Laura Reed just signed by Sony/ATV and at a turning point in her musical career, approaches music and writing with an inner peace and desire for self discovery. After relinquishing a successful band in the South East and becoming a new mom, music went a different direction for Reed. She relocated from the mountains of North Carolina to Nashville, TN and connected with a wide range of new collaborators. With big names in the industry to mentor her on the business side of her music career, Reed is taking charge of her rising star. While taking the next step in her musical journey, she talks strategy and what it takes to get there.
Reed’s interest in music started early while spending part of her childhood in South Africa, soaking up sounds of spirituals, harmonies, & sounds of the country. Through travels with her mother around the world she was able to experience a broad spectrum of music cultures that have inspired her in her own writings, as well as reflecting in her style. During her adolescents living in the South East United States is where her musical talent was truly triggered. The young aspiring musician was immersed in an array of soul, blues, folk, reggae and rock that cast her into her first musical endeavors. Laura’s journey has woven the songwriting that has brought her to the latest exploration, and she is anxious for the release of her first solo effort in years.
Songwriters Marketplace gets a preview of “The Awakening” with Laura’s first single and music video “Faith Not Fear”, showcasing her many talents, giving us a taste of this much anticipated album. The opening lyrics bring a recognition of the trials and tribulations that have been overcome in her recent years. We get to talk to the busy songwriter while she is touring and opening for sold out shows headlined by R&B artist MiGUEL. Laura reveals a bit of her awakening, finding empowerment in the fears and turning them into faith in her music with driving effect. “The Awakening” is planned for release by the end of 2012.
Tell us about your upbringing and your musical background.
Very unconventional, global, and encouraging. I was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, which is where my mom is from, however my dad is American (born in Nashville) and so at a young age we moved to North Carolina and I was raised here in a pretty rural area. I had been blessed to do alot of traveling with my mom from a young age though, and she was brave enough to let me explore a lot. I would join her on business trips to big cities like New York or Chicago and she would allow me to go out and explore as long as I could show her on a map where I was going and how to get back to our meeting spot- as you could imagine this cultivated a deep appreciation of my surroundings and all the people and stories behind them. I got to travel extensively with her internationally as well (Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Australia) all over….I soaked everything up like a little sponge and it’s deeply woven in my music and message. The more I traveled and met different people the more clear to me it was how similar we all really are, and how exciting and beautiful our differences were. I was always encouraged to write, there were no musicians in my family really, but a lot of writers…so that’s what I did…i always had journals and notebooks, and was constantly writing poems and journals of everything. These soon turned into songs. I eventually taught myself to play guitar at 14 and then the poems and stories were accompanied with music, and then shared on small stages and coffee shops until I started playing in bands.
You have been a touring artist for sometime and worked with some really established musicians, for instance George Clinton and Karl Denson, fill us in on some of these experiences.
I have been really blessed, I grew up listening to George Clinton, so when I got the call to come and be a songwriter and vocalist on a project (Big ol’ Nasty Get down) with him I was thrilled. I was caught off guard at how down to earth he was, and wasn’t surprised at all at how creative and deep he was at all times. We hit it off and I got to not only write for the project but work alongside George on vocal arrangements- which was surreal and a great learning experience, the man is brilliant.
Karl is another one of those artists that is incredibly down to Earth- you feel like you are in the studio with your brother or someone you’ve known forever. He had such a positive energy and was so enthusiastic and encouraging towards all the vocals I did with Debrissa who joined me on backgrounds for his album “Brother’s Keeper”. We were honored to have been asked to do it, and he gave us a lot of freedom to just be expressive and translate what we felt.
You became a mother in the last couple of years, what effect did that have on your music at the time and what effect does it have on your music now?
It put everything in perspective. At the time it changed my course but that was inevitable, I tried not to cancel any shows, and continued to perform up until the last moment I could, and went back as soon as I could. Being pregnant gave me a lot of time to reflect and write and appreciate, I had never had that kind of time before and really indulged in learning who I am on many levels previously unexplored so I could be a better mother. I am not the same person as I was before Zion was born, there is no way I could be. It has a huge effect on my music now, I have some limitations on what I can do because of course first priority is my son, but in a way it’s great because I only do the things that are really necessary and compelling, I finally learned how to say “no”. I have also been inspired through motherhood in the message, my songwriting has always been positive and a reflective but now I feel like I am able to tap into a another, perhaps deeper vein of experience that I never could before, and I am a better songwriter because of it.
