"My therapy training stood me in quite a good stead to be open with my music."
Laura Fell is a musician that combines vulnerable, honest lyrics with striking vocals and beautiful arrangements: her debut album, Safe From Me, arrives on the 26th of November via Balloon Machine. To accompany the release of stunning new track ‘Bone Of Contention’, which dropped on the 26th of August, FUZZY spoke to Laura about her musical influences, and, interestingly, how her music intertwines with her day job as a therapist.
FUZZY: Your debut album, Safe From Me, is due for release in November. What has been the process been like?
During lockdown was when I reached out to Paddy from Stay Loose/Balloon Machine about PR, and that rerouted everything for me. Up until then, I was going to be doing self-release and it was kind of on pause. Working with Paddy and Phil at Balloon Machine has actually been a dream really because I'm quite new to it all and they have a lot more experience. It's really lovely to have their support with the release and plotting out what happens when.
FUZZY: What was the inspiration behind ‘Safe From Me’, and how much do you draw on life experiences for your music? ‘Safe From Me’ was written after a break up two and a half years ago. Normally when you write a song about an experience you’re trying to understand, there is this moment of aahhh, I’ve captured it, I can let it go, but I didn’t have that moment afterwards. The line “I couldn’t lie to you so I lied to me instead” proves I knew all these goings-on, but I couldn't quite communicate that to them; I was hiding it from myself too. It's a song about the process of dragging myself away from that.
FUZZY: How does that feel to share vulnerable experiences through your music? I think where it feels the most vulnerable is live because sometimes depending on where I'm at that day or singing a certain lyric kind of brings stuff back. I feel my therapy training has made me quite robust in this respect, because sitting with it all and discussing it is part of the training. It kind of stood me in quite a good stead to be open with my music and not feel too uncomfortable afterwards. I think it's something that feels quite charged and quite daunting.
FUZZY: How and when did you start getting into writing and performing music? They’re separate - writing came first. I did Creative Writing and English at university, so I was doing a lot of prose and poetry and I was into lyrical music like Cohen, Dylan and Joni Mitchell - they blow my mind. I got to know people at uni who were musicians, and I was starting to write things that were more like songs as I began to get more into that music scene. When I moved to London, I bought a guitar and kept making noises until it sounded nice - the two came together quite naturally.
FUZZY: Would you say that a love for words is at the centre of your music? Doing this record and having such dense productions and layers is quite new for me. But, the first thing I hear is always lyrics - my brain hones in on them and they’re definitely the core when I write. As I’m writing new tunes, I’m thinking more about arrangements and different parts, but fundamentally it’s the lyrics for me. FUZZY: How would you say your career as a therapist and as a musician overlap and inform each other? Even before my training, talking was always the way I understood and made sense of things. A lot of the time until I have written a song, I don't know how I feel about it or what I want it to mean. I think maybe people don’t realise being a therapist it is a really creative process - you’re going in and never sure what’s going to come up or what you’re going to feel. That, along with where you're going to get to in that exploration, mirrors the process of making music.
FUZZY: Who are your biggest musical influences? I’ve mentioned classics like Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen. I think a real art in songwriting is to write about something like love without sounding too soppy: I think it can take away the power of emotion from what you're trying to describe.
More current acts include Adrianne Lenker: what I love about her is that vulnerability thing which I strive for in my own music, and that authenticity. She just puts everything out there. Blake Mills was also a huge influencer for the record, and Laura Marling too. She's a big influence on me. Smaller acts include my friend Gitta de Ridder, a Dutch singer-songwriter. I met her before I started playing and she helped me at my first gig. She's wonderful, and she has a gorgeous voice. There’s also Gus White, Herbal Tea, Chris Hyson (who produced my record), Prima Queen, and Anteloper.
FUZZY: What's the best gig you’ve ever done and the best one you've ever been to? I did a full band double-headliner with my friend Gus who sings on the record. He played with his band and his music is insane. He has a really good ear for arrangement and his set blew me away. All my friends and family were there too. Everything about it, it was just a really lush evening. My favourite gig I’ve seen was Big Thief in Hammersmith and it was just incredible. They’re incredible musicians - I love everything they do. As a band, they have such a good friendship/dynamic, and it felt a real privilege to get a glimpse into that.
'Bone Of Contention' is out now!
Words by Elle Woods-Marshall and Eleanor Noyce.
4th September 2020.