We thoroughly enjoyed speaking with Lara about her music and what inspires her. Check out the interview below.
Hi, Lara! Thank you for granting the interview. We reviewed one of your songs, Phoenix Rising. It has a melodic sound, with a heart. Tell us what inspired the song?
Well, thank you! I wrote it when I was feeling totally uncertain and compressed, not knowing which direction to go in. This was a significant turning point in my life – I wanted change, I needed to let go, and I was feeling my way through complete darkness. Writing the song gave me a feeling of taking my power back, channeling my fear and rage into trust that something larger was at work and that I would come through it stronger than ever.
You created a heart touching. Tell us about the writing process.
My inner world can be very intense, and writing is an important outlet for me. I’m more interested in asking good questions than having all the answers, so my songs are often about the questions I’m asking myself at that time. With Phoenix Rising, I was asking how to set myself free, how to get out of my own way and torch my own bullshit so that I could just breathe. I felt trapped in my own spider web, and the song helped me find my way through.
How would you describe your sound?
Stylistically it’s a blend of pop, soul, folk, and indie. Others have described my sound as smooth, simmery, soulful, warm, lush, classic.
You created a t-shirt called Rise Up. It is a call-to-action to your fans to Listen In, Speak Out and Rise Up. Tell us about the project.
Rise Up is a campaign for building awareness and raising money for five charitable organizations that are doing amazing work in the world. We hear from the media that terrible things are happening every day, and it’s easy to get sucked into feeling upset and powerless. We are in charge of our own thoughts and actions, and we can either contribute more fear or choose to stand in peace. The shirt design represents listening to our own heart’s wisdom and then acting from that place each day to be a positive presence to those around us. The fundraising aspect is a tangible way to contribute to larger groups who are actively making a difference: Step Up Women’s Network, Best Friends Animal Society, Freedom to Choose Project, John Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, and Americares.
When did you start singing?
I grew up singing in the choir at church – not because I was a good singer, but that’s just what you did in my family. I never thought of myself as a singer or performer, and wouldn’t even sing along to the radio in front of friends in high school. I wrote a song in my late twenties after an experience swimming with wild dolphins, and believe that experience was a catalyst for opening a creative part of me I hadn’t encountered yet. I felt an overwhelming urge to sing the song I had written but didn’t know how. It took a year of struggle and encouragement from friends to put together my first concert. In the middle of the concert, I discovered I could sing! 🙂
Growing up, what songs inspired you?
I listened to The Carpenters over and over as a young child. Not your typical children’s music, but I knew all the lyrics by heart. Superstar, Ticket to Ride, Rainy Days and Mondays – all these melancholy songs! Karen Carpenter’s voice just touched me in a way I didn’t understand but found compelling. As a teenager in Atlanta, I was into hip-hop and R&B, which gave me a deep appreciation for groove, textures and heavy beats.
Do you draw from personal experiences to create your music?
My songs (so far) arise from own journey and experiences, reflecting what I’m feeling at the moment. The only song I’ve written from a perspective that wasn’t my own was called 100 Years. It’s for my grandmother, and it really felt like her spirit was writing it through me. She died this year at 108, and I wrote it not long after she reached 100. That song is told through her eyes about what it’s like to live that much life, outliving everyone you knew. I sang it at her funeral. It’s deeply meaningful to me and my family.
Your lyrics make people think! What is the most important aspect of songwriting?
For me, it’s a matter of being present and in touch with myself. I feel the most important aspect of songwriting is telling the truth. When I’m writing from an honest and vulnerable place, the listener feels that and can relate.
What is the biggest misconception about singers?
I actually have no idea!
What is your most favorite experience in your career to date?
My favorite experience is that moment of silence when you have just finished performing a song, and you know you nailed it, and you feel the entire room is connected and totally inside the experience with you. That is like heaven to me!
List the 5 things you need to have with you on a stage.
. . . a piano, a bucket of courage, a set list, my heart, and a glass of warm water w lemon (and/or bourbon).
Do you have any upcoming projects that we haven’t mentioned?
I’m putting the plan together to record my next album in 2018. I will be making more time to paint and share my art. I’m getting my holiday card together, which often features one of my paintings. I’m lining up gigs, which are always listed on my website. Next year I’ll be volunteering in prisons with the Freedom to Choose Project.
Complete this sentence, if I had an opportunity to change anything, I would change . . .
. . . my mind. I would be more present, more of the time.
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Featured Image Credit: Samuel Hanson.