Only a year into her career, Tamara Laurel is already gaining momentum across the world.
Her self-written, co-produced debut EP 'Lightning' debuted on the iTunes singer-Songwriter Album Charts this January, and has been licensed internationally.
Tamara's award-winning lyrics sit atop a blend of acoustic guitar picking and country-tinged instrumentation and percussion, forming her unique rootsy/Americana sound. She is currently on tour around Southern California, playing an acoustic, two-person set featuring songs from her 2nd EP, due out later this year.
We caught up with Tamara at her favourite watering hole and threw a bunch of questions at her, here's how it went....
Please introduce yourself and your music in one sentence....
My name is Tamara Laurel and I am a Folk/Americana singer-songwriter living in Santa Monica, California with my two guitars, two harmonicas, and keyboard.
Who designed the artwork on your debut album cover?
Keith Vlk from Chicago, IL. He is a very talented photographer/designer and the nicest guy. He took the basic sketch of what I had in mind and turned it into art. http://www.keithvlk.com
Tell me a fascinating fact about you?
I was the 1999 Washington State Level 4 Gymnastics Balance Beam Champion and All-Around Bronze Medallist in my age group.
First gig you ever went to?
Kenny Loggins at Washington State’s Puyallup Fair with my Mom.
First song you learnt to play?
On guitar, it was “Wide Open Spaces” by The Dixie Chicks in 6th grade. After that, I didn’t pick up the guitar again for a very long time. I think I taught myself a very basic version of “Blinded by the Light” by Bruce Springsteen on the piano around the same time.
Who would you least like to be stuck in a lift with?
Someone negative or panicky.
‘Lightning’ is your debut EP, what can music fans expect from this?
A lot of honesty. Lightning was a labor of love that my co-producer Stephen Johnson (of Great White Buffalo) and I set out to create with zero prior experience. With some Heaven-sent assistance from Grammy-winning engineer Phil Allen and Grammy-nominated engineer Luke Tozour, we turned 5 songs I had written over the past year or so into a real, bona-fide record. The songs tell the story of a few really transitional years in my life, minute details and all.
I wanted to create a record that was truly independent, painfully honest, and imperfectly real. So, I’d say that it’s a Folk/Americana EP with some longing, some letting go, some love, and some frustration, and all real instrumentation from local up-and-coming musicians. It was a joy to create in such an involved role, and I’m already excited about the next one.
If you had to sell your music to a major label, how would you describe it?
Lyrically-driven, organic Folk music with a touch of Americana, Alt, and Pop sitting atop a blend of acoustic guitar picking and country-tinged instrumentation and percussion. Whew!
You have covered ‘Revelry’ by Kings of Leon, who would you love to know covered one of your tracks?
Kings of Leon, Bruce Springsteen, or Noah and the Whale. Or a fan! I don’t think I’ve heard any fan covers yet. That would be the best.
What classic song do you wish you recorded and why?
“Easy From Now On” by Emmylou Harris. She’s basically saying “Ok, our relationship is over? Cool! I’m going to go out drinking and kiss other guys and life is going to be easy now...” while still maintaining this soulful, emotive tone. “When the morning comes, and it’s time for me to leave / Don’t worry ‘bout me, I’ve got a wild card up my sleeve”... I love those lyrics. The song is so sad, but also hopeful and confident. It’s perfect.
Which band/musician would you recommend readers of musicmuso.com check out?
Jason Isbell, especially his most recent album “Southeastern.” It’s lovely, soulful southern music. Also, local LA indie rock band Great White Buffalo. Their guitarist is my co-producer and they are wonderful!
Tell me one of your guilty pleasures?
It’s a tie between fried potatoes and napping. My internal dialogue is usually something along the lines of “Oh I worked so hard today! I deserve tater tots and a 3 hour nap!”
Who did the photography on your EP cover?
Andreas Ludwig. We met through a mutual friend last summer and I was lucky enough to shoot with him. We shot for almost 7 hours! He is very talented. http://andreasludwigphotography.com/
You studied and achieved a business degree with honours in university, what was that experience like?
I attended the University of Southern California here in Los Angeles. I studied Business and Music and had more fun than any one person could ever desire to have. Those were among the best years of my life thus far. I actually completed my honors thesis program studying the psychological effects of music in advertising - I guess I’ve never strayed too far from music.
There were a couple of people at USC who I’d play my songs for, but most of my friends had no idea that I wanted to be a musician. I even tried to fight the urge for a while after college, but ultimately decided that my life would be greater as a whole if I just gave it a try. My business degree has definitely come in handy on this journey! Also, fun fact: I met my co-producer Steve through GWB lead singer Graham Bockmiller…who I met in class at USC. Full circle - Fight on!
What’s the best advice you ever received and who was it from?
“Having a dream is a privilege and a responsibility.” -My Mom.
“Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!” – My Grandpa, quoting Admiral David Farragut
What would you say to someone who has stagefright even though they have immense talent?
Fear is a funny thing. It usually disappears the second you decide to push through it. I’d tell them that suffering through a few minutes of panic and discomfort now will change their life, change others’ lives by example, and ultimately be one of the greatest things they ever do. People actively respond to other people who choose to face their fears. It’s a wonderfully contagious thing. Just do it!
When I finally decided to confront my stage fright, I had been signing up for open mics and then panicking and leaving for about a year. Long story short, in early 2013, I won a contest which included a performance at the House of Blues in Hollywood in April 2013. I had never played guitar in public, or performed an original song alone, and yet I was going to be subjected to a large audience on a world famous stage in 90 days. I had no choice but to get over my fear! So, the day after I found out I won, I drove up to this open mic an hour away and asked them to put me dead last on the performance list. I sat there shaking until the place started to clear out, and just went up there and played my song “I Want You” – nausea, sweaty palms, shaking knees and all. Immediately afterward, I felt like the biggest idiot for not doing it sooner. The fear just disappeared. It’s funny, because I rarely get nervous before shows now, only a year later.
Do you think we can ever live in a world where a chicken can cross the road without having its motives questioned?
Do you think we can ever live in a world where ANYONE can cross the road without having his or her motives questioned?
What does music mean to you?
I remember being very, very young and understanding lyrics better than I understood basic human communication. I think music is one of the most incredible and fascinating things we ever created. You get three minutes, seven notes, and 2-3 verses to poetically tell your story. It’s concise, honest, and expressive. I love music more than anything. I spend so much time on those song meaning websites!
What does 2014 hold for you?
I think the theme of this year is growth. I’m only a year into my career, and I released my first EP this January. My drummer and I have been playing these intimate, 2-person shows around LA ever since. There’s nothing to hide behind; the audience hears every word. It’s making us better musicians and it’s turning the focus back onto the songs. I hope this year is full of musical and personal growth, and lots of new songs. And maybe a new album!
Whilst Tamara was debating over the merits of VOLVIC over EVIAN, we steamed in with some quick fire questions.....
Coffee or Tea? Water!
Coke or Pepsi? Water!
Mac or PC? Mac with Windows installed
Taco or Burger? Taco with Tater Tots inside! I LOVE tacos.
CD or Vinyl? Both
Car or Motorbike? Car
Shower or Bath? Water!
Kermit or Miss Piggy? Kermit
Tattoos or Piercings? I don’t have any tattoos....yet! But, one of each.
Robert de Niro or Al Pacino? Robert de Niro
The Sex Pistols or The Clash? The Clash
Acoustic or Electric? Acoustic-Electric
Wine or Beer? White wine
Brad Pitt or George Clooney? Clooney!
Breakfast – Fry up or cereal? Fry up! (I don’t know what fry up means, but from Google it looks like it includes hash browns, so I am ALL about it)
So there you have it folks, everything you could ever wish to find out about Tamara Laurel, please spend a few minutes having a trawl through her social media pages, they're all listed below for your convenience....
Musicmuso would like to thank Tamara for taking part in our interview and wish her every success in the future. We will keep you informed of any future releases and live dates, who knows, she may even head over to the UK if she can get some support....
Interview by Mark Wincott