Dirty Dozen: Laura James

Laura James is an award-winning London-based, Cumbrian-born songstress. Laura’s music leans heavily on the poetic side of folk and her ‘haunting’ vocal coupled with her sensitivity for lyrics and melody is a captivating combination.

Can you tell us about yourself? Where you’re from and what you’ve been up to over the past few years? I grew up just outside Carlisle, in Cumbria. I moved to Liverpool when I was 18 to study music at university where I met a lot of the people that formed my band ‘The Lyres’. We released our debut EP in 2011.

In 2012 The MBF were really kind and awarded me with their Songwriting Development Prize for my song ‘Bottled Dreams’. They helped me to fund a trip to New York where I met Brooklyn-based collective Mason Jar Music (Chris Thile, Andrew Bird, Abigail Washburn). I’d been a fan of their work for a long time so it was an absolute pleasure to be able to work with them on two of my releases ‘The Water’ in 2013 and again on ‘Every Little Amber’ in 2014. For the last couple of years, I’ve been busy playing all round the UK, working on my next releases and deciding where I want to be next. I’ve been in East London for about 6 months now and I love it.

How would you describe your music? Folky, Singer-songwriter, maybe a bit of orch-pop, introspective and a bit dreamy. Most recently, it’s a lot about heartache.

Can you tell us a little bit about your influences? I love the really personal, raw songwriters. I’m an Elliott smith super-fan. I love Jeff Buckley, Anais Mitchell, Nick Drake, Vashti Bunyan, Guy Garvey and Sam Beam.

What are you currently promoting? I’m currently promoting my new single ‘Rooftops’ along with the lovely music video by Pace Productions UK.

Have you got a particular song you’ve done that you’re particularly proud of, one that might define you? I’d say I’m particularly proud of ‘Rooftops’. It’s a really personal one for me. I wrote it about leaving Liverpool, I’d been there for about 4 years at that point and wasn’t really sure what to do next. At the same time, a difficult relationship I was in was coming to a close and the whole thing was completely overwhelming. I sat down, wrote it all at once and it helped me through a really difficult time.

What are you currently listening to? I love Alice Boman, Pheobe Bridgers and Aurora at the moment. I also got Bon Iver’s 22 a Million and Sufjan Stevens’ Carrie & Lowell on Vinyl this year and have had them on repeat.

And your favourite album of all time, the one you couldn’t do without? Elliott Smith’s self-titled album. It starts off really dark and gloomy with ‘Needle In The Hay’ and then continues along that vein. For some reason it never fails to cheer me up. The last track ‘The Biggest Lie’ is my favourite from that album.

What are your hopes for your future career? 2017 is a busy year for me. I have another single coming out in May and I just got back from a week spent in a studio on a dairy farm in Pembrokeshire with my band. We’ve recorded 6 new tracks to send off into the world later in the year. I’ll just take it from there I think.

If money were no object what would be your dream project? I’d like to follow in the footsteps of The Band, with their ‘Music from The Big Pink’. I’d rent a little house in the middle of nowhere and just spend the best part of a year writing an album with some nice people.

What’s the best thing about being a musician? Connecting with people I maybe otherwise wouldn’t meet.

And the worst? Sometimes standing up in front of a lot of people when I’m feeling vulnerable can feel a bit counter-intuitive. But I mostly feel better afterwards.

Finally, have you anything you’d like to say to the readers of Americana UK?
I would like to say a big thank you for your support and I that hope to meet you at a show one day.

Author: Rudie Hayes

Rudie is the weekly host of the syndicated radio show - The Horseshoe Lounge Music Session - playing the best American Roots and hosting terrific live guests.

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