Jessica Vaughn, better known as LACES, seems to have come full circle with her latest single, “Almost Happy,” which dropped late last month. The track, an homage to the 1990s, has the singer/songwriter/record label owner joined by Butch Walker, who took her out on her first tour well over a decade ago, back when she was known as Charlotte Sometimes. As Charlotte Sometimes, she was kicking out the kind of angsty teen pop jams that could get her a slot on the Warped Tour (It did…) However, after a plethora of bad experiences on the track to becoming a mainstream pop star (She was signed to Geffen for a few years and also appeared on Season 2 of The Voice.), she rebranded herself as LACES in 2014.
LACES’ music retains the same charming moodiness of Charlotte Sometimes, but in a decidedly more mature package. This April she released “Breaking My Heart,” accompanied by her first music video in 12 years. The track is a pensive banger about a love triangle, with notable hints of ‘90s R&B sass. And “Almost Happy” is a summertime jam reminiscent of the TRL years, featuring Butch Walker, “[playing] the best 90s guitar solo ever.” The track is an ode to the simplicity of the decade, which Jessica claims in the last time she remembers being happy: “Take me back to ‘96 and my VCR please and thank you.”
In addition to the music of LACES, Jessica Vaughn also makes music with JPOLAND and Rvrside and serves as the VP of Sync and Creative at Heavy Hitters Music and the owner of record label Head Bitch Music. During a rare free minute, she took some time to chat with me about her love of the ‘90s and all of the things she’s been working on. Check out what she had to say, and have a listen to “Almost 90s,” a playlist of some of her favorite music of and inspired by the decade, that she put out to coincide with the release of “Almost Happy.”
Izzy Cihak: You just released “Almost Happy” with Butch Walker, whom I know you got to know early in your career. How is it working with him? I’m a big fan of his as well and I imagine he’s a lot of fun to have in the studio or on the road.
Jessica Vaughn: Butch is a stand-up guy and truly one of the most down to earth dudes in the industry. Everything he works on comes from a place of passion and dedication to making the music the best it can be. I feel lucky we got to reconnect on this song.
Izzy: Not to detract from what you’re currently doing but, while we’re talking about it, what are some of your best memories from back when you were Charlotte Sometimes? I actually do have a copy of Waves and the Both of Us from when I was in grad school and just starting out as a music journalist and I still dig it.
Jessica: Aw, I love that you have that record and dig it! Making it was a lot of fun. We got to go through all the songs I wrote in high school and explore how to make them work together in one record. My best memory as Charlotte Sometimes was probably when I was in Las Vegas doing a radio show and I got to meet Lifehouse (my labelmates). I was obsessed with them when I was a teenager and I just started screaming. I am sure as a Christian band they really appreciated me cursing every five seconds from excitement.
Izzy: I understand “Almost Happy” is an homage to the ‘90s, of which I’m also a huge fan. I really love (and agree with) your recent playlist (especially “Polyester Bride,” “Cannonball,” and “Naked Eye”), so I’m curious what are some of your other favorite things about the ‘90s, aside from the music?
Jessica: I love everything about the 90s – no lie! Chokers, Furbys, makeup, hair, clothes, TV shows. I legit have a problem. Buffy The Vampire Slayer is my religion. Nothing will ever be better than Buffy to me.
Izzy: And what have been some of the highlights of your career since you’ve been LACES? I know you’ve done a ton of stuff and had lots of different projects. It seems like you’ve actually done a ton of stuff during the pandemic alone.
Jessica: Hmm… I’ve been busy – ha! I think some of my viral syncs have been exciting. I loved having one of my songs in Bridgerton and I did not expect the response it received. I was most excited about my most recent placement in Lucifer. I wrote “moved” about the main characters, so it was so exciting to see it play out in real time on TV.
Izzy: Is there anywhere you dream of your music somehow winding up, whether entirely realistic or not?
Jessica: If Buffy were to be re-booted I would 100 percent want to be involved in creating the music. That’s the dream – hands down.
Izzy: Considering all that you do in so many different facets of music, I’m curious who are some of your most significant heroines/heroes. Are there people who you look up to, who have been in your mind when you’re embarking on all of these different projects and ventures?
Jessica: Liz Phair has always been a constant muse for me. I love how bold yet vulnerable she is. I love that she wrote a book – I would like to do that next. She is just the ultimate badass and her album is fire!
Izzy: Is there anything that you think is especially important for fans and potential fans to know about your aim as an artist? Is there any idea or sentiment that you think ties together all the work that you do, regardless of the project?
Jessica: I try not to put myself in a box and I don’t think I will start doing that now. I make songs for everyone, but I don’t belong to any one project. I am and will always be a song fan first and foremost. I go where the art takes me. If that moves the audience, let’s ride together.
Izzy: Finally, what are you most excited about for the remainder of 2021? I understand you’ll have more singles and I’m sure you’ve got a ton of other stuff going on.
Jessica: I am so excited to release more singles for all my projects, but LACES is my main boo thang. I’ve never been more creatively inspired than I am right now… I am working on a screenplay, a book, running my custom music house, and of course doing the music exec thing over at Heavy Hitters Music here in La La Land. The future is exciting and exhausting – let’s go!