The Fairly Odd Hillcrest Folk

It’s always humbling to hear other people sing covers of my songs, but walking into a school gymnasium and hearing 300 kids singing Brave Face took that feeling to a whole new level. Their sweet innocence and the purity of all their voices together singing about how they can do anything they put their mind to, was so humbling, so inspiring, so fulfilling.

Let me back up a little bit. Last summer I played a show on Mayne Island, BC and a guy named Brook Roberts was in attendance with his family. Brook is a music teacher in Salmon Arm, BC and had put on a program with Shred Kelly a few years ago where the band came to the school, taught the kids some of their songs and did a concert with them. After our show on Mayne Island, Brook approached us about doing something similar and though we didn’t know what that would entail or how it would look, we were very interested.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, we arrived at Hillcrest Elementary School where the grade 4’s and 5’s had been learning seven of my songs since spring break and had been crafting a show around them. They had a different band for each song (drums, bass, piano) and vocal soloists for each verse, about 30 soloists in total! It was amazing to see kids come out of their shell as they played and sang and found their voices even in the few days that we had with them leading up to the show. I was able to do some music mentorship and work on mic technique and stage presence with the soloists, and Zoltan designed an entire production with sound, lights, and smoke and exposed the kids to that side of performing which was totally inspiring for the kids, and the highlight of the show for a lot of them.

We also had the opportunity to visit the other classes in the school and do some Q & A’s, and chat with the kids. One of the classes said that they had had a discussion earlier about their connections to the lyrics of the songs and a few of the kids shared how they had a connection to the song Brave Face because they have dreams of doing big things with their life and that song was an encouragement to them. It was so humbling, and was a really incredible reminder of why I write and play music. These kids have their whole lives in front of them, and if I can give them a little inspiration to follow their dreams, that gives me purpose in what I do because I want to see them be all they can be.

It was an amazing experience that culminated in three concerts with the students that went so well and blew the audiences away. It was amazing to see how they all worked together, shone their lights, sang their hearts out, and made music come alive.

Since being home, Zoltan put together a short film with a live video of one of the songs, Brave Face, that the whole concert centred around, and some shots from our time at the school. I will always hold these students and our time there close to my heart and this video is such a great glimpse into what we did and what the kids accomplished.

Music in the hearts of children is such a beautiful thing and can truly change the world.

Much Love,
Lauren.

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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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Set Course to Love

Earlier this week I released the music video for my song Brave Face, the first single from Dearestly. The song has been in rotation on CBC Radio 2 across Canada and it’s been pretty cool to tune in randomly a few times and hear it over the airwaves! And I’m excited to have a visual to accompany the song, filmed and produced by our good friends at Portage Creative.

When Cole from Portage Creative told us his vision for the song, I was pretty excited that it involved going sailing in a friend’s boat around Georgian Bay. I had been in a sailboat before, but never under full sail, and definitely not being the one to navigate! Scott was a wonderful guide, teaching me the ways of sailing, and helping us do some tricky manuevers to get all the shots. It was a day of many new experiences, and I think that’s why I love this video so much, because it marries my two passions: music and adventure.

We also got to work with some of Cole & Lydia’s friends who did a wonderful job as the other characters in the story, and we even grabbed a few random people to be extras, which turned out great! It was a beautiful collaborative effort that involved late nights, crying babes, Subway runs, and lots of stepping out of my comfort zone. I thought I’d share some behind-the-scenes shots of the shoot that will give you a closer look at what went in to create such a beautiful video.

Cheers,
Lauren.

Dearestly

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This day has been a long time coming. Many songs written over many miles travelled, stories of love and loss, joy and sorrow. Days where I wanted to give up and quit, but kept finding the resolve to keep on keeping on, making so many beautiful moments and memories along the way. And here we are, July 8, 2016, the day I get to share my new album, Dearestly, with the world.

There’s much that I could say about all that this album holds, but I’ll let the songs speak for themselves. It’s been a labour of love and I am so proud of how it all came together. Howard and Josh who co-produced the album were so instrumental in shaping the songs and the sound, and it really wouldn’t be the same without them. It was such a fun and collaborative process to write and record these songs, and it helped me rediscover my passion for creating and performing music. Not that I had lost that passion, but I was certainly very burnt out from a few years of constant touring and some intense personal struggles. But they say that beauty is born from pain, and this album is a testament to that.

Dearestly is available for a pay-what-you-feel digital download today, and physical copies (CD & vinyl) will be released August 19. We decided to do a pay-what-you-feel model for the digital download to get the album into as many ears as possible. Since we don’t have a lot of industry support, our fans and friends are who will help us get the word out. We also announced a big cross-Canada tour happening this fall, so check out the dates and see if we’ll be playing near you!

I hope you will check out Dearestly, download it, maybe pre-order a physical copy, and perhaps even share it with your friends. And if you enjoy the album, I’d love to hear how it makes you feel, what songs are your favourite, and which ones really speak to you. I’ve kept these songs very close to me for so long, and I’m excited to give them to the world and see what happens with them.

Much love,
Lauren.