With seven albums and more than 10 years of music-making to her name, Laura Veirs just might be one of folk’s more accomplished contemporary artists. The Seattle-cum-Portland songstress recently parted ways with longtime label Nonesuch Records, forging a new path altogether, independently releasing her latest album, July Flame, and having her first child, a son, with partner and collaborator Tucker Martine. Currently, though, it’s all about the live show, which makes a stop in Santa Barbara this Saturday, October 30. The performance, which includes Veirs and a modest three-piece backing band, will no doubt capitalize on the singer’s sizable catalogue, as well as her penchant for delicate and powerful song-crafting. For Flame in particular, Veirs has created an earnest and warm collection of folk-minded orchestrations that are sunny in parts, somber in others, and filled with the naturalistic themes that have long marked her catalogue. I spoke with Veirs recently from her home in Portland, where she recorded Flame with Martine, about touring, songwriting, and her newfound role as mother.
Congratulations on the baby. How’s it been to be a new mom on tour? Well, it’s been interesting and challenging, but actually, in some ways, more fun. I’ve been touring for a long time—almost 10 years—and it can sometimes feel like a job or a grind. I was surprised, though. When Tennessee came on tour with us—we’ve done three weeks in Europe and three in the States—he was really adaptable and really fun to be around. There’s so many times on tour where you’re just sitting around waiting for something: waiting for an airplane or waiting for a gig to start or waiting for dinner. And he has fun. Babies have a very cheerful outlook and are fun to be around throughout the day. It’s kind of cool, but of course also challenging, and I think it will become more so as he becomes mobile and is filled with self will, because he’s not mobile and doesn’t have a lot of self will yet. [Laughs.]
For a lot of musicians, this would be the time to take off, or even spend time at home writing—but you seem to have been touring all the way through. Was there any thought of laying low for a bit? Not really, because I had this album done and I needed to get it out there. I guess I could have held on to it for a few years, but it had already been three years since I put a record out, and I felt like I had enough energy. It’s actually been nice. I feel like if I were just at home writing, I’d probably feel a little bit … well, no. I want to do that and I will after the European tour. I need to take some time to write because that’s important to me and I feel a little bit like I’ve been ignoring that side of myself.
I’m always curious to hear about couples who can maintain a creative working relationship. How do you and Tucker negotiate between the business and family? Tucker and I were friends for five years and making records together before we were lovers, so we had that kind of rapport already. He’s just a great producer and collaborator, and I feel like we share a very similar and very wide view of our aesthetic. Also, I have really strong opinions about my songs and the lyrics and the melodies and everything, but once it comes to production, I don’t really care. I’m pretty hands-off, which he likes because he’s a producer and likes to be really hands-on with all of that, so I think we’re a really good match.
Finally, what can fans and newcomers expect from the show? It’ll be a lean ’n’ mean setup. The Hall of Flames is a trio. I have a friend from Los Angeles named Tim Young on guitar and singing, and he’s just phenomenal. Then my friend Alex Guy is playing viola, and she is a great singer also, so there’s a lot of three-part harmonies and a lot of improvisation on their part, because they’re both great improvisers. They added their solos to the various open parts in my songs, but when I’m singing, it’s pretty sparse and they lay back. Also, they’ve got overdrive and beats and weird electronic sounds, too. It’s not just folk music—but it’s definitely rooted in my folk songs.
Laura Veirs and the Hall of Flames play an early show at SOhO (1221 State St.) this Saturday, October 30, at 6:30 p.m. with openers Led to Sea. Call 962-7776 or visit clubmercy.com for tickets.