‘Laura-Mae from Golden Bay‘ slips off the tongue rather easily as an artist name for Takaka indie singer-songwriter, Laura-Mae Parker Barrett. Writing and performing folky pop songs in the vein of heart-on-the sleeve international peers King Princess and Alex Lahey, the 23-year old’s acoustic debut single Betsy hit the internet in May, followed by the much slicker production of brand new indie-pop track Rug Of Numbers. Richard Thorne finds out more.
Rug Of Numbers – nice metaphor, how and where did you stumble onto it?
My ex-boyfriend from high school told me one time that he felt like ‘just a number’ and I never forgot that. I couldn’t bear the thought of someone feeling unimportant… But of course, a few years later I felt that way too… with another boy. Completely out of the blue my ex reaches out to me after six years of silence and texts, ‘Hey, what you up to’. It was so bizarre! So the song idea was a combination of two ex-boyfriends, and feeling like you’re of no importance to the othe. I sing about being swept under the rug, like nothing happened.
The song has a nicely mixed tempo, almost up beat vibe, but I suspect it may have started life a lot slower and more deflated in tone?
Yes! I always write my songs on guitar, slowly figuring out the chords, so naturally, a lot of my songs begin slow. When I created a demo on my computer, it was just for my personal reference, more for fun over lockdown. But then Toby [Lloyd] from Tiny Triumph Recordings wanted to record that specific song, and created this upbeat club vibe-ing song. It’s awesome!
Do you write on acoustic guitar or keyboard?
I typically focus on guitar, but sometimes I shift and play basic piano chords, just to challenge my songwriting style. It’s definitely something people need to practice every day! And the more I try different songwriting styles, the more creative my songs sound. They’ve still got my ‘Laura-Mae’ spin to them, I just find it so fun to play around with different sounds from time to time. But yes, most of my songs are written on guitar – ’cause it’s the instrument I know best.
Do you approach songwriting as a ‘task’ or are you more relaxed about waiting for the muse to strike?
I’ve recently learnt that allocating time every day to write a song is the best option. I try and sit down for half an hour every morning and jam out a few guitar chords. From that I’ll find something and start daydreaming about things until an idea pops up! It can sometimes feel like a ‘task’ because I know I should be writing every day, but also, if I waited for inspiration to strike during the lockdown I wouldn’t have written anything!
How long did it take you to complete Rug Of Numbers.
I wrote it two years ago whilst still at uni, and I recall it took me at least a couple of hours to write. I think most of my writing consists of me dreaming up scenarios and trying my hardest to be true to these scenarios. With Rug Of Numbers it took me a while to write because I was thinking non-stop about why my ex-boyfriend texted me! It was a long process, but I just ignored him, and instead smashed out a catchy tune!
Betsy was written for a friend. Is Rug Of Numbers personal or is it more general, but based on a great idea?
Rug of Numbers is another song which I want people to feel relief from. I wanted listeners to know that I have felt neglected by someone I used to care about, and that if they feel neglected too, that we could go through this pain together. With any song, if the musician is writing about their personal and heartfelt experience, it makes other listeners feel better, cause they don’t feel so alone.
What’s your favourite lyric in there?
“I suppose we’re all ghosts, living in rabbit holes and nobody sees the light of day.” It ties in the feeling of being under someone, and not feeling completely in control.
And why did you chose Toby Lloyd as producer for this song? He’s in Wellington right?
After the release of my debut single Betsy, Toby reached out and said he’d love to work with me! It was great to get some feedback on my song and hear I was heading in the right direction. He has worked across heaps of albums and films, he’s incredibly talented and has set up an entire music studio in his garage at home!
What fresh ideas did he bring to the track?
He gave the song a big lift! He put in some dreamy guitar, heaps of synths and also added the velocity changes throughout the track. The classic ‘drop’ for the final chorus he played around with and left that one beat gap of silence, which is such a different feature to the track. I nearly cried when I first heard his creation!
Does anyone else play on it? Do you have a band?
Rug Of Numbers is almost entirely electronic. So the drums are electronic, the synth effects are electronic etc. – and Toby did it all! I wish I could have him as a band member, haha! But for now, I’ve got myself, my guitar and my looper, which ironically has an electronic drum synced in. I’m really excited to have the looper as well. It’s a new feature for my gigs, and this tour will be the introduction to Laura-Mae from Golden Bay, with a loop pedal! There are so many exciting things about this summer tour!
I do get a sense of Stevie Nicks in this track. What is it about her that you find most relatable and/or inspiring?
That’s amazing! Thank you! Yes, I’ve been trying to find my true style, and Stevie Nicks keeps coming to mind! I resonate so strongly with her lyric writing style, flowing fashion sense, relaxed easy listening sounds and entire essence. When I was a kid, mum would play their album on repeat (along with The Scissor Sisters and Tom Jones), and I never quite understood why she loved Fleetwood Mac so much, but I find myself covering a lot of their songs from the album ‘Rumours’. Her head-strong personality and brave ability to be completely honest even towards the media in interviews is refreshing! Stevie is an incredible musician I hope to one day meet!
What range of genres have you tried so far and which do you feel most comfortable singing in?
I’ve sung across multiple genres, hence why I really struggle to identify as being any particular one. During high school, I competed at the Country Music Awards across the South Island. It was a heck of a lot of fun, and incredible talent has come out of those competitions! One year I had a jazz singing teacher, whilst also singing in the school choir, so that year I was really mixing it up… then at uni I was in a covers band, doing 4-hour gigs from 10pm-2am. Those felt like marathons, because after being awake all day, then singing to drunk people for four hours was hard enough, but the pack down took another two hours! I feel like my genre might change again, as recently I’ve had a strong funk-rock influence from specific emerging artists. But for now, indie pop is my go-to!
Have you been missing the opportunity to perform live this year?
I was actually pretty lucky and did continue gigs in lockdown… free to the community! I hosted ‘Staycation’ where I’d live stream a two hour gig performed from my deck, and all the neighbours could sit in their gardens and listen to me. It was pretty epic to share music to the locals and bring a little bit of excitement to their week. Since level one I’ve been performing gigs around my home town of Golden Bay, and currently am scheduling in a summer tour. Lockdown has led me onto exciting new opportunities and meeting new people all the time… so lockdown was busy!
Do you feel at all daunted by the number of super Kiwi female artists coming through right now, or is that empowering?
Oh, it’s so exciting! Yay to the women-identifying people! I’m crazy excited for Paige, as she keeps rising the charts, hosting bigger and bigger shows… plus wears her heart on her sleeve with such truthful lyrics. We met at X-Factor and she has been such an inspiration to me. I’m always seeking out wāhine musicians and promoting their music!