Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Uncommon Folk: Laura Gibson

Uncommon Folk is a new feature in which artists we admire talk about the music that inspired and influenced their own work.

We are excited to have Laura Gibson as the first contributor. Laura's new record If You Come to Greet Me is out this week on Hush Records. The songs on If You Come to Greet Me succeed on the strength of her intimate, genuine vocals, careful pacing and wide-open arrangements that make the most of every note. It's one of our favorite records of the year and perfect for the colder weather. Here, Laura talks about the music she listened to while making the record.

I began writing the songs for If You Come to Greet Me during a monthlong stay in my little hometown, helping out, and spending time with my family (Coquille, Oregon). Living in Portland, I am exposed to really good and creative new music all the time. It's wonderful but can be overwhelming. So I left all of my music in my Portland apartment and limited my music intake to what I could find at the Coquille Library. Mostly, I would listen to these old music anthologies. I found these really great folk and Delta blues anthologies, and listened to Skip James, Mississippi John Hurt and Elizabeth Cotton. These are some of my all-time favorites. I really love their stories and have learned a lot listening to their guitar playing.

During that month in Coquille, I spent a lot of time reading through these old letters that my grandparents wrote back and forth during the 30's and 40's, while my grandfather was out at sea. When I read those letters, and picture them writing, I imagine swinging jazz and dreamy waltzes in the background. I found a good soundtrack for my letter reading (again at the Coquille Library) through Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. I have no idea whether my grandparents would have listened to this music, but it seemed right. The song "Nightwatch" on my album was originally inspired while reading these letters and picturing my grandparents, imagining what kind of song might have played in the background; I like that phantom nostalgia I feel when I am listening to music from other eras. Most of my songs were probably birthed in some sort of feeling of nostalgia.

The Innocence Mission: Befriended and Birds of Our Neighborhood

The Innocence Mission has been one of favorites through many different seasons in my life. Don and Karen Paris have such a way with words and an observant eye for nature. I love it when you can't nail a song down as being happy or sad; their music feels like nostalgia or longing, sweetness and aching. They are winter waiting for spring. She also writes with such intimacy, and it could be romantic intimacy or closeness with her children or prayers to God, or all of these things. I am not sure what kind of intimacy they are writing of or whether it matters, it just makes sense.

MP3: The Innocence Mission - Tomorrow on the Runway
MP3: The Innocence Mission - Where Does the Time Go?

Norfolk and Western - Dusk in Cold Parlours

A friend loaned me this album, and I loved it so much and remember listening to it over and over while lying in bed. At the time, had no idea that these would be the people with whom I would record If You Come to Greet Me. Adam and Rachel's sense of orchestration and instrumentation just kills me. Listening to their music opened up a whole new world of possibilities for me of what I might want a record to sound like. I fell in love with the trumpet and the vibraphone. I am also really captivated by Adam's songs. I think I am probably a visual person; there is always a little silent film running through my head when I am writing or listening to songs. It seems like his songs always pay attention to the atmosphere and surroundings where the song is taking place, and I find there's always a picture, a character or scene in my head when I listen to Norfolk and Western (a city bus, a dusty saloon, a foreign town).

MP3: Norfolk and Western - Impossible

M Ward, especially Transfiguration of Vincent (that album as a whole). I love the otherworldly quality of his voice, and he has inspired me to become a better guitar player. M Ward is one of my biggest influences.

Stream: Three songs from Transfiguration of Vincent

Dolorean (another Portland band): the song "The Light Behind My Head" from Not Exotic is probably my favorite of his songs.


As for Laura's music, you can download "Hands in Pocket" and stream "Nightwatch" and "Wintering" on her MySpace.


alexis said...

great article. love the dolorean tune.

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