IT wasn't too long ago I was vacillating over...
Lauren Houseley’s debut album, Sweet Surrender. The fact that I am still thinking about that album- it was released in August last year- shows just what an effect it has. Fans and new followers discovering a wonderful artist with a very special sound. Blending Americana and Soul together: Housley has impressed critics and is among the U.K.’s most promising young musicians. Vital and impressive gigs have only been matched by radio play from the likes of Radio 2.
This year will see Housley touring and taking Sweet Surrender to the hungry masses. With such a momentum behind her- that reputation is increasing by the week- who knows just how far she can go. A stunning musician whose songs resonate with people around the world: the next few years will be a very exciting one for the Manchester-based songwriter. I was keen to check-in and see how she was doing: what plans are afoot for this year and which musicians inspire (Lauren’s) music...
How has your week been? What have you been getting up to?
It’s been great thanks; a very inspiring week. I’ve been doing a lot of writing recently. Pretty much writing something new every day which is always a wonderful feeling. We’re also in the middle of touring so have been playing shows all over the U.K. in the last few weeks: which has been a really special experience as we’ve had the opportunity to play to a lot of new people. (You can find details of upcoming shows on my website www.laurenhousley.co.uk/shows)
For those new to your music: can you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m a singer/songwriter/performer based in Manchester. I write songs from a place of human empathy and emotion. My music has been described as “a soulful blend of Blues and Americana”.
So many great artists- solo and bands- are emanating from Manchester. What is it about the city that leads to such prolific quality?
I think artists are very supportive of one another in Manchester and everyone’s very hard-working! It’s great to see other people doing well around you (too) as I think it spurs you on to get yourself into gear.
With regards your influences and idols: which artists have been particularly important to you with regards your musical upbringing?
Lauryn Hill, Gladys Knight, Ray Charles; Eva Cassidy, Elvis Presley, Jeff Buckley; Joni Mitchell, Joan Armatrading. The Band, Bonnie Raitt, Tedeschi Trucks Band….lots and lots of others!
The Beauty of This Life is your latest track. It is getting an enormous response online. What inspired the writing (of the song)?
This is actually a brand new song that’s pretty much only just been written. We haven’t recorded it yet but are hoping to get in the studio this week to record it. I woke up at 6am and had an urge to start reading about Bob Dylan and his philosophy behind songwriting. Then- from feeling pretty inspired- I played a chord on the guitar and stared singing this song. I wrote most of it in about 15 minutes. It’s been getting an unbelievable response when we’ve played it on the shows recently.
What can you tell us about the rest of 2016? Will we see a new album, perhaps?
2016 is looking like a pretty full year: out on the road playing! (Which is just what I wanted). People are still discovering Sweet Surrender (debut album), which is a great feeling and it’s still gaining lots of industry attention! We’re getting to play in completely new parts of the country: to enthusiastic crowds and passionate music lovers! It doesn’t get better. We’ve been in and out of the studio since Christmas: constantly recording and writing so keep your eyes and ears peeled; lots of surprises in store!
Looking back over 2015’s memories: which stand proudest in your mind?
Releasing my debut album Sweet Surrender! It was pretty incredible to see our first single from the album, Ghost Town Blues, make the B.B.C. Radio 2 playlist. Also, receiving such support from Robert Elms at B.B.C. Radio London- and doing a live session for him- which led to us being invited by Live Nation to play 2 shows at Prudential Bluesfest at The O2 Arena in London. We also made Robert Elms' 'Best of 2015' list too which was lovely to hear.
If you had to nail down one song- that means the most to you- which one would you select and why?
I'd say Sweet Surrender which is about surrendering yourself to what it is you're supposed to do in life: washing away fear, self-doubt and all the other manifestations of resistance that tries to stop you from living your true life. It's a very personal song for me.
Over the last couple of months, the music world has lost some true icons- from George Martin to David Bowie. How has this affected you personally (and musicians you know)?
It’s been a really tough few months for us all: losing such influential, inspiring people. I think seeing the world’s reaction to these losses makes you realise how much impact music has on everyone’s lives. People feel connected to these icons; which is a truly special thing in life. I feel like they gave it their all in their art and creativity: it actually made people feel something. It makes me remember exactly why I do what I do: I want to connect with people; I want to move people and I want to literally give my all. When it’s time to leave this life, you should be empty.
Your music mixes Americana and Country- together with Blues and Folk. Would you say you prefer American sounds/music?
It’s not that I prefer American sounds: I suppose it’s more so that that’s what seems to have influenced me more. My dad is a huge Elvis Presley fan so I listened to a lot of Elvis growing up. I was karaoke-ing Elvis songs when I was a 4-year-old- and the other kids were singing Twinkle Twinkle.
Which current acts are enjoying at the moment?
I’m loving Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton and Jason Isbell: all talented in their own way. One of my absolute favourite artists is Hiss Golden Messenger: the album Lateness of Dancers hits me hard! I’m also a big Tedeschi Trucks Band fan.
When listening to your music I am always struck by the lyrics: They have a personal touch yet seem to have universality. What inspires your songwriting process?
Thanks very much. Lots of things inspire me: reading, listening music, meeting people; chatting to people… people-watching. I’m actually quite fascinated by people and how they act/feel. I actually love people! When you feel empathy and compassion towards someone- and connect with them personally and emotionally- it’s the most overwhelming, powerful and inspiring feeling in the world.
For those who do not know much about you, could you tell us a secret- something nobody knows about you?
My career choice after leaving school was between being a performer or an artist! I loved to paint and draw.
What defines music to you- it might be an impossible question, I know. What does it mean to you personally? Do you have any advice for any musicians coming through: those who are not sure if they have what it takes?
Music is a wonderful way to connect with people on a deep level. It’s a universal language that has the capacity to touch and change people’s lives. If you have something to say, try to put it down in a song in the most honest, pure and organic way possible. Use your own unique voice to tell a story that is important to you and people will hear you loud and clear. You don’t need to fit into any specific category but your own.
Finally- and for being a good sport- you can select any song (and I’ll include it here). Let me know why it is special to you
Down To Zero by Joan Armatrading is one of those songs that literally reaches into my soul and breaks me... it's such a powerful song.
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