The US singer-songwriter tells Big Issue North how performing with a full band has made live performing as enjoyable as songwriting. Her debut album Lauren Hoffman & the Secret Storm is a blend of cabaret, broken ballads and indie rock.
What inspires your music/songwriting?
Stories, feelings, human existence… but mostly the answer is: I don’t know! It’s like lightning striking. There are plenty of times when I think I want to write a song, but unless the song wants to come, there is no point in trying. There’s this mysterious state that I go into and the thing just pops out usually within about an hour or so. I just try to always honour that feeling when I know there is a song trying to be born. I know all of that sounds cheesy but it’s true!
How have you evolved as an artist over the years?
Oh man, that’s a big question! Ok well I would say that when I first started writing, I was a terrible singer, an ok guitar player, and a pretty good writer. So the first evolution was learning how to sing. That took a long time. I went through phases of pushing for things I didn’t really know how to do, and phases of only writing songs that would be easy for me to sing. I worked on my singing without any formal training and I did get better over the years, but in the last four years I not only started my band, but I also started lessons with a vocal coach. Another evolution for me was that I felt so much more like a ‘writer’ than a ‘performer’ for many years – I just didn’t enjoy playing live as much as I did writing songs and working in the studio. But because of the band I finally love performing, and because of my vocal coach, I have so much more range and confidence as a singer. It all goes to show me that you are never done growing or evolving.
What are you up to at the moment artistically?
Well I’ve been writing on piano/keyboard a lot more lately, instead of guitar, so I have a bunch of new songs to bring to the band. The first song that we are going to put out is called A Friend for the Apocalypse, and people have been saying: “Wow that’s a really different kind of song for you!” which I find funny because it seems to me that my songs are all over the map and in my career I’ve written 60-something songs that don’t go together, but maybe it’s true about this one! I’m excited to see what these new piano-written songs will become once we work on them with the whole band.
What’s on your rider?
Tell us your most embarrassing or surreal experience.
This is both embarrassing and surreal: I was about 20 years old and backstage in LA at a giant Smashing Pumpkins show at the peak of their popularity. I was quite drunk and I had these sailor pants on that had a tonne of buttons. So, when I went to the bathroom, my drunk hands were not fast enough to take the pants off before my pee could wait no longer. I tried to dry my pee-pee pants under the electric hand dryer, to only moderate success. Then when I came out of the bathroom, my A&R guy introduced me to Lenny Kravitz.
What song do you wish you’d written?
Every song on the album Rid Of Me by PJ Harvey.
What’s your worst lyric?
On the new album, I think my worst lyric is: “My heart like an old house, the walls too thin”.
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