Behind the Song: Oregon

Find a mountain to see where you come from
Follow your footsteps back to the forest
You belong here, out in the wilderness
Among the dust that brought you up

In July 2013, we were on tour through America, and on one particular day found ourselves driving from the desert of Oregon to the California coast. We had just played a backwoods festival called Crawfest in Bend, OR (think dusty desert, rockabilly bands, lots of dogs, very windy, and a delicious burger food truck). Instead of staying the night and participating in the late night “activities,”, we got a head start on our drive to San Francisco. It was a long, hot drive, and as we crossed the California border and made our way to San Francisco, I remember seeing hills off in the distant with the glow of fire coming off of them. We had noticed some smoky air on our drives, but seeing the wildfires during the height of California’s drought was a sobering sight.

I remember sitting in the front seat of the van, watching the fiery hills roll by in the distance, thinking of the birth and death that happens so naturally, and the fleetingness of it all. I have always been struck by the contrast of the barren desert and the lush, old growth forests on the west coast, and those paradoxes wove themselves into the pattern of this song. A few weeks before this drive I had penned the lyrics “Even the mountains strong and silent crumble to dust someday,” and as we were driving through those starkly contrasted landscapes, I was inspired to write the verses of Oregon on that drive, and hummed a quick melody idea into my phone. When we got home from tour, I was finally able to sit down and pair the melody and lyrics to some chords I had written shortly before that, but it actually wasn’t until January 2015 that I actually finished the song.

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The Oregon desert behind the site of Crawfest. July, 2013.
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A highway sunset on our way from Bend, OR to San Francisco, CA. July 2013.

It’s one of those songs that has stuck with me for years, and has taken on new meaning as I’ve experienced the paradoxes of life…travelling and seeing so many parts of the world but not having a home to come back to; building relationships and the end of relationships, having plenty and having little. But finding meaning through all the mountains and valleys, and staying grounded in truth and in the purity of nature has helped turn those experiences into beautiful things: memories, songs, and grateful attitudes.

This is probably one of my favourite songs from Dearestly because it captures some intense feelings, both musically and lyrically. It is brooding and haunting, but there is lots of life, and a sense of ethereal wistfulness. Josh Rob Gwilliam (who co-produced Dearestly) had a huge part to play in the soundscape of the song, even encouraging me to re-write the second verse and a few other lyrics. The song mostly took shape in an early pre-production session months before the actual recording. We decided to keep the percussion minimal but build the dynamic with the piano and layers upon layers of different sounds including mellotron, clarinet, vioin, pedal steel, a choir, and lots of harmonies.

I hope you enjoy this live video of Oregon that we recorded at our house. It was so fun to strip the song down and capture the beauty of it, especially with some wonderful friends. Thank you Austin, Josh, Johnny, Charlie, Mat, Bob, Lyn, Katie, Tija, and Nadia for being part of the choir!

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If you are part of the Exclusive Content Project (sign up HERE) you will also be receiving an EP of voice memos and demos of Oregon from throughout the writing process. You’ll be able to hear how the song sounded at various stages, and what changed through the process.

Much love,
Lauren.

Fuss About the Bus

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Living in this little community of Pender Island has given me so many opportunities to collaborate and play with other musicians that I probably never would have otherwise crossed paths with. I’ve been able to step out of my comfort zone, learn new things and be amazed at what can happen when people get together and play music.

This past weekend was no exception. I had the honour of helping organize the Fuss About the Bus: a fundraiser for our local community bus that currently only operates on Fridays. It was the brainchild of my neighbour Robert who uses a wheelchair to get around and who knows first hand how much it would benefit the community to have the bus running every day. We enlisted the help of a wonderful group of local musicians including Juno award winning guitarist Lester Quitzau, and our dear friends Whitebird and Deer & Coyote and we raised $1000 for the bus!

We all had so much fun on stage, playing lots of originals as well as a set of classic blues, rock, pop, funk covers. It was a great opportunity to get out of our comfort zones, learn new songs, and improvise together. There were so many moments during the night where all eight of us were singing together and it was just heavenly!

Anyway, I thought I’d share some videos from the night so you can check it out for yourself. Enjoy!

Until next time,
Lauren.

Winter Comes to Pender Island

Last week, Old Man Winter made a special trip to the Southern Gulf Islands, covering us with layers upon layers of snow. I guess he wanted to see what all the hype was about for a place that was featured in the New York Times’ “52 Places to Go in 2016.” Though the snow made travel quite treacherous, it turned the island into a winter wonderland, like something out of a storybook. I’m used to the snow from living in Calgary most of my adult life, but thoroughly enjoyed the novelty of it here on the island.

A week ago, I joined some friends and went tobogganing at the local golf course, which has an amazing hill! We had plenty of good runs and some equally awesome wipeouts and left before the snow started falling too hard. Unfortunately that didn’t stop me from getting stuck and not being able to get out of the parking lot without a tow from a kind passer-by. It was a harrowing drive home, but I made it without incident. Well, I almost made it. We live at the top of a really steep hill, so I opted to park at the bottom and walk up for fear of not making it.

We’ve spent a lot of time holed up inside the house while the snow was falling, and even though I’m enjoying this wintery season, I’m glad the snow has melted and we’ve had some days of sun and warmth…a glimmer of spring that is coming soon! I had started pruning all the fruit trees and that progress got halted because of the snow so as soon as I can I’ll be back at it.

