Laura Fell has announced her debut full-length ‘Safe from Me’ on former music journal turned record label, Balloon Machine Records. Her new single, Bone Of Contention is released today.
We caught up with Laura Fell to ask her about the new single, and her new album.
Congratulations on Bone Of Contention. It’s a wonderfully lush piece of music and a lyrically stark work.
Thank you! It’s definitely one of the songs I’m most proud of on the record, so it’s really lovely to hear it getting such a positive response from other people. I’ve been so looking forward to getting it out there and having people hear it.
What were the main musical influences when you were writing the single?
So I’d say it’s harder to pin down my musical influences as I’m actually writing songs, as my writing influences tend to feel more background and unconscious for me, but a very clear influence for me when it came to being in the studio arranging, recording and shaping all of the tracks on the record was Blake Mills, particularly his second record ‘Heigh Ho’. The production on it is so dense and polished – you can tell listening to it that it’s been painstakingly crafted, with love and patience and real attention to detail, and that’s definitely the perspective we all took when we went into the studio to record. I wanted there to be lots of interesting layers that blend together to create this beautiful bed for the listener to really settle into, and new sounds that would suddenly stand out on a second, third listen. On ‘Bone of Contention’ I wanted the track to really build gradually, in this sort of half lazy way, if that makes sense? I wanted it to have a real attitude and laid-back quality to the sound overall.
Do you take lyrical influence from any artists in particular?
For me the big guns when it comes to lyrics are a mix of old and new artists . Of course the classics – Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon – I think they’re all real masters of storytelling and they can capture emotions that I can often find it difficult to put into words (love, heartbreak, suffering, loss) in a way that feels effortless, and never self-indulgent. I think that’s a real craft.
In terms of more current artists I think Blake Mills and Adrienne Lenker are way up there for me as lyricists – their writing is so to-the-point but so dense and rich and full of emotion. There’s a vulnerability to their writing that I really admire and aspire to.
You have commented that you needed to feel out of control in the way the song and album came together…is it easier to do this when recording music; to create a different world, feeling or situation?
So when I was writing Bone of Contention in particular it felt important to feel out of control, as I wanted to capture and sit with anger for that tune – an emotion I often only let myself go so far into before I shut it down, not wanting to lose control in it. I think it’s also fair to say that I also wanted to avoid controlling the sound of the record itself, and the process of making it, past a certain point.
Prior to heading to the studio to record, we’d have two or maybe three rehearsals here in London where we got the core arrangements together, but beyond that we were all keen to leave space for a lot of creativity in the studio, and beyond.
I had the pleasure of making this record with a group of incredibly talented musicians who I greatly respect, so it was definitely important for me to leave that space for them to bring their own creativity and musicality to the songs. I wanted it to be really collaborative and shared in that sense. It also felt more exciting that way, you know? Like we knew we were making something special together but none of us could tell quite what it was going to be yet.
Is it always important to you to feel an emotional connection to a song?
Absolutely, without a doubt. I’m a very emotional person – I guess working as a psychotherapist it’s part of my job to be attuned to my emotional experiencing, but it’s also the way I’ve always been. Before I wrote music I was always drawn to very lyrical music that made me feel something, and that made me think and reflect. That’s absolutely what I aim to do in my own songwriting –to really enter into a feeling and to explore where it takes me and what answers I find there.
Do you have any particular favourite songs on your album?
‘Glad’, the album’s opening track, holds a lot of meaning for me. I wrote it about my parent’s divorce, almost as a song of hope to them, letting them know that it would all work out OK in the end. On top of that though, writing the song was a very healing experience for me, as it helped me consolidate all of my emotions around their separation. I still remember writing it – I was in Wales for Christmas with my partner’s family and I’d had the verse guitar melody for a couple weeks, playing around. I sat and just played it over and over and within 30 minutes the song had just poured out of me, as you hear it on the record today. It still chokes me up performing it, and especially listening to it on the record – I’d say it’s the song I’m the most proud of on the album and I remember having a little overwhelmed cry when Alex (Alex Killpartrick, who engineered, mixed & mastered the record) played me the final mix of it in his studio.
It sounds like Safe From Me has been a real labour of love and it sounds as though you have poured everything into the album. With holding down your full time job and making the album, just how exhausting was it?
It definitely has been a real labour of love, for me and also for everyone involved. At the start of the record I was working three jobs to fund the record, and also halfway through my Psychotherapy Masters. It was completely knackering but when I commit to something I tend to fully commit, sometimes to a level that looks like madness from the outside! I remember some friends commenting on how mad it was to put so much into the project, but also really supporting that and going “great, go for it!”. I promised myself I wouldn’t compromise on anything (recording quality, the musicians, the studio costs etc.) even if it meant it took ages to fund and therefore finish the record – don’t get me wrong, there was definitely a few times throughout where I felt so overwhelmed and just wanted to be done with it all already and to hurry it along. But now, hearing the finished record, I’m so glad that I didn’t compromise. I tend to find it hard to own achievements and be proud of myself, but I am really proud of how the record has turned out, and so immensely thankful to the team of musicians who created in with me – the record wouldn’t be what it is without them.
Have you been listening to any particular albums or songs during the past few months that have comforted you, or made you feel good in a time that has been trying?
Yes! I’ve been really enjoying the new Laura Marling record, Songs For Our Daughter (read our review here). I think it’s a hugely moving record and there’s such a sensitivity and fragility to it, yet also this confidence and conviction in the arrangements and in the lyrics. In my mind it’s a very reflective record that really sits with difficulty and takes time to process it, so in that sense I’ve found it quite a comfort in these strange times of late.
I’m also completely rinsing HAIM’s ‘Women in Music Pt. III’ – it’s quite long at 16 tracks but every single one is a complete banger. I’ve definitely done a lot of dancing around the kitchen to it whilst cooking since it came out.
Many thanks to Laura Fell for taking the time to chat with us. Listen to Bone Of Contention below, and connect with Laura through her social networks.
Balloon Machine Records: Bandcamp