What is your favorite part about being a musician?
I get to share myself, my pain, my thoughts, my experiences with others, which is therapeutic and empowering…and in turn I see it also brings comfort and healing to the audience. I’m not sure what it is, but music has this incredible power, like medicine to heal and inspire. It helps us relate to each other and find understanding and comfort in the realization we all going through the same things and will overcome, not to mention getting inspired by a message or sound in a song that resonates with you- and that’s powerful.
You are very environmentally conscious. What did you do a few years back with your album Live From Tree Sounds Studios that impacted the environment & how do you continue to keep it green?
Starting off the actual location, Treesound studios is a facility that takes many more environmental measures than most. Portions of building are solar powered, onsite recycling and composting, food is grown at organic Rock Star Farms, There was on site Bio-diesel. So recording at Tree started us on the good foot. We also purchased energy credits for not sustainable energy used at studio as well as using ecological packaging from Groovehouse Records.
I like to think of it as a matter of balance. Trying not to take more then necessary, or waste. I’m a big advocate or reusing and “re-purposing” items so that nothing is really that disposable. I wish I was able to do as much as I did a few years back, but alas these days being a single mother and living in a city it’s tougher. I am particular about what companies I support based on their practices, the food I eat, the businesses I patron. I live in a Leed certified apartment, my energy use is very low- I’m a huge lover of public transport and living in Nashville I really don’t have to ever travel far, I do a lot of walking. Downside to city life however being I don’t get to have the great gardens I used to and compost but I’m working on my landlord with all that to get a community garden going… it’s the little things, and I never feel I’m doing enough, but I am raising my son to be conscious of his input and output and impact on the world, and in a way that might be one of the biggest steps I’m taking, essentially its living today so that others may tomorrow, so our youth are an important link in “keeping it green”.
You play a pretty mean harmonica, how often do you play it on albums or live?
It was about 5 years ago [when I picked up the harmonica], I don’t play it as much as I’d like- its one of those instruments that is a great accent. Recording wise I’ve only had it on one song “Train”, however I do bring it out during almost every live show- especially lately during my shows with Shannon Sanders, he has a song called “these streets” that features me on a bluesy harmonica riff.
What musical moment has impacted your career in this industry most?
I played a wedding in Atlanta a few years back that one of my mentors, Paul Worley was attending. Paul has been the most instrumental figure in my career. The folks I’m working with now, Paul either introduced or encouraged the relationship. Not to mention he has been a trustworthy mentor over the years. He gave me the best advice to date “follow the music, make the best music you can and then the rest will follow you”. He was blown away by the performance and has since changed my career in amazing ways, I find myself where I am because of that moment and because of him.
Who and what do you attribute to your success as an artist?
I have to honor my family, they always encouraged me to be as creative and “freaky” as I wanted to. An appreciation for free thinking and the arts was cultivated in me by them and that is a big reason why I see the world the way I do. They also taught me hard work, I still don’t know many people as hard working and focused as my mother, she motivates me everyday and actually works with me a lot in my career.
Focus and hard work are crucial ingredients to being an artist, creating the music is the easy part, that just flows out of you, you can’t stop it…it’s the discipline and work ethic however that allow you to translate the art in a tangible form for others and get it out into the world.
Tell us about your new album “The Awakening”, what direction are you going in comparison to “Soul : Music” and “Live at Tree Sound Studios”?
The new album, The Awakening is a completely different approach to songwriting, music, performance, and recording then the previous albums. The Awakening is a collection of songs that I chose with the album’s producer, Shannon Sanders out of about 40 songs that I had written in the last year or two. I met Shannon through Paul Worley. When I had decided to leave Treesound/Atlanta- Paul was the first person I called. He heard the music I was making post Deep Pocket and instinctively knew that me and Shannon would be a powerful combination, he was right. I met Shannon one morning at the Sylvan Park cafe in Nashville, we spoke for a while and proceeded to spend the rest of day vibing in the studio. It was safe to say we knew from the first meeting we were going to make some inspired music.
The songs we chose are all songs that speak to the message of “Awakening”. This is a big theme in my life right now, and the world I would say. These songs all carry with them a positive and inspired framework, but are packaged by Shannon’s undeniable “bump factor” and smoothness. We co wrote every song on the album, whereas the previous albums I was the only lyricist. These new songs have had a lot of time spent on each one to really tailor a sound that is unique to who I am and all my influences, drawing on soul, hip hop, world music,R&B, funk, and gospel. I’ve never made an album like this, Shannon is an acclaimed producer (won 2 Grammys/produced for India Arie, John Legend, Pink) so I really surrendered a lot of the process in this album and in turn ended up making the music I’ve been wanting to make my whole life. That’s what happens when you surrender I guess, and that was part of the awakening for me. This album has a clear message and I love that.
