While the pandemic has left many artists with latest releases that are several years old and upcoming releases that are still quite a way off, indie folk artist Laura Stevenson’s latest release seemed to drop at just the right time. Her sixth and self-titled album was released August 6th on Don Giovanni Records (her longtime home). The album is inspired by the year Stevenson spent after the release of 2019’s The Big Freeze, which had her helping a friend through an unimaginable crisis. Although the writing of the album served as catharsis from that experience, by the time she was set to record it, she was pregnant with her first child. The result is an album that sees Laura exploring a vast spectrum of the human experience, finding her at her most vulnerable, frustrated, hopeful, and, above all, honest. This Friday, October 15th, Laura Stevenson kicks off a short run of dates with Philadelphia’s-own Anika Pyle, which includes a sold out stop at Johnny Brenda’s on Friday, October 22nd. Read what she had to tell me about her latest album, my favorite album of hers (2013’s Wheel), and what she’ll be up to in the near future.
Izzy Cihak: Since this is a Philadelphia-based publication, I have to ask your thoughts on the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection. You’ve played here a lot over the years. Any favorite memories, whether at shows or just around the city?
Laura Stevenson: I really enjoyed playing at The Ava House which was a very cool DIY space run by friends. I have a scar on my knee from when someone jumped on a van bench seat that was being used as a couch and the seat fell over and hit me – I remember that place fondly every time I shave my legs.
Izzy: I just realized that the last time we spoke was in 2013, just before Wheel came out, so it’s been quite some time. I know this is a huge question, but what have been some of your highlights since then, whether experiences you’ve gotten to have, personal assessments of yourself as an artist, or whatever?
Laura: I’ve grown a lot since then – as a person and as an artist, so it’s hard to think of specific things but obviously since then I’ve gotten married, bought a house, got a dog, had a baby, and made three more records that I really stand behind.
Izzy: Okay, one more before I get to the new music… I still really dig Wheel, so I’m curious what are your thoughts on the album all these years later? “Runner,” “Bells & Whistles,” and “Eleonora” are still some of my favorites from your catalogue.
Laura: Oh, I’m so glad you still like it! All the songs themselves are very much still a part of me and I really enjoy them, but the recording on some of them is a little wild, haha. Especially “Bells & Whistles” – the slide whistle was a funny choice and the tempo is wild.
Izzy: You recently released your self-titled album. How do you feel like this batch of songs compares to previous releases?
Laura: I think the writing is just getting more mature and more confident which I think shows through. I was definitely trying to sit in that middle tempo pocket on some of these new ones which was a very difficult thing for me to do so it was a challenge for sure.
Izzy: You’ve always had a knack for moving between genres while always sounding cohesively you. So, I’m curious, what were some of the things you were listening to when conceiving of this album, whether you think they directly influenced your sound or not?
Laura: That’s a good question. I can definitely hear Nilsson on “Mary” and The Weakerthans on “Children’s National Transfer” some Wilco throughout, Elliott Smith – kind of the usual stuff I listen to.
Izzy: You have a handful of upcoming US dates, including a sold out show at our very own Johnny Brenda’s. What can be expected of the live show this time around, both in terms of setlist and just the general vibe of the night?
Laura: These shows are going to be a four-piece band, playing a lot of the “hits” but also a lot of the new ones and one or two deep-cuts for the true heads.
Izzy: And you have a bunch of dates in Europe next year. Are there any places you’re especially excited to visit or revisit?
Laura: I’m really excited to visit York and to see my friend Helen Chambers and drink tea in her kitchen and probably cry together, haha.
Izzy: And finally, because I know that those dates don’t start until April, is there anything you’re especially excited about for the last part of 2021 and first part of 2022?
Laura: I’m really looking forward to seeing my mom and sister for the holidays. I miss them a lot.