Lauren was a Jazzlines Fellow in 2014/15 supported by the Jerwood Charitable Foundation
When and how did you come to start playing music?
I went to a school in Dublin that had a great music department and here is where my curiosity and drive was nurtured. I sang in choirs and as a soloist and had the opportunity to be taught by some amazing mentors (I am still in touch with some of them).
Tell us a bit about the path of your musical development.
I was 12 when I played my first concert. It was an ecological musical (!) called Ocean World and in it I sang a solo song called Shadow of the Prow. I can still remember how nervous I was but found the experience thrilling. At school I studied music for my Leaving Certificate, took singing and piano lessons and had the chance to focus on wonderful classical, folk, gospel and popular song repertoire which gave me a solid grounding in technique.
My Nana, my mum, my brother and my Dad can all sing and hold a lovely tune but it's not their profession. My family have always been so encouraging and supportive of my life and I am forever grateful for my parents that they were able to send me to a school with a good music department.
How did you get into jazz and why did you choose to focus on studying/playing jazz?
Through friends I suppose. We’d get together and play standards and I realised that I was very interested in using the voice as an instrument where I could improvise over harmony even before I could understand it intellectually. I hadn’t explored this in school as the repertoire I sung wasn't improvised.
I studied Jazz for my BA in Ireland in 2006 and then again for my Masters in the Royal Academy, London in 2012. For me, it was a great experience as I had the chance to learn and practise a lot of new skill sets.
When you are composing, what are the key elements you aim to incorporate in your music?
Groove, rhythmic phrasing, space, concept, freedom...
I suppose your interests change too as you develop as a person and events in life shape the direction of your writing. That can be a very powerful tool - your ability to find expression in your art through your own experiences and with others around you, trying to make sense of it all.
It also depends on who I am writing for and for what instruments. Who are the people and what would you like to musically discuss with them? What kind of discourse do you want to develop? I'm interested in these kinds of questions when it comes to composition and the narrative aspect. I enjoy writing by myself or with others too.
I’ve always been influenced by nature and now as I write maybe I am seeing a link - Ocean World! I like watching nature programmes, they give me ideas about text, lyrics, form, the content of the words and their message. The natural world is a wonder and I am scared about what's happening to our planet right now.
As a vocalist generally, I am interested in both the construction and deconstruction of language through sound in both written and spontaneous composition.
Which musicians have had a key influence on you and your music?
What I find most liberating about being a musician is that your influences change as you grow yourself as an artist. You can be a sponge for a while soaking up audio, visual and written stimulus and then you have an output through composition, performance, improvisation, recording and a dialogue with the audience and the people you create with. For me, influences are always changing and they should be. I don't want to have a fixed idea about myself, my music or anybody for that matter.
At the moment I am reading or have read a few texts that are making me reflect and think a lot about my practise:
David Toop Into The Malestrom
Marina Abramovic Walk Through Walls
Cherry Smyth One Wanted Thing
Joachim -Ernst Berennt The World is Sound
I respect a lot of female musicians whose work and dedication to their art is inspiring, musicians like Joelle Leandre, Lauren Newton, Meredith Monk, Laurie Anderson, Miranda July, Laura Jurd, Hannah Marshall, Lucia Cadotsch, Emilia Martensson, Ingrid Laubrock, Mary Halverson, Barbara Hannigan..the list goes on and on!
If you were introducing a friend to jazz music for the first time, what 3 artists or albums would you recommend to them?
O that’s a hard one - I’ve never been very good at answering these questions but i’ll give it a shot!
A Love Supreme John Coltrane
Cross Country Tour Ahmed Jamal
I Remember Miles Shirley Horn
But then on another day to another person I'd introduce them to
Junk Magic Craig Taborn
Fahrvergnügen Nils Wogram
Mingus Ah Um Charles Mingus
Or maybe these albums to yet another person..
At Mister Kellys Sarah Vaughan
Masterpieces Duke Ellington
The Newest Sound Around Jeanne Lee and Ran Blake
See I told you I was no good at these kinds of questions!
Tell us a bit about an upcoming project/band
A group called Snowpoet that I lead with bassist Chris Hyson are working on new material for our second album. This is a very enjoyable and exciting process. You can check out our music here
Sarah Buechi, a Swiss vocalist has put a group together with myself and two of UK’s most wonderful improvisational string players - cellist Hannah Marshall and bassist John Edwards. We play Buechi’s compositions and are performing a few concerts including the Intakt Festival in the Vortex in April. This a big festival over 12 days and I’m looking forward to hearing lots of great music.
Roamer is a project that features myself and Irish musicians, Simon Jermyn a basset who lives in New York, Matthew Halpin a tenor saxophonist living in Cologne and drummer Matthew Jacobson based in Dublin. We’ll be on a residency at the Tyrone Guthrie Centrein Monaghan in April working on new compositions based on the workof Cherry Smyth and her wonderful poetry. Like myself Cherry lives in London and she’ll be performing with us on one of our concerts while we are on tour in Ireland after the residency. Can’t wait for that!
Pianist Kit Downes and myself have some concerts coming up in the summer at some lovely jazz festivals. For more details soon to be announced you can check my website for performance dates or indeed Kit's
What key advice would you give to young female musicians planning to build a career as professional musician?
Be yourself. Love yourself. Work hard. Rest easy. Keep going.