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.

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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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Lauren Mann Sings David Bowie

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I’ve always been a fan of the late great David Bowie, but I had never delved deep into his work. After his passing on January 10, I was inspired to learn a few of his songs and share them with you for this month’s exclusive. I went back through his extensive catalogue, listening to song after song, and finally settled on three that I thought I could add my own flair to. It was really interesting to dig a bit deeper into his work, and it gave me a much greater appreciation for his artistry and songwriting. He was truly a legend, and an artist who has left us with a beautiful legacy. Working on these songs has pushed me out of my creative comfort zone, and I learned a lot through the process while thoroughly enjoying listening to David Bowie and learning more about his life and work.

When I started working on these songs, I knew that we needed some sort of visual to go along with it. And what better visual than re-creating the cover of Bowie’s album Alladin Sane? My friend Elizabeth from Studio B Hair Art came over and did an amazing job turning me into David Bowie.

You can access these three songs by signing up for the Exclusive Content Project. It’s a subscription starting at only $6/month, and every month we give you exclusive access to new songs, online concerts, merchandise and more. Get more info HERE.

 

Wildwood Presents Lauren Mann

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If you’ve been following us on Instagram or Facebook, you’ve likely heard about our new home studio space called Wildwood Artist Retreat. We’ve been hosting a few house concerts and filming live video sessions with various musicians who come through Pender Island, and last week I had the opportunity to film a session of my own! The first video was released today, and you can watch it below. The two other songs we recorded are available through our Exclusive Content Project.

How it works is that you can subscribe for $6/month, and every month we send you some sort of Exclusive. This month is an audio download of three songs and a video, sometimes it’s just audio, sometimes it’s a behind-the-scenes look at the writing/recording process of a song, sometimes it’s a really cool merch item! We’ve really loved building a community around what we do, and this year is going to be especially exciting for all our subscribers as we get ready to release our new record. If you’d like to sign up or read more about why we’re doing this and what it’s all about, check out http://www.laurenmannmusic.com/exclusives.

I hope 2016 is off to a great start for all of you! How are you doing with those resolutions?

Cheers,
Lauren.

Hang This On Your Wall

Well it certainly has been an exciting summer! We made a big announcement on our Facebook page last week about buying our first house and moving to Pender Island, BC! We’re so excited about what lies ahead, and I’ll definitely be writing more later about the house and the move and the entire transition.

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But today I wanted to give you all a behind-the-scenes look at our Exclusive Content for the month! One thing we love about this project is the ability to explore music and art in ways we haven’t done before, challenging ourselves to try new things and collaborating with other artists. This month we decided to make a wall-hanging inspired by the song Wooden Heart from our Visual EP, Where the Ocean Meets the Sky. We got in touch with our friend Ben in Philly, and he carved an image on lino for us and then we printed it onto pieces of cotton, added some dowel and string, and sent it out to all our subscribers! I had never done relief printing before, but it was so much fun to mix the colours and make each piece unique. It was a time consuming project, but I absolutely LOVE how they turned out, and I hope that all our subscribers do as well!

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If you’d like to be part of the Exclusive Content Project, you can sign up HERE and we’ll send you one of this month’s Wooden Heart wall hangings. We are so appreciative of everyone who has come on board so far, and we’re really excited to continue to develop this project while living on the island and with our new album coming out soon!

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I hope you’re all having a magical summer! Have you spent any time on art projects this year? Comment below and tell me what you’ve been up to!

Cheers,
Lauren.