It’s the one song that makes me feel so alive and in love and completely devastated all at the same time. They are full of magic that band.
Laurel’s second EP ‘Holy Water’ is available now.
Words: Florence Trott