LAURA JANSEN
Bells
(Decca Records)

 

One 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, Holland—Ms. Jansen's native country—was a fantastic jumping off point for Euro-pop and rock in the ‘70s. Incorporating a wealth of musical genres, Laura Jansen’s style and content fits into a myriad of musical baskets—from 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 tracks—including a cover of a song written and recorded by Kings Of Leon entitled, “Use Somebody”—Bells 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 couldn’t 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. Jansen’s 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 world. www.LauraJansen.com / www.DeccaRecords-US.com

MWE3.COM presents
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?

LJ: 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 and albums?

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 that.

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 keyboard sounds?

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 it’s shaping up to be a great year!


Thanks to Laura Jansen @ www.LauraJansen.com and to Jodie Thomas @ www.DeccaRecords-US.com

 

 
   
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