Singer Laura Stevenson brings tour to the Bishop
She has toured extensively following her first two albums, and she just released her third album, “Wheels,” this year.
The IDS got a chance to speak with Stevenson before her performance at 9:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Bishop Bar as part of her tour in support of “Wheels.”
IDS Are you excited for the tour and to come back to Bloomington?
Stevenson Yeah, we’ve been practicing a lot. I’m just getting over being sick, but we have a new drummer, so we’ve been doing a lot of practicing.I’m really excited, but it’s overwhelming. There are a lot of shows, and I’m doing some solo stuff on the way out, so it will require a lot of singing.But it’s going to be good. We’ll do all the stuff we usually do. In Bloomington, we stay with our buddy Eric. There are places we like to go and people we want to see on tour.It depends on the town, if we know somebody or not, but we’ve toured for so long that if there isn’t someone we know, there’s a food place we like to go to.That’s really comforting. It’s one of the things I like most about touring.
IDS How did you get started with music?
Stevenson I’ve been playing since I was a little kid. I started writing my own songs, but I was too afraid to play them, so I started playing with (Long Island music collective) Bomb the Music Industry! It got to the point where I was thinking “I should play shows, I should make a record.” So I did. But I never had vocal training besides choir in high school. I never learned how to do it properly.
IDS What are some of your first memories of music?
Stevenson When I was little, my dad played the Beatles all the time. I’d walk around singing Beatles songs as if they were kids songs.
When we would hang Christmas ornaments on the tree, I would sing a different Beatles song for each ornament as I put it on the tree. So I was really into the Beatles. My grandma sung with Benny Goodman, so I really liked jazz from the swing era, from the ‘30s and ‘40s.
IDS Your songs are known for their honesty and authenticity. How do you find authenticity and preserve it in your music?
Stevenson Well, I’ve always lived on Long Island, so this is my place. I didn’t come to New York because it was a creative mecca.I was never bright-eyed, walking around looking for people to play with or into the subculture of Brooklyn or anything. It doesn’t make me that excited.I just want to be in my room working on my own stuff by myself. Everything around me is too crazy so I want to curl up.
IDS What are some of your biggest musical influences?
Stevenson Neutral Milk Hotel. I like how Jeff Mangum writes. I got to meet him, and that was crazy. He was one of my earliest influences when I started making music, so meeting him was awesome.I get influence from a lot of different places and writers. Different genres, too. I’m really in to the Magnetic Fields right now. I love Built to Spill. I listened to them a lot when I was coming in to my own. They have good melodies.
IDS What is your typical songwriting process?
Stevenson As of right now, I’m kind of unproductive creatively.
I have no place to work on stuff privately. So I don’t know what my process is like at the moment. I write wherever someone is not able to hear me. When I’m alone, I do a lot of writing in notebooks, but when I write music, I try to think of placeholder words.
It really depends on the specific situation. I don’t have an actual formula, which is a good thing, I guess.
IDS How did you transition from Bomb the Music Industry! to going solo?
Stevenson It was so gradual. I don’t think I made the decision in one sitting.
I wanted to keep writing songs, and when they were good enough, I would share them. The people in Bomb the Music Industry! encouraged me. I went to open mic nights to get used to playing alone so my friends wouldn’t see me. It was terrible. Then I started playing my own shows and opening for Bomb. Up until then, I was thinking, “Everyone thinks what they make is good. Maybe I’m the only one who thinks my songs are good.”
IDS Pitchfork debuted your single “Runner.” Since they’re a well-known website, did you gain notoriety from that? Do you have more fans now?
Stevenson Not really. It was just the single, and they kind of shat on our record. They haven’t done us any favors. I don’t know how I feel about Pitchfork. Most people find our music organically. They hear our music, and it really speaks to them. It has more staying power when people say, “I love this song, and I love the lyrics. I’m gonna get this record and love it and listen to it back and forth.”
IDS How is “Wheel” different from your other albums?
Stevenson I really liked Kevin McMahon’s production work.
I liked the Frightened Rabbit record that he did a lot. He had a good range for acoustic music and guitar sounds. He did “The Monitor” with Titus Andronicus, so I thought he could capture all facets in the songs. There’s a lot of genre play where one song is very different from the next one. Kevin did a cool job of expanding on that. I didn’t know what to expect because we had never worked with a real producer. Previously, it was more collaborative with the sounds, but on “Wheel,” Kevin really took the reigns. We were the canvas and he had the paintbrush.
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