In case you have been living under a rock for the past few months, allow us to introduce you to Laurel. At 19 years old, the songstress’ music is mature beyond her years. Through the beats of her musical diary, listeners are invited into her life, love and loss. After releasing her EP on Monday 07.04.2014, we caught up with Laurel to chat about the importance of song writing, her mum’s wise words and childhood love for Lil’ Chris.
Tell us a little bit about your background. Has music always been a big part of your life?
Yes, definitely. I’ve been singing since I was really young. But only recently has it become the main priority. I went to a secondary school where there were a lot of music opportunities. They did a lot of exchanges with different countries. So there was a lot of cultured world music. I got into it through the school choir, and I have been classical trained since I was about 11, maybe younger. But I started doing my own thing at about 14.
How has being classically trained helped you?
There’s only a certain level you can get to. It was something my mum made me do. She said “you’ll thank me for this later”. But I definitely do. It is really good to train you’re voice, and if you learn from quite a young age it is easier. It means whatever you sing, you’ve got control over it. If tomorrow I didn’t want to do pop or ballads anymore, I could sing folk. It’s all in the control and skill of it, I guess.
When did you realise you wanted to create music as a career?
I’ve never wanted to do anything else. Since I was four I have wanted to be a singer, partly because I was obsessed with Britney Spears. When I heard her I was like “yeah, I wanna do that”. When I was 11 or 12 I heard Lil’ Chris, and I had a massive crush on him. I thought the only way I could marry Lil’ Chris is if I was a pop star too. I did love music anyway; so I can’t put it all on that. But that was the point where I was like, “right Laurel, you need to start writing songs. Because you need to be a rock star, and then you can marry Lil’ Chris”. That didn’t last for long. But by then I was writing songs and I loved it. That’s where it all started.
Your music is self-penned and self-produced. Is this something you have always wanted to do?
It was only a year or so ago that I started writing all of the music. I was co-writing with people, but I’ve never wanted to sing other people’s songs. I just don’t enjoy it. So, I started to produce my own. That is when I really started to love my music. I always knew want sound I wanted to create. But there were a lot of producers trying to change it; saying it was similar to other females. I tried all this different stuff, but I just came back full circle. This is the type of music I love and this is the type of music I want to make.
How would you describe your sound?
It is pop, but more like film music than a pop banger. It is quite cinematic. I want it to make people feel something. Not just a catchy song that people remember and know the words to. But something people can draw different meanings from, each time they listen to it.
How has it developed?
Two years ago I was listening to only a handful of people. Since getting into the industry, I have been made aware of more artists. They have got something newer to bring to the table than the artists I’ve been listening to for years. By listening to a lot more music, I started to get excited about different things I could put in my own. That’s probably where it started to develop. You have to be tuned in. You will never be the best. But you will always be listening to others people’s music and learning how to make yours better.
What was the first song you ever wrote?
It was about my mum and dad telling me you can’t buy love. Really it was me splashing in puddles, and realising that even if I bought everything for that person, they still wouldn’t love me. That was when I was about 12 or 13. So, hopefully no one will ever hear it.
Can you tell us about your decision to move to London?
A week after I finished my college exams, I moved. The head of my label rang me up one night and asked “what are you doing tomorrow?”. She told me to come to London and bring a bag with two weeks’ worth of clothes. I just never came home. It was in the pipeline, but I hadn’t found anywhere to live or anything. She put me in the label’s housing for a couple of weeks and I’ve ended up living here for two years. If I hadn’t stayed, my music would definitely be more immature and not so developed. It is definitely where you need to be.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Not to compare myself to other people. You are constantly compared to other females within the industry and start to believe it. You wonder “am I too much like them or not as good as them?”. You just have to roll with it and not think about it all the time.
You’ve been compared to lana del ray, right?
Yeah. She’s really cool and a credible person. So, I don’t really mind. Everyone’s going to compare you to people. But it would be nice if people found a new comparison. Why does everyone want to say the same thing? I’d love to compare myself to Bjork, but that would just be stupid. She is one of my biggest aspirations, more so than the contemporaries I have been compared to. I like Florence and the Machine a lot. And Santi Gold. I would have thought I’m more like them. But you just don’t know when it’s your own music.
What has been your biggest success?
This year has been the biggest success, so far. My EP just came out and my single sold a lot of records! I am really pleased about that, it was quite unexpected.
Describe the creative process for the EP.
I only had one track for the EP which was ‘To The Hills’. So I had to write two more. One is called ‘Nicotine Dreams’, which I finished five days before I had to give in the EP. The other is ‘Shells’, which I didn’t actually produce. A guy called ‘Shadowchild’ (a big house DJ) did. I did that with him two years ago. It came on shuffle on my iPod, and I thought “why is it not on my EP?”. I wanted to set a tone. ‘To The Hills’ and ‘Nicotine Dreams’ are quite happy songs, but you would never guess it listening to them. There’s still a dark feeling. And that’s want I wanted, a masked happiness.
How do you approach song writing?
I never write for anyone but myself. My mum always tells me to do that. When you are doing something creative you can’t decide what people like and try to adhere to it. So, I just write whatever I want. If it is a good song, then great. If it’s bad, I don’t mind because I got my feelings out. It is usually more of a story from things that have happened in my life. That’s why my songs mean quite a lot to me. Occasionally there is a concept. I have a song called ‘Child Of Love’, which is going to be my second single. I thought about it for ages. I had about eight drafts before I found the one I wanted. I don’t want to write music that other people are proud of. I want to write music that I am proud of.
From your songs, what are your two favourites?
Off the new record, I really like ‘Shells’. I had just broken up with a boyfriend, so all emotions were high in the air. When I listen to the song it reminds me of a really emotional, but crazy time in my life. ‘Bluebird’ is my other favourite. It is what started all of this and got me to where I am now.
You just supported John Newman and Dan Croll. Tell us about that.
John Newman’s tour had crazy production, loads of people and really big venues. On a big stage it is quite hard to make it personal with the audience. So that was fun to try. Then the Dan Croll gig was more of a ‘friends on the road’ sort-of-thing. I know Dan from the label, and I lived with him for a month. So it was fun to be on his tour. The venues were a bit smaller and the stages were really intimate. You could hear the crowd and get feedback from them. They were both really different, but super fun.
We just announced I’m supporting a band called ‘Wet’ from New York. I really love them. I’m playing The Great Escape in May. And then I’m going back to America to do some shows in Toronto, Philadelphia, LA, New York, Washington and some other places. I’m pretty excited to go to New York. I would definitely love to live there for a couple of years.
Who is your idol?
‘Bjork and ‘Florence and The Machine’. If we combined them and made one person, then that would be my idol.