click here for more
click here for more
Interview: Laura Jean - The Others Way Festival 2022

Interview: Laura Jean - The Others Way Festival 2022

Indira Neville / Photo credit: Rochelle Marie Adam / Thursday 20th October, 2022 10:53AM

Laura Jean performs at Tāmaki Makaurau's The Others Way Festival this Saturday 21st October — check out the updated programme including new additions to the lineup Finn Andrews and Carnivorous Plant Society...

UnderTheRadar, Flying Out and 95bFM present...

The Others Way Festival
Saturday 22nd October (during Labour Weekend) - Tāmaki Makaurau's Karangahape Road

Featuring... Anthonie Tonnon, Bleeding Star, Carnivorous Plant Society, Ché Fu & The Kratez, Coolies, Daffodils, Dance Exponents, Earth Tongue, Finn Andrews, Francisca Griffin and the Bus Shelter Boys, Half Hexagon, Hans Pucket Midnight Karaoke Challenge, Juno Is, Julien Dyne, Landlords, Laura Jean, Mirror Ritual, MNDSGN & the Rare Pleasures, Nadia Reid, The Newmatics, PollyHill, Proteins of Magic, Repairs, Rita Mae, Shepherds Reign, Soft Plastics, Steve Gunn, Swidt, TE KAAHU, Vanessa Worm

Tickets on sale HERE via UTR

When I was younger I got a book about herbs and from it I made many dubious ‘healing’ potions. I thought of this when I listened to Laura Jean sing about learning reiki, which she does in her song ‘Teenager Again’. The experiences were different but the feelings evoked were the same; an intense adolescent yearning for answers and a gentle retrospective amusement at the attempts made to find them.

I’m talking to Australian musician Laura Jean about her forthcoming album Amateurs and I share with her my memory of the bitter herbal teas. I tell her how great she is at capturing broad human experiences and feelings through moments specific to her own life. She tells me this is deliberate,

“If you sing about anguish or love or whatever too generally then it’s too hard for people to find a way in. It’s hard to imagine personal and emotional things from places other than yourself, but if I share a specific situation it reminds whoever’s listening about one of their own and that’s the way in. The herb thing is yours and yeh, it’s just like the reiki”.

She continues, “This strategy? It’s quite intellectual. Writing a good emotional song is really quite an intellectual process but if you do it right you don’t notice at the end. The emotion hides it”.

Laura Jean is all about the song-writing process. In numerous interviews she talks about it as a ‘dedication to song craft’. This seems to me to be a bit vague so I ask her what the word ‘craft’ means. She tells me it’s a good question and I feel a bit proud of myself, but not for long because the answer is so interesting and I want to concentrate.

Her explanation includes the words ‘curiosity and organisation’. The curiosity part comes at the beginning of the process when she ‘plays’ with whatever tools come to hand. The example given is the kid’s keyboard she used to write the songs for Devotion, her previous album. Laura Jean talks about, “…wondering what it could do, just following the sounds without being strategic”.

Then comes the ‘organising’ of the discovered sounds; the writing of melodies, harmonies, and lyrics on that same instrument. She says, “I want to see how much interest I can create if I put this word over this tune or add this particular sound. You know, what can I do, how can I make it satisfying?”.

“Crafting satisfies the organisational part of my brain. I do have a very organisational brain” she adds.

Laura Jean also talks about ‘song craft’ more generally, “lots of people will ‘craft’ for a reason; an advert or a Spotify playlist or an album. I just repeatedly craft the songs themselves. It’s like a spiritual practice”. These last words are qualified, “it’s not a heavy or compulsory thing, just something I can’t imagine I’ll ever stop doing. Like a ritual”.

I ask if it’s a contradiction, being organisational and spiritual. The answer is a rejection. Laura Jean explains she’s made up of lots of different parts and she honours them all; that she is both pragmatic and creative. She also says her law degree and job as a legal clerk are just as important as her music, “I love having other stuff to do and when I’m at work or studying I’m really totally there. I care about it”.

“It’s important to be open and in every moment” she continues and tells me a story about when she worked in a café and overheard some musicians mention ‘killing time’ until their next gig. She gives an emphatic “no!” and says, “actually those moments in the café were amazing. I had to give that old lady her coffee and make sure it wasn’t too hot and care about her… you have to care about what you do in every moment”.

This idea of ‘moments’ seems to carry across in all Laura Jean does. She lives them and she writes about them. ‘Teenager Again’ has many great examples. There’s the learning reiki thing but also a trip to a psychic, and when she went on the Lite’n’Easy diet programme.

‘Too Much To Do’, the third single from Amateurs is about moments Laura Jean has with her mother, who dreamed of being in musical theatre, “I put in a snapshot from my childhood when mum got her first part. I’ll never forget her coming home from her audition screaming ‘I got in!’”

This interview also feels like a moment. Laura Jean is invested and open and I cannot help but be fully there with her. To be honest we do not talk much about Amateurs although I do say the name seems a bit of a misnomer, given how skilled and beautiful her work is. She thanks me, looks thoughtful, then explains it’s about the way artists are perceived in Australia, “like it’s not a proper job”. Despite this though, she continues to make music, “so ‘amateur’ is also a word for someone who does what they love. That’s me”.

At the end of the interview we somehow segue into a Cyndi Lauper fangirl session. I tell her how I saw Cyndi live, playing 'Time After Time' with just a zither. She smiles and utters a genuine “oh wow”. Then I say I’m looking forward to seeing her play at The Others Way and that perhaps I’ll wear a Cyndi Lauper t-shirt so she knows who I am. Laura Jean laughs and we both agree it’d be a moment. — Indira Neville

Laura Jean's forthcoming album Amateurs launches on Friday 4th November via Chapter Music — vinyl preorders are available HERE.


Share this
Subscribe/Follow Us
Don’t miss a thing! Follow us on your favourite platform  

Help Support Independent Music News
You can show your support to keep UnderTheRadar running by making a contribution. From $5, any amount can make a huge difference and keep us bringing you the best, comprehensive local content. ♥
Support UTR!