On her six-song EP To The Hills, strings and a minimalist electro loop back the whispered, yet assertive harmonies of London-based artist Laurel. The 20-year-old musician is the “next big thing” with her music video for lead single “Shells” premiering premiere on Vogue online in July. Elaisha Green of Aesthetic Magazine chatted with the young, precocious musician during a photo shoot, while she answered questions on producing her recent release, love, and her first music video.
Elaisha Green: Where did you grow up and how did that shape who you are today?
Laurel: I grew up by the sea in the countryside. There wasn’t really much to do around there so I guess most of the time I spent writing music and just playing on my guitar. That’s all I did, so that might have an impact on it probably. Also, the scenery and my songs… there’s a lot of references to the sea. I guess a lot of things in my recent songs are about living in the suburbs and just mucking about and not really doing anything, and wanting to get further. Trying to get somewhere bigger than where you are – somewhere exciting.
EG: And what would be your dream city to end up calling home?
L: I don’t want to end up in the city actually. I want to end up in the countryside. In a really nice house that’’s all old andcountrified, on a farm and Victorian. I’m not a city person. I want to be on a farm.
EG: There is a sense of theatricality and fullness to your songs. When writing and producing, do you consider your sound in a particular space?
L: I don’t really think about anything but the feeling of the song when writing it. Someone asked me this about visuals the other day and videos and I just don’t really think about videos or anything else but how I’m feeling. When I’m writing a song, I’m just trying to get all of my feelings off of my chest and make it into a piece that I can hear and see in my head. I just wanna get it out really.
EG: How has your love of folk music played a role in your career so far?
L: My favourite part of a song is the lyrics. I’m really into poetry and I love reading. In folk lyrics,… if you read them out of a page they could be a poem, which is so important to me. Rather than just saying what you feel, it’s more descriptive storytelling. I think that, while I’m now backed by something different than folk music, they’re still pretty much folk songs.
EG: What or who do you usually write about?
L: I always write about love, which is kinda sad, but it’s a very passionate thing if you experience it at some point. Did you say who? Usually people in my life. All the people who have been in my life that aren’t anymore. I always reference back to all of the experiences that I’ve been through. But mostly it’s about the present – how I feel and [to] get it off of [my] chest. So, yeah…Everybody around me, watch out.
EG: You’re going to “Taylor Swift” them?
L: [Laughs] Yeah!
EG: What felt best about producing your own album, and why did you choose to produce your album?
L: The best part is you don’t have anyone telling you what to do. And I’m so fucking proud of the songs by the end of it. There is no better feeling than having a song out and going that is mine and 100% mine and I did that on my own. I got the skills, I learned how to do it and I made—I created something. Like I made something completely new that hasn’t been made before. It’s very satisfying. Extremely satisfying. But it’s hard because you’ve only got yourself to rely on. [With] “Shells” I had someone else produce that, but I did that with someone before I could produce my music. The guy that produced “Shells” is a very close friend of mine and he was the first person I ever wrote a song with, so it’s a bit of a different bond. I wrote it when I was 17… so three years ago. I wrote it about a boy. I kinda wrote it at a time where we just broke up: he moved to Australia and found someone else and I was very much still in love with him. There’s so much that—I don’t still love him but there’s so much emotion behind that song. It’s like my first love so it can really remind me of that time, but not in a bad way. In a really good way. In a really passionate way. It also reminds me of the time when I started getting signed, and all my music started taking off, and everything started falling into place, and my life was changing a lot when I wrote it. And I kinda sat on the song for three years and didn’t do anything with it and I thought ‘I think it’s time to put this out’. This is what started everything.
EG: How do you feel that the music video for “Fire Breather” fits in with your EP To the Hills, with its premonition and star-crossed-lover-plot?
L: I think it’s surreal and a big story. All of the songs off my album are massive love stories. The video is very cinematic, and is a story and a film. Not your everyday film either, ’cause it’s a bit weird and gritty and a bit dirtier and down-to-it. But the theme of it is love, and that everything around you is all going on, but it’s the passion of the love. I think that’s my album: big stories, especially the song “The Desert” which is the B-side for “Fire Breather”. It’s a big love story and it’s kinda sad. They’re not sad songs. I think a lot of people think they’re sad songs; they’re more emotional songs than sad songs.
Check out our other portrait series entries with Hollerado, The 1975, and more, here!