Please give some love to all the talented musicians that you work with and fondly call Deep Pocket.
I’ve been blessed to work with a lot of amazing artists and musicians, as well as had some great teams around me and continue to do so. Part of the beauty of Deep Pocket was the team element. It was alike a well oiled machine when it was going strong, everyone had a job in the band more then just showing up to play their instrument. For instance Ben Didelot the bass player would also be the one to send out promo for shows, Ryan Burns the piano player would also take care of tour van maintenance, this is was a great model and though we had a huge learning curve and there was a lot of trial and error, it was great example of a band sustaining itself. Traveling together as close as we did and sacrificing the way we all did for years for the vision we shared came through in the music in a lot of ways because you eventually start just completing peoples sentences musically so to speak on stage, and we had some incredible performances because of this.
You’ve release the music video for “Faith not Fear” , where did you film this & what was the message you were wanting to get across?
The video was filmed in various locations in Nashville. It begins in Paul Worley’s drive way, which was symbolic because that was where my journey in Nashville began. The song is about me leaving a shaky situation in Atlanta, failed relationship, left a label ect. and I took a huge chance and moved to Nashville and Paul literally welcomed me into his home to begin writing the album. The video then moved to different neighborhoods like Edgehill where some of my favorite scenes in the video are with the dog and the kids…and even right near where I live by the Cumberland River in the city, there is a river walk near my home that has an amazing view of the city and caught the sun just right for the chorus on “Faith not Fear’. There were different levels of message to get across, first being the song itself, it’s a mantra essentially “Faith not fear”. I wanted to convey Faith, white dress..confident, un-phased by any threat, judgment, concern, walking confidently through the streets or life, singing to everyone and no one in particular. There was a social message that was also at play, The video itself was a big of a social experiment because no one in it were actors, and it was literally live, guerilla style footage where I was walking through expensive neighborhoods, projects, and studios and part of the art was people’s reaction to me. Girl dressed in white dress with dreads and gold jewelry walking through the projects with a camera crew, that could’ve gone many ways, but I had faith not fear and it was a beautiful experience, people came out of their homes, kids got involved and were running down the street with me.
Me and Alex (director for video Alexander King) also realized while making the video that there was still a lot of social and economical separation in Nashville that we didn’t want to blatantly point out but wanted to illustrate. The fancy neighborhood I’m walking in at the beginning of video is only a few blocks from the projects I’m walking in later on. It was like two different worlds, but it shouldn’t be. Folks would not go from one to the other, and the separation is perpetuated by fear. Why are we so afraid of each other, and why do we not go out and ignore these social/economic boundaries? The answers might be obvious but while filming we really felt this needed to be addressed and knew that Nashvillians who recognize the locations or anyone already on this wave length would catch the message and recognize that Faith not Fear is essential for breaking down walls and living an inspired life.
Your single “Forbidden Lover” is in the action film “Cold Light of Day”, starring Bruce Willis and Sigorni Weaver in theaters September 7th, how did this come about?
Another blessing, I had been asked to come and write for a movie with a long time friend of mine Damien Horne. We were actually writing for another movie called “In Time”. I had already written a song called “Conflicted”, that was similar to the theme of the film in which love had bad timing and ill fated circumstances. We sat down and reworked the song a bit and gave it a romantic almost bossa nova feel and then threw it out to the music licensing folks until it was picked up by Cold Light of Day. We wrote a few other songs in those sessions that also found their way in film and the song “Forbidden Lover” was the one that really struck everyone involved, there was something very vulnerable about it that was perfect for a really heavy scene in a movie.
What is on the agenda now and what is next for Laura Reed?
Finish my debut album “The Awakening” is first priority at this moment. I just signed with EMI so I will be doing a lot of songwriting. I have a song “Forbidden Love” that I co-wrote with Damien Horne (The Farm), which is featured in the upcoming film “Cold Light of Day” due out Sep. 7th. Being a great mom, getting back on the road performing, and sharing music that gives people hope, encouragement, insight, and healing is the big goal these days.
Photo by Dusin Lewis