Laura Stevenson’s Wheel Turns 10. Come Celebrate 4/14 at World Café Live.

This past week, in an interview for Paste, singer/songwriter Laura Stevenson – who you may have most recently seen performing Neil Young covers at the First Unitarian Church, alongside...

This past week, in an interview for Paste, singer/songwriter Laura Stevenson – who you may have most recently seen performing Neil Young covers at the First Unitarian Church, alongside fellow former Bomb the Music Industry! member Jeff Rosenstock – admitted to being a big fan of local celeb. M. Night Shyamalan.  So, during my recent phone chat with the longtime Don Giovanni recording artist, I felt inclined to mention that the filmmaker does sometimes find himself at World Café Live (mostly for his daughter Saleka’s shows), where Stevenson is bringing her tour celebrating the 10th anniversary of her Wheel LP on Friday, April 14th (in The Music Hall).  Upon hearing this, she laughs, before firing off, “We don’t have a good twist ending for him!”  She goes on to explain that, while it would be an honor to have him see her perform, she’d frankly rather not know in advance: “It would be cool, but I would be too nervous.”  She tells me she encountered a similar situation years ago: “One time when I was playing, Jeff Mangum from Neutral Milk Hotel was there – to see a friend’s band, not me [laughs] – and my husband knew he was there, but thankfully didn’t tell me.  I would’ve walked out!”

I first met Laura Stevenson in April of 2013, just prior to the release of Wheel and the album’s tour kickoff at our very own MilkBoy.  At the time, Stevenson had taken to referring to herself as an “unfunny Woody Allen,” but admitted to me, “I don’t really read a lot of existentialist books.  I’m just dealing with the humanist question of, ‘Is life important?’”  The album was her first credited as a solo album – with previous credited as Laura Stevenson & The Cans – and what she considered to be her most cohesive work to date, in addition to that which best captured her live sound.

The last time I caught up with Laura Stevenson, in October of 2021, she told me of the album, “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.”  I ask her if, after revisiting the album recently, that sentiment still rings true, and she laughs and responds with an emphatic, “Totally!”  She explains, “Recording them, we were just throwing a bunch of shit on the wall and seeing what stuck.  I thought the more stuff you put on it, the better it will be [laughs],” which she tells me has proven to be a somewhat fun challenge when putting together this live show, which will feature the album in its entirety: “When rehearsing for this anniversary tour, it’s been hard sometimes to pick parts for people to play from this huge heap of bullshit [laughs].”

Laura Stevenson has done quite a bit of touring over the past decade, including local shows at MilkBoy, The Church, Boot & Saddle, The TLA, PhilaMOCA, Ardmore Music Hall, and Johnny Brenda’s.  However, she admits that, at this point, it’s not quite like it was during the first Wheel tour: “I was going pretty hard in the period around Wheel.  We were like, ‘You’re supposed to tour a lot, right?’  So, we would say yes to everything, just doing it constantly, constantly, constantly.”  Now, she tells me she has to be a little choosier about hitting the road, for one big and obvious reason: “I’ve got a three-year-old and she’s been going through a big mama phase her whole life!”

Stevenson does admit to me that there was part of her, during those years, that was hoping to get asked to do some major support slots, which never happened (“I mean, I’m still not picky about support, because I still don’t get offered support stuff [laughs].”), so she wound up doing the vast majority of her tours alongside friends (Some of whom are pretty huge, though, to be fair…)  And she’s still more than happy to continue doing that.  Joining Stevenson on her upcoming dates, both as immediate support and a member of her band, is local singer/songwriter Kayleigh Goldsworthy, who she first met in-person when Goldsworthy was a member of Anika Pyle’s live band opening Stevenson’s October 2021 show at Johnny Brenda’s.  However, she tells me she’d shared a lot of mutual friends with Goldsworthy for quite some time: “Kayleigh is friends with The Menzingers and she played with Kevin Devine in his Irish band, Kenny O’Brien and The O’Douls.”  When it came time to assemble the band for her upcoming tour, she considered Goldsworthy’s talents for piano, keys, singing, and violin, and thought, “She’d be perfect for that.  She could cover all those bases.”

While most of Laura Stevenson’s local shows have been in more traditional “rock” settings, she admits that those aren’t necessarily always what she would choose: “I would say bars are not my favorite [laughs].  I mean, a bar on a Friday or Saturday is just going to be full of people chatting.  And clubs don’t have a lot of seating for people who need seating.”  Although it’s not necessarily her regular setting (at least around these parts…) she tells me that she is actually a big fan of rooms like The Music Hall at World Café Live: “Listening rooms can be nice because they can generally accommodate the people who need it.”  But she goes on to admit that it ultimately all comes down to the particular show: “Depending on the unit, the band, what we’re going to be covering, and how we’re going to be covering it, it can definitely change.”

In addition to the 13 songs of Wheel, Laura Stevenson’s upcoming tour will also include some favorites of the fans and the band.  “All the players and some others on Patreon have given me some suggestions and requests, and we’ve covered the most bases,” she assures, while also saying that the particular band and setup – which is likely bigger and fuller than anything you’ve seen her do before – enables her to do some things that aren’t usually an option: “We’’ll be doing some intense full-band rock stuff, but that can also incorporate the strings, because the strings are there.  We’ve never had the strings before.  It’s always just been one player; and all my music has strings.”

The 11-date tour behind Wheel’s 10th anniversary wraps in Grand Rapids at the end of May, but Laura Stevenson does tell me that there is some new music in the works, although fans may need to give her a little bit of time to figure out how to get some free moments before that will be able to fully materialize: “I have another record that I’m in the middle of writing, but with a family and a three-year-old there’s not too many moments to tuck away and really concentrate.  I need those hours of solitude.  I need another Airbnb weekend [laughs].”

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During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.