I had the pleasure of talking with Laura Reed, an energetic soulful R&B artist from South Africa. From the start it was easy to see that Laura was passionate about her music. Not just artistically, but as a way to express herself and share her experiences with her fans. Find out how she uses empathy, acceptance, vulnerability to make her music.
Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like?
Originally I was born in Johannesburg, South Africa and I lived there until almost six. There was a lot of violence in the middle of the city and it was really interesting going from that to North Carolina. It was like total culture shock. I went from city life and so much going on to North Carolina which at the time just quiet and rural. I almost didn’t even know how to handle it. But I had a great time growing up. A lot of my early childhood memories are of riding bikes around in the country. I was within a subculture in United States, still kind of a South Africa value set, more traditional values and all these sorts of things. But then also in in love with American culture, my dad’s from Nashville. He likes the music, he spent a lot of time just educating me on American music.
What made you decide to become an artist?
I started writing poetry when I was nine and that’s what led to the songwriting. My parents had great taste in music, but they weren’t musicians. My mom a writer, my grandma is also a writer, a lot of writers.So I that led me into writing. The poetry thing seemed natural. So when I was 14 or 15, I started teaching myself instruments. Taking the poems and basically creating a rhythm on guitar and singing my poems. That organically turned into songs and I was like, oh wait, I enjoy this, this is my thing.
Tell us about “The Awakening” and what that album means to you?
The title came literally in the middle of the night. I’m living in Nashville. Left everything I knew, I had been living in Atlanta. I got married young, had a baby young and it didn’t work out. I ended up “single momming it” and moved to Nashville.
Most of that album was all written during this time. Faith Not Fear, was about me going to Nashville knowing nobody with a small child. It was a struggle, all these songs were kind of coming from that. Awakening was kind of this Aha moment where I was like, Whoa, these songs are part of my personal journey.
Part of the human condition is that we can all share in our stories and be vulnerable. When you find that empathy that’s when you have your “awakening”. That’s what the album was about, empathy, acceptance, vulnerability are really huge themes in that album.
What are some steps you take during your creative process?
It just depends. Usually a little bit of isolation. I’ll go travel alone, or spend a lot of time by myself when I’m working on a project. I’ll just trying to get creative juices going, input equals output. You can’t have constant output without input. I love people and I get energy from that. But I’m also very introverted, I’ll go off by myself for a little while.
Also being able to recognize every idea’s a good idea. Recording everything. I write down everything. I’m constantly having ideas and using the voice memo thing on my phone. When I was a kid, it was a dictaphone. I had them next to my bed, I have it in my purse and my car, everything just to be able to record ideas. The good ones kind of follow you on top of your mind all day. Some of the other ones are like seeds that spark other ideas. So that’s a big part of my process is collecting all of these different thoughts. After, I’ll go through my journals and just kinda see what seems powerful.
Who are some of your biggest musical icons or influences?
Aretha Franklin. Stevie Wonder. Those were my music teachers. They just don’t know it yet.
The way that they used lyrics and the English language. You wouldn’t speak that way, but you can sing that way. And like his musicality, just totally influence me and inspire me.
Also Lauren Hill, Erykah Badu, Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson. Johnny Cash as far as the vulnerability of the songwriting and just letting it be so raw.It’s about the testimony and the connection.
Bob Marley, I think everybody loves about him, but on like a deeper level. He was always a huge icon for me while who’s influenced the world. Everywhere you go on the world people know his music. It’s brought people together.
What’s a piece of advice you’d give to your younger self or any musician just starting out?
Patience. Sometimes you think you’re ready for things but you’re not trusting the timing. There’s a level of surrender, and faith. You have to know that this is what you’re supposed to do. Sometimes things won’t happen in your timing, but you surrender and let them happen.
It’s all going to line up and you can’t do everything yourself these days as an artist. You have to wear a lot of hats.
I’ve been independent until about two or three weeks ago. And I’ve found how important a team is. You can’t do it all by yourself. Sometimes it’s good to bring people, two brains is always better than one. Having a team and having a community and not forgetting the people that begin with you. That’s big advice. Especially to the young cats. I still have the same people around me that I had been 15 years ago. People that did stuff for free, and starved with me. I would use my food stamps to buy us food for music videos. That’s loyalty. I think that’s important because you’re going to need it. You’re going to need people you can trust and it’s about building a community with your music.
What’s next? Tours? Festivals?
So I’ve been working on stuff for awhile. I think the next six months or so but still be finishing this project. Writing a little bit more, recording a little bit more, but we’re pretty close. Figuring out the direction we’re going to be releasing. I have a few singles lined up for this year and I hope that the album will drop next year with a tour and everything. I’m really stoked!
Jessica is a college student from North Carolina and the Pop Culture Contributor for On The Scene.
Guest contributors are the opinion of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of Creative Allies Inc. or its affiliates.