Regular readers of Strong Island should be aware of south coast singer-songwriter Laurel, she’s been a favourite of ours for quite some time. She first came to my attention while I was judging the Road To Blissfields competition in 2012. Laurel quickly captured the crowd’s attention, with her heartfelt lyrics and acoustic guitar. Next month Laurel returns to Portsmouth to play the Edge of the Wedge and I’ve been fortunate enough to catch up with her and see what she’s been up to since that night five years ago.
Could you tell me about how you initially got involved with music and who influenced you most?
Since I was really small I have sung and loved music, my parents really encouraged me as I got older too, taking me to my gigs in town and I remember my mum loaning me some cash to press my first CDs. The school I went to had a really cool performing arts department too so we were really encouraged there and our teachers were pretty awesome, I remember a few of them would let me stay after school to use the computers to record. I’m not really sure how I got into it, I went to all the school choirs and then naturally from that I just started thinking I don’t want to sing other people’s songs and be told how I’m meant to sing them I want to do my own.
For those who are new to your music which three tracks would you encourage them to check out first and why?
Life Worth Living – I think it really sets the mood for what my album is about and where I’m going from now.
San Francisco – This is my favourite song I’ve written so far. It gives me a weird nostalgic feeling and reminds me of a really good time in life.
Goodbye – This is taken from my latest EP ‘Park’, it is the acoustic demo right at the end, usually, all my songs start in this form and end up like the others produced up a bit. I reckon listening to this you can really see what my music is about and where it comes from.
Over the years has your approach to writing songs changed and if so how?
Yeah definitely, when I was 18 I went into a bunch of writing sessions with loads of people and although I wouldn’t want to do it right now it really helped me learn how to write and how to use the equipment. Now I just write on my own in my home studio, where I do all the production and sometimes mixing and mastering too. I prefer the reclusive way of writing as I think it gets something different and honest out of me.
How do you feel when you share your work for the first time? Do you prefer to share new music live where you can see the crowd’s reaction first hand or online?
It’s such a good feeling, it’s like Christmas day I reckon, you wait so long to share something and then finally it’s out in the wild and you can finally stop thinking about it so much and let it do its thing. I’m not sure about the online vs live really, I find it hard to gauge from my audience whether they are having a good time or whether they are falling asleep, due to the nature of my music, haha! I just think if people are silent then I must be doing alright.
I have been fortunate enough to see you live on many occasions over the years, including a packed out Shepherds Bush Empire but is there one live performance that sticks in your memory and why?
I played Brighton on my last tour, it was definitely the best date, I was kinda really sick on the other dates but for some reason this one really worked out, the crowd were amazing I had two amazing bands support me (Honeymoon and Blush) who really set the mood up. My mum was there and some of my family which is always the best and I was just super buzzed to be on tour.
If I were to turn on your iPod right now, what three artists/songs would I see on your recently played list and what is it about those artists that appeal to you?
Allah-lahs ‘Catamaran‘ My favourite type of music, it makes me wanna be on the beach drinking Pina Coladas.
Ariel Pink ‘Lipstick‘ I love this tune so much, reminds me of some sick 80s cult film such a good one to get you in the mood to make music.
Dead Cost ‘Jenny Loves the Sun‘ So I recently found this record in some random record store and my friend told me they did a record on Strong Island, so been listening to this recently. got such a nice mix between beach vibes and grit.
You have recently signed with Counter Records, could you tell me about how that came about and what you’ve been up to since you signed?
I signed with them to release my EP Park! We’d just been chatting for a while about music and they seemed to really get where I was going with things so we both thought we’d give it a go. To be honest, life after I signed is pretty much like normal life, all I do is write music every day trying to finish my album and I’m still doing that haha.
For those fortunate enough to have tickets to this tour what can they expect from your live show?
It is going to be just me playing solo again, like back in the old days. But this time I’m on my electric guitar, it’s pretty gritty sounding, it’s all the bare bones of the song just me and Augustine (my trusty Les Paul).
Finally, what does the rest of 2017 have in store for you?
Loads of shows, my debut album release, and hopefully a summer holiday at some point.
If you like what you hear then I encourage you to join me in the crowd for Laurel’s upcoming show at the Edge of the Wedge on February 27th. You can pick up your tickets for a mere £7 at www.wedgewood-rooms.co.uk. If you’d like to catch Laurel at one of her other shows on her UK tour then you can find out details of dates and venues on her website.
I’m amazed with her music, I wish there were more live sessions with her, especially from her new EP.