Based out of London, for Laura Fell music is both a release and an exploration. If her day job, as a Psychotherapist, finds her focusing in on the minds of others, perhaps writing music gives her the space to explore her own thoughts. Written whilst balancing three different jobs to ensure she could fund her musical ambitions, Laura’s debut release, Safe From Me is an example of an artist’s determination and dedication paying off. Originally released digitally back in November, Safe From Me is the first release on the Balloon Machine label, and recently received a vinyl pressing, which if you’re very lucky you might still be able to get your hands on.
Safe From Me opens with Glad, quite possibly the most warm and loving song ever written about a parents divorce, as atop a lilting guitar line, later joined by strings and woodwind, Laura’s voice, pitched somewhere in the middle ground of Aldous Harding and Laura Marling, asks, “isn’t life a funny thing? Isn’t life a gamble?” From there the record runs into recent single, Bone Of Contention, a biting, “exercise in anger”, complete with strings as rich and opulent as having the most expensive bottle of wine imaginable for breakfast on a Tuesday, Laura clinically dissects a former you to her I, and sings, “I’ll ask you to spare me your bullshit about being betrayed, and to give you the benefit of the doubt, I’ll assume you lie when afraid”. Elsewhere, Safe From Me pairs a message of hiding inside your own head to a beautifully meandering guitar line, and Every Time adds a Johnny Cash-like quality courtesy of the propulsive upright bass, while Left Foot/Right Foot a duet with Gus White is a rather wonderful aside, gently out of step with the rest of the album. Perhaps the album’s ultimate statement is Cold: it is a song of self-reflection, if not always successful, “I can’t find the answers for myself, it’s easier to help somebody else”, Laura sings, trying to put herself first, then falling back on old habits of putting others first. Safe From Me is a stunning debut, a record that’s equally as poetic as it is musically ambitious, a labour of love that was worth every ounce of effort that went into it.
FTR: For those who don’t know who is Laura Fell?
Someone recently told me about an exercise at the start of a group course where everyone was invited to say something about themselves, but they weren’t allowed to talk about what they did as a job, which I really rather liked. So I suppose that, instead of saying that I’m a psychotherapist and a musician, I’d say that I’m someone who is very introspective, often anxious, and usually doing multiple things at once. I’m also fascinated by the process of meaning-making, and how we attribute meaning to things – often what I’m trying to do in my writing is to get to the meaning that I can extract from my experiences, and to settle on how I feel about things.
FTR: What can you remember about your first show?
I remember my first show quite well, actually. I was incredibly nervous, and I remember those nerves starting as much as a couple of days before the show. The gig itself was at the Betsey Trotwood pub in Farringdon, at a night called The Lantern Society, which is a fortnightly folk night at the Betsey, where really I met the majority of the musicians I know to this day, excepting the guys I made the record with. I only did two songs, and remember the audience being very hushed and attentive – as they always are at Lantern – but the performance itself is a bit of a blur. I was so nervous that, at the time, I think I was just focused on making it through the songs. Now I’ve gigged a lot more I’m able to enjoy performing a lot more, and though the nerves are there they creep in an hour or so before the show, which is much easier to handle!
FTR: Why do you make music? Why not another art form?
Good question! In a way, because of how organic the transition from writing poetry to making music felt for me, I don’t often think about it as having been a conscious choice to switch from one form to another. When I do think about it in that way though I suppose there’s something about the music accompanying the words that allows me to dig deeper into the feelings, and that also creates more of a canvas to evoke feelings than the words by themselves offer me. The other thing about making music that I love is the collaborative element – playing my songs with a band, with all these unique creative voices feeding into the finished product – that’s a really special part of it, for me.
FTR: What can people expect from the Laura Fell live show?
When I play live I always like to be pretty open about the meaning behind each of my songs, or certainly what meaning they hold to me personally. I also feel like sharing that helps me to really inhabit the vulnerability of the songs when I’m performing them. So in that sense I think people can expect a level of vulnerability and emotion in my performance. When I play live my only real objectives are to really embody the emotions of each song and to make my audience feel something, to move them somehow – whether they’re connecting with the story I told about the songs, or putting their own story and meaning onto it.
FTR: What’s next for Laura Fell?
I’d absolutely love touring this record to be what’s next in the musical journey, but we’re in such uncertain times right now so who knows when that will be a possibility. I’m also writing a lot of new material though – I had a really productive writing period throughout the initial lockdown, and writing (as is often the case for me) served as a helpful way of processing what I felt about everything that was going on, both globally and in my life personally. So I’m already starting to think about arrangements for these new tunes and itching to get into the studio next year and record them.
They Listen To…
Adrianne Lenker – Anything
Songs: Ohia – Farewell Transmissions
Fiona Apple – Shameika
Bright Eyes – Hot Car In The Sun
Anaïs Mitchell – Young Man In America