Influences & Inspirations: Lauren Bird

by / May 30, 2017

Hailing from the musical hotbed of Strabane, Lauren Bird recently celebrated the release of her debut album, ‘The Inbetween’. No stranger to us at Chordblossom, the songwriter who won our Kickstart competition in 2015, impressing us with her personal, heartfelt songs.

‘The Inbetween’ sees Lauren Bird make a huge leap, with the layered instrumentation and production adding further depth to her tender songs. The album soundtracks that mid-twenties period of relationships, awkwardness and ‘the inbetween’, with Bird’s signature ukulele taking centre stage for much of it. The increased studio time paid dividends as Bird’s various influences come together across the album’s fourteen tracks.

Lauren Bird shares the main influences on her debut album, from the versatility of her instrument of choice to lyricism and the topic of mental health.


Playlist


Feist – 1234

Feist is a big influence to me in my writing but was also a huge reference in terms of production, especially The Reminder album. I picked ‘1234’ because it’s one of those songs that you listen to and it sounds so happy but if you actually stop and listen to the lyrics, it’s sad. The first time I properly listened to this song I cried and I loved the contradiction of the arrangement, it played such a big part in my album.


Sufjan Stevens – The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades Is Out to Get Us!

Cormac O’Kane (the producer) shares a love of Sufjan and we both wanted to put some orchestral arrangements in there. I love this song especially because it’s so simple and then the arrangement gets more and more complex… it basically builds the song up throughout. I think that influence is probably best heard in ‘Thoughts’ and ‘That’s The Truth’, because who doesn’t love a wee clarinet part!


Belle & Sebastian – The Boy With The Arab Strap

This is another one that influenced production more than lyrics. I just always love how casually upbeat this song is and we were a bit stuck with what to do with ‘Lacuna’. I mentioned the arrangement on this and that’s where the Wurlitzer came from. The rest fell into place after that.


Rilo Kiley – A Better Son/Daughter

This is probably one of the most important songs I’ve ever heard in my life. It is so brutally honest about mental illness and the first time I heard it I felt comforted. I realized that if I was struggling mentally that I shouldn’t shy away from that and it made me feel safer to write about it.


Alanis Morissette – That I Would Be Good

Jagged Little Pill is honestly one of the best albums ever made and one that I play a lot. I wanted to make an album that was as honest as it was and I hope I achieved that in some way. This song especially is just so beautiful: musically and lyrically. If my album was even considered half as good to someone I’d be happy.


Paul Simon – Graceland

I wanted to make Graceland so bad. I want to be Paul Simon so bad. I was so happy that we got Peter McKinney and Nicky Scott in to do the bass and drums because they somehow sensed that’s what I wanted. The rhythms Peter used and the basslines Nicky played are ridiculously good, I can say that because I have nothing to do with them. The bass solo in ‘Oh No’ is very Graceland inspired!


Rilo Kiley – With Arms Outstretched

I’m not sure if I’m allowed to mention the same band/person twice but Jenny Lewis is one of my heroes. This song especially informed ‘It’s Ok’ because I wanted group vocals at the end of it and I always loved how casual the group vocals are at the end of ‘With Arms Outstretched’. I didn’t want them to be too choiry and this was my go-to reference for that.


Ingrid Michaelson – Mountain and the Sea

The ukulele is a huge part of my “sound” and I wanted it to be heard on this album. Ingrid is another one of my heroes and I sent a few of her songs to Cormac to show different ways in which the ukulele could be presented. This song starts with the ukulele and it stays as the main thread of the song though it doesn’t limit the arrangement at all. I wanted to keep the uke in as much as possible, there’s only one song it doesn’t feature in on the album. There are songs like ‘Don’t Regret’ where it’s the main focal point and then in ‘The Way Out’ it’s almost percussive, we just didn’t want it to be samey.


The Beach Boys – You Still Believe In Me

Pet Sounds, Graceland and The Reminder were the three most talked about albums in the studio. I listened to Pet Sounds a lot and watched the behind the album DVD as well just to study what Brian Wilson did with vocal harmonies and arrangements. I tried my best to copy him basically; the best examples are probably ‘Toxins’ or ‘The Inbetween’. Also, lyrically this album is so personal and I loved that.


Regina Spektor – Man Of A Thousand Faces

You’re probably thinking, “Lauren this is a bit of a stretch”. I have to mention her because she is 100% my favourite songwriter and this is just my favourite song of hers. My tiny hands mean that I cannot play the piano well but Cormac is phenomenal so I was lucky to get some beautiful piano parts on ‘I Wonder’ and ‘The Way Out’. Those are my little Regina moments and I hope there are more in the future!

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