Enjoy these shots of our magical winter wonderland, and I hope you’re enjoying winter wherever you are as well! Any crazy weather that has happened your way this year?

P.S. Don’t forget to enter the Dearestly vinyl giveaway by sharing a story about putting on a brave face and overcoming your fears! Check out this post for more info and to enter!

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Stay safe out there, friends!

❤ Lauren.

Share Your Brave Face Story and Win a Deluxe Vinyl

brave-face-contestAfter writing about the inspiration behind the song Brave Face, and the recording process that helped make it what it is, I thought it would be really neat to hear your stories of overcoming fear and insecurity and being brave. We all have so much to share and learn from each other, and when we do that it makes us a lot more connected, and builds a strong community.

So, share your story by commenting below with your story, and on February 17 I will randomly choose someone who will receive a signed Dearestly deluxe vinyl!

If you missed the post about my experience writing Brave Face, you can check out this post, where you can also watch a live ukulele version of the song.

I can’t wait to be inspired by you!

Much love,
Lauren.

Behind the Song: Brave Face

Since I released Dearestly last year, I’ve been wanting to share some of the stories behind the songs and how they came to be. Some I began writing as early as 2013, and some were written while we were in the studio recording just last year. Some were written on the road, some at home, some taking an afternoon to finish while others took years. Over the next little while, I’ll be showcasing the stories behind a few of the songs from Dearestly: what inspired them, where I wrote them, and some interesting stories surrounding them. If you’re part of the Exclusive Content Project, you’ll also get exclusive access to an EP with never-before-heard demos and early versions of the song from its inception all the way through the writing process. To sign up for the Exclusive Content Project, go to www.laurenmannmusic.com/exclusives. If there’s a particular song you’d like to hear about, please comment below or send me an email (oddfolk(at)laurenmannmusic(dot)com). I always love hearing what songs you connect with!

This month I wanted to tell you about the song Brave Face, which was the first single from Dearestly, and I think the song that took the longest to finish writing. Brave Face began with the working title of Who Are You* in early 2013 when we were living in the rural town of Brooks, AB. Our house was a 250 square foot cabin (you may remember me sharing some photos of life at The Cabin) and we had one room set up as a living space with keyboards and a small table, and the other room as a bedroom. I remember writing the first verse and the melody of the pre chorus of the song and being really excited about where it was going, but it didn’t go anywhere for a long while. I worked on the song on and off for months, and made some headway when we were in Quebec later that year, but for the life of me I couldn’t write a chorus.

It wasn’t until I began pre-production for the album in early 2015 that the song began to take its finished form. I went to Vancouver to work on a song with Howard Redekopp before I knew he’d be producing the album, and we decided to work on Brave Face as a sort of trial run. I played what I had for him, he came up with a melody idea for a chorus, I scribbled down some lyrics and we recorded a demo that was very similar to how we recorded the final product. Later that year in Calgary, I was going over the lyrics of all the songs for the album with Josh Rob Gwilliam, and he had some brilliant inspiration that turned into the prechorus:

“Set course to love, make stops on the way, frame all the finest memories.”

With that, the song was finished only two-and-a-half years later. It was a really fun song to record, especially with the slow down into the bridge. We tried mapping out the tempo, but Kurt Dahle who played drums just went for it and on the first take it sounded like it should, so we formed everything else around that.

To me the song has a sunny day, windows down, road trip sort of feel. It makes me think of spontaneous adventures, taking risks, and having lots of laughs. There wasn’t one specific experience that inspired Brave Face, rather it was more of a collection of thoughts and musings. I’ve often felt inhibited by fear and insecurity, letting the timid side of my personality dominate instead of acting on my goals and ambitions. The prospect of failing and other unnecessary worries can be extremely debilitating if you let them be. I’m thankful to be married to a visionary and doer who, as soon as he has an idea, immediately figures out how to make it happen. He has been a huge inspiration to me, and has encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and do things that on my own, I probably would have been too afraid to do (like touring, recording, and all the crazy wonderful things I’ve been able to do as we’ve been pursuing music). Even so, with all the touring we’ve done and the countless circumstances where I’ve had to go out on a limb and face my fears, I still face the crippling self-doubt but I’m learning to not let it rule my life and dictate what I do. So I suppose this song was an anthem to myself, to rise above the fear and insecurity and pursue what I’m passionate about. As Sir Winston Churchill once said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

Do you have a story about putting on a brave face? I’d love to hear how you deal with fear, insecurity, or other obstacles in your life. Comment below or send me an email!

Thanks for reading, and if you haven’t listened to Dearestly, you can check it out on my website: www.laurenmannmusic.com. To get exclusive access to the Brave Face EP with demos and unreleased tracks, sign up for the Exclusive Content Project HERE.

Much love,
Lauren.

*If you own the CD or Vinyl copy of Dearestly, you may have noticed that the second track on the album is called Who Are You, not Brave Face. Who Are You was the original working title of the song, and it wasn’t until we came up with the final track listing that I decided to call it Brave Face. Somehow though, during all the editing of the copy for the album art work I completely missed the fact that it was still titled as Who Are You, and it got printed like that. 🙂

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