Lou Laurence

Singer. Songwriter. Siren.

Here's another year of waiting for the lilacs to return - they always do.

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I wrote “Deer Song” one June a few years ago when the lilac time was coming to an end. Every year, they grace and perfume the city for a few short weeks, then dry, then fall. Their trees spend the rest of the unfrozen-season behaving as though they’d never played host to the pendant panicles. And we spend the next eleven months quite certain we can remember the scent if we try hard enough. It’s powdery, right? Even the white ones smell purple, you know? Only when they return the next year do we experience the sweet joy of being all damn wrong – they’re more and better than what we can hold.

It’s like thinking about kissing – in our imagining we tend to focus on lips touching lips, eyes closing, and a satisfaction in the stomach. Then we kiss again. Deeply. And it is the smells of hair and scalps, it is the indecisive or decisive hands, it is the coarse breath from noses, it is the temperature of tongues. Each lived moment so much more threaded than the placeholder image we assign it.

So the lilacs are back and I’m stopping at each tree I pass, closing my eyes, and leaning in. It’s fucking fantastic. Every thick breath I take in swells me up, then rakes at my skin. Every breath is one closer to them leaving again.

As spring brings out the best in our trees, I’ve been playing around with a newer song I’ll soon share with you. In a way, it is the levity to counter balance the blessed anxiety of “Deer Song.” If “Deer Song,” is the ‘waiting for loss,’ this new one is the, ‘fuck it, let’s just be here for a minute and really, truly dig it.’

I don’t mean to parse my songs for you. Hear 'em as you hear 'em.  I’m just drunk on that sweet, grave smell of the ephemeral lilac, falling in love with every leaf on every tree, and wanting to share a little of my spring fever with you. Keep an eye on my youtube page for the aforementioned spring song, “Bested by Biology.” If you follow my instagram you’ve seen some photos from the little video I shot with the remarkably patient and beautifully talented artist, Courtney Clinton, on Mount Royal. It’ll be yours for the viewing within the next week.

Go smell some flowers - the white lilacs tend to have the strongest scent, seemingly to make up for their modest shade, but do your own exploring, it’s a trip. We can compare notes.

Arrived in London, like a big kid.

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The last time I was in London, I had just begun my twenties. This is what I was thinking this morning as I walked down the stairs of the grand Beaver Hotel, after my first night in London, to ask the front desk person to borrow their scissors. ‘How I’ve changed in the years since then,’ I thought. The woman at the desk handed me the scissors and said, “Be careful, they’re sharp.” The timing of this warning felt rather staged – maybe I am still just a little kid, I thought, as I tried carefully not to run back up the stairs with the twin blades.

I arrived yesterday at the true beginning of day. From my airplane window I saw stars and then I saw sunrise. I got a coffee at the airport from a nice man who offered me a stamp-card. When I hesitated, he said, “You can use it all over the UK. You like songs?”
“Yes.”

“What songs do you like?”

“It depends on the day.”

“How about a morning song?”

Then he sang me a couple lines of an improvised “morning song” that was one part ‘good morning’ and one part gentle compliments. I’ve been told you don’t tip in the UK, but you can be sure that man got a strange shaped coin from me. “Do you sing?” he asked, eying my guitar case.

“Yes, I do.”

“How many languages?”

“Two.”

“Have a good day, beautiful.”

“You too.”

  Great carpet at the Beaver Hotel. 

Great carpet at the Beaver Hotel. 

I was a calm version of delirious for most of the day. I strolled around different areas of London until I was just lost enough to test my sense of direction. The streets are crowded. The city is dense with bricks and people. I managed to find a copy shop on Petticoat Lane of all places to do my one big chore of the day: print digital download stickers. The staff was exceedingly friendly – even when I asked them for a pub where I could go have a pint while I waited for them to complete my order. At first I wondered why they hesitated, then realized, ‘Oh yeah, it’s 2:30 on a Tuesday afternoon and not everyone has been awake for 48 hours.’ Subjectivity acknowledged.

After some more wandering, I made my way back to the neighbourhood of my musty hotel. I had my own room, but the toilet is down the hall – it reminds me of a place I lived in Victoria, BC: my first apartment to myself.

There is no subtlety to the nostalgia wafting around my experiences these first days. I found myself remembering an elementary school project I did (with more than the appropriate amount of help from my mother) as I was arts-and-crafting my download cards in my room. The project was this: plan a trip around the world. Create a budget and an itinerary. We had to research approximate airplane tickets, hotel prices and estimate food costs. At that point in recent history, the Internet was not a significant contributor to school projects, so we used travel guides, called airlines and drew up guesