LAUREL: “I want to write music that makes me feel good instead of having to revisit my demons”

The singer-songwriter on her new album, PALPITATIONS, and her relationship with her previous projects

Nothing and everything has changed since the days LAUREL sat in her bedroom, recording and producing her music and putting her demos out on SoundCloud. She’s still making music in her bedroom – anything else feels unnatural, she tells us – but over a decade later, she boasts an avid fandom, critical acclaim, and now two full length albums.

Fresh off a US tour, she’s gearing up to play headline dates in the UK this October. “This American tour definitely prepped me for the end of the year,” she says. “I did the show with my best friend, Banoffee, who also supported me, and we just did it as like a two piece on stage. It was really exciting and a new way of doing the show. It got me really excited about how I might do the show at the end of the year.”

We caught up with LAUREL to talk about her new record, PALPITATIONS, and how her songwriting process has evolved over the last 10 years of making music from her bedroom floor.

How important is it to you to have friends that are also artists?

Oh my god, I love it. I love having friends in music. Most of my friends are actually in music. I think it’s really helpful because everyone just understands what you’re doing and where you’re at and why you don’t text back for a month because you’ve gone on a tour. It’s pretty nice to be around people that get you.

Have you always found it easy to build that community?

Yeah, I think so. I think in London less, just because London’s a bit different to LA. I had friends from every single walk of life in my friend group. There was maybe like less of a scene there, or at least for me. And I think when you’re in London, once you have your friends, there’s not as much networking at the pub. Whereas in LA, I think a lot of people come specifically for music, so when I came I just got introduced to a lot of people in music, and everyone was so new. You have this option of choosing your friends rather than being friends with people from when you were at school. I think that’s kind of when everyone around me started to be in the music industry, when I came here.

I really like it. It can be quite all consuming, though. You start feeling like that’s the only thing that’s going on in the world. Then it’s like, no, there’s so much other sh*t, and there’re things that are way more important than us all putting out our albums.

Are there times where you’re able to step away from that scene?

It’s hard. My boyfriend is also a musician, so we talk about music a lot as well. We’re so passionate about it, so it does become a lot of what we talk about. But we often go on road trips in California to Big Sur or to Joshua Tree. Honestly, for me, that’s the way that I recharge the most – leaving town and going to nature where there’s no phone signal and just kind of being at one with the Earth.

LAUREL - Burning Up (Official Music Video)

Let’s talk about the album. Why did you settle on PALPITATIONS as the title?

It just felt like it really conceptualised everything. I didn’t really write the album as a concept album, but at the end of it, I realised it was very angsty; very fast paced and about all the emotions of the heart. When you’re anxious, your heart beats faster. When you’re in love, your heart beats faster; it skips a beat, and you get butterflies. The feelings can create such a physical sensation. I feel like that’s where PALPITATIONS came from – just this idea that you could feel something so strongly that your heart was skipping a beat.

Do you often approach your songwriting from a place of intense emotion?

Definitely. Less at the moment, but on this album, for sure, and in the past, definitely. I think it’s always been quite a therapeutic thing for me.

You started out making songs alone in your bedroom – has your writing process changed much since then?

No. I’m still writing songs in my bedroom. It’s my favourite way to write songs. To be honest, I’ve tried to do it in different ways and have more people around me and work with big top liners. But I actually just really like writing songs on my own on my guitar and on the piano.

What do you think it is about being on your own to write that makes it easier?

I think I can explore an idea without judgment around me. I think that it’s just my preference, and I can fully actualise what I’m thinking before somebody interjects and tells me what they think about it. I just really need space to express something before somebody else tries to express themselves onto an idea. I’m very comfortable with people picking my songs apart after I’ve written them and exploring them and developing them. But I often feel like when I’m in a session I’m cut short when I haven’t finished creating the idea that I want to express.

LAUREL - Only One (Live)

What was the first song that you wrote on this album?

‘Only One’. I wrote it about six years ago. I’d been with my fiancé for a year. We’d actually just moved into a new house. I think it was just this moment where I realised – I already knew, but there was this moment when I really realised – okay, this is forever. It’s kind of scary. Like, it’s thrilling. But it’s also petrifying to know that somebody has that much control over you. I know him so well, but it’s a year in, and there’s still an unsureness. Do they feel as deeply as I do? Are they seeing this as forever? They have the power to take everything from me at this moment if they want to. It’s kind of this moment of giving someone your power, and being like, okay, I’m giving you enough power to destroy me, and I just hope that you won’t.

It just didn’t really fit on the EPs that I made previously, because it was such a big ballad. I really wanted to show everyone a new side of me, which was more upbeat and driven and synthy. I was like, “Okay, this will have a moment, but it has to wait.” And when I decided to do a full length, it felt like it was a really good moment to share this with people.

When you switched to that more upbeat sound, what pushed you to do that?

I was playing a tour with KT Tunstall, and I was quite unhappy on the tour. I was playing all my very sad love songs, just on my guitar. Everyone was very quiet during the set, and I didn’t feel much energy from it. I just wanted something more. Then actually, tragically, the person I wrote those songs about committed suicide. It became quite difficult to play those songs. With all this going on, I was like, I’m in a happy space now. I want to make something that people can dance to at festivals. I want to have fun. I want to write music that makes me feel good instead of having to revisit all these demons. I was listening to a lot of Tame Impala and Empire Of The Sun at that moment. I shared that with Chrome Sparks – he was just a friend of mine, we’d never worked together – and we ended up writing ‘Best I Ever Had’. I was like, this feels so good. It’s lifting me up with it rather than pulling me down. It feels good to me. I think a lot of people want me to play the old music, but they maybe don’t really understand what it feels like for me to play them.

Could you see yourself playing those songs again?

Yeah, I do play some of them now. I play ‘Life Worth Living’, and sometimes ‘Same Mistakes’. But they feel a little bit more light-hearted than some of the deeper sad ones. I’ve kind of disconnected from them. ‘Life Worth Living’ is one of my biggest songs, so it doesn’t really even feel that emotional for me anymore. I’m not playing it and feeling emotional – if anything I daydream when I’m playing it, because I’ve played it so many times. So I think there’s a way of just kind of disconnecting. I would love to play the album in its entirety at some point again. I’m not closed off from that. It’s been like, five years now, so I feel pretty good. But I also just want to look forward and recognise the happiness in my life now with my new partner.

Laurel - Life Worth Living | Mahogany Session

What can people expect sonically from this record?

It definitely builds on what I’ve already done with the two EPs. It’s pretty romantic-sounding. I think it’s epic. I make quite a big sound with my voice. I sing very loudly. So I think it has just a lot of power to it. It’s very driven.

Who would you say are some of your main influences?

I think a mix between Lana Del Rey and Tame Impala. I’m somewhere in the middle of them. Lana Del Rey has the romantic, cinematic lyrics, and then I also have the more gritty sound of Tame Impala.

Where do you want to be in five years?

Everywhere! The sky’s the limit. I’d love everything. I have no cap on where I’d like to go in music. I’d love to headline the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury.

LAUREL will play headline shows in London, Manchester and Glasgow this October. Find tickets here.