July Flame in January Gloom

Adam Whitehead 2 February 2010

Adam Whitehead meets critically acclaimed songstress Laura Veirs who lit up Cambridge last week

“It’s getting a little uncomfortable to sleep on the tour bus with this giant basketball”, Laura Veirs remarks whilst gesturing towards her stomach. This statement would seem a little odd if it were not obvious that she is heavily pregnant.

Embarking on tour to promote her seventh album, ‘July Flame’ she is expecting a baby in mid-April. Not that this has slowed her down one bit. “People keep coming up to me to say ‘I can’t believe you are touring whilst pregnant’, but it’s more common than you might think”, she acknowledges. Casually adding, “It’s just an extension of taking your kids on tour really”.

The cravings of a mother-to-be have yet to result in extravagant requests for the backstage rider, though she jokes that it would provide an excuse for some diva excesses. It’s hard to envision Veirs acting like a prima donna upon hearing her daily routine on a recent US tour, “Get up, eat breakfast, drive all day, get to the venue, set out the merchandise stand, play your gig then go to bed”. With a schedule that more resembles that of a roadie than a rising star; she would probably unload the gear from the tour van herself if it wasn’t for her sizable bump.

The summers of Veirs’ youth spent around a campfire in the picturesque Colorado Springs are apparent from the natural imagery of her lyrics. This upbringing has also afforded her a relaxed demeanour which belies a determined individual. “A DIY ethic has permeated my whole career”, Veirs proudly opines. This ethic dates back to her college days when she was in an all female punk band inspired by the Riot Grrrl movement. Adopting the scene’s mantra of ‘If we can do it, anyone can do it’, her group crafted songs which were hard-hitting both musically and lyrically.

Though her mellow acoustic solo work is a far cry from the abrasive style of her past, it shares the same individualistic approach. Most recently this has manifested itself in her founding her own record label in the  US, ‘Raven Marching Band Records’, with her partner and producer Tucker Martine. She enthuses that this has given her more creative freedom than on a major label, “Making the record in my house, hiring my friend to help put the artwork together and then selling it myself at the merchandise table at my shows. It’s such a wonderful feeling”.

Despite conceding there are some advantages of being on a major label, she speculates that it’s less important today, “Due to how the music industry is changing, you can get just as much publicity from blogs and iTunes, I was recently ‘Single of the Week’ and got a phenomenal response from that”.

Taking the chance to spread some word of mouth publicity herself, she recommends Bill Callahan’s latest record ‘Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle’.

With a #1 ranking on the US Billboard 200 and a wealth of positive reviews coming her way of late – July Flame has been particularly well-received – it must be hard to remain as humble as Veirs. That she does is reassuring because this songstress may well be playing her hypnotically beautiful folk to much larger audiences very soon.

Adam Whitehead