of the high priority releases by Decca Records in early spring 2011
is Bells, introducing Dutch American singer-songwriter Laura
Jansen. Perhaps the flagship label these days of the Universal Music
Group, Decca was originally based in London back in the mid 60s
but with a number of signings by up and coming U.S. based artists,
Decca, at least the New York based branch is turning into an internationally
focused A&R based label shining a light on bright new talent.
Home to ingenious 70s progressive bands like Kayak, Focus and
Supersister, HollandMs. Jansen's native countrywas a fantastic
jumping off point for Euro-pop and rock in the 70s. Incorporating
a wealth of musical genres, Laura Jansens style and content
fits into a myriad of musical basketsfrom orch-pop ala Rufus
Wainwright and Sean Lennon to a more keyboard based progressive, Euro-centric
pop meets rock vibe so popular in her native country. Featuring ten
tracksincluding a cover of a song written and recorded by Kings
Of Leon entitled, Use SomebodyBells is already
a hit in the Netherlands, so clearly the folks back in the old country
are hoping Laura breaks big here in the U.S. Ms. Jansen couldnt
ask for a better label then Decca, and she also goes to bat with a
crack band in the studio spearheaded by guitarist/keyboardist and
Bells producer Bill Lefler. Ms. Jansens style
is perfectly imbued with her songs which also gets some intriguing
seasoning by her own performance on the time honored mellotron, which
is discernible in the keyboard sound. Very progressive at times and
at times very singer-songwriter personified, Bells benefits
by the strong diversity Ms. Jansen brings to the 21st century music
an interview with Laura Jansen
mwe3: Hello Laura, thank you for taking some time for this interview
with mwe3.com. What's been the reaction to your new Bells CD,
both in Europe and here in the U.S. and what did you set out to accomplish,
musically, artistically and personally on this album?
Bells has been a really slow and steady record and its been
an especially incredible year and half in The Netherlands. It was
released there over a year and half ago and we're now releasing an
updated version of the album in the States and in Germany. I'm really
proud of the record because the songs are such a document of my own
life over the past 6 years. I never really intended to write songs
for a record, I wrote them to get through a tough time, to remind
myself of lessons I'd learned and to work out questions in my head.
Now, as a collection, they really reflect the bigger picture. The
fact that such a personal record has had the opportunity to be accepted
by a larger audience is really a miracle to me. The beauty of making
music is being able to connect with other people's experiences. The
biggest success for me has been to see that happen in many different
countries and with such a varied audience. I'm so pleased that the
songs are resonating with the listeners in such a personal way.
mwe3: How would you say the classic rock and pop artists of the past
has influenced your music over the years? What artists did you first
listen to and can you mention some of your favorite pop and rock musicians
LJ: I was raised in a very musical and eclectic home so. My mom would
blast Queen records, Brazilian folk records and tons of Beatles. When
I hit the "navel gazing" phase as a teenager, I dove into
the music of Kate Bush, Joni Mitchell and Tori Amos. I started listening
to a lot of Sam Cooke and Donny Hathaway and Stevie Wonder in college.
Now my musical choices go out to a lot of the artists coming out of
the Hotel Cafe. I'm a huge Jesca Hoop fan, love William Fitzsimmons,
Elizabeth and the Catapult, Sara Bareilles. I listen to a ton of Radiohead,
Muse, Lykke Li...I'm all over the place. If you combine that with
my nerdy classical music training you kind of get a sense of where
I write from. I believe music can be written in movements and pieces,
that there is a lot of freedom within the structure of pop songs and
that lyrics drive everything.
mwe3: Where and when was the Bells album written, rehearsed
and recorded and since you've been in L.A. since 2003, how has living
in L.A. shaped your music? What part of L.A. do you like best and
how would you compare the music scene and life in L.A. to New York
City and Amsterdam?
LJ: Bells was written over the period of a few years. It started
in Nashville and ended in Los Angeles. It started as the combination
of two EPs that were both recorded in Los Angeles. I moved to Los
Angeles because I was such a fan of the artists coming out of the
Hotel Cafe. I knew it was the right move to make because I wanted
to be surrounded by that kind of talent and that kind of inspiration.
I spent a year there just listening and watching. Learning from everyone
I saw play. Slowly getting to know players, writers, producers until
there was this fantastic network of friends who happened to be super
talented. Its a creative city but also a competitive one. Its amazing
to find such a bubble of peace love and harmony (the Hotel Cafe) within
that environment. It breeds creativity and collaboration and I love
I love Los Feliz and Silverlake the best. It's not Hollywood but still
close enough. The east side feels very separate from Hollywood and
can even feel like a village sometimes. Lots of creative people live
there, the shops and restaurants are all locally owned and there is
a real peaceful quality to life just outside of the craziness of Hollywood.
The LA music scene is so varied but I know it stands out when it comes
to the singer/songwriter world. There's no other place on earth like
The Hotel Cafe because it was created and exists in such an organic
way. I may not be very partial here though.
mwe3: When did you start playing keyboards, what are your favorite
LJ: I'm a piano player, not a keyboard aficionado so I'm not able
to really speak on sounds and makes. Live I play the Nord stage piano
88 when I'm not playing an acoustic piano.
mwe3: What was it like working with producer Bill Lefler, what did
Bill bring to the table so to speak and can you say a few things about
working with some of the great musicians featured on the Bells album?
LJ: Bill is one of the easiest people to work with and has a real
knack for pushing you as far as you can go without making it feel
like work. He brought so much more to my arrangements by letting me
see my songs in a new light. I came to him really as a solo piano
artist and over the course of our collaboration, now hear the songs
in full band form. He would make me try a hundred different and new
things to break my familiarity with songs that had already existed
for a few years. That was so liberating and exciting. He never pushed
his opinion on me but let me explore and experiment as much as possible.
The players on Bells are, indeed, incredibly great. I still
can't believe they're on my record. That's what is so great about
living and working in Los Angeles. The friends I made here also happen
to be some of the best players in the country. Blair Sinta has been
one of my most favorite drummers for a long time. He also happens
to be a super good guy and the record is dedicated to his son Kieran,
who waited to be born until his daddy was finished tracking. Having
guys like Joel Shearer and Ben Peeler add their tremendous talent
to the songs was humbling. Collaborating with Cary Brothers and Butterfly
Boucher for guest vocals was incredible. You know, every single player
on this record is someone I've played live shows with, had countless
dinners with and really consider to be a friend. That adds a whole
different level to the recording process and makes it so much more
personal and fun.
mwe3: What are your plans, writing, recording and possibly touring
for 2011 and beyond?
LJ: 2011 is all about the getting the word out. I'll be splitting
my time between the US and Europe for a string of tours until July.
July is all about being in the studio to work out some new songs and
then I start up again in the fall. Playing live is my absolute favorite
thing to do in the whole world so its shaping up to be a great
Thanks to Laura Jansen @ www.LauraJansen.com
and to Jodie Thomas @ www.DeccaRecords-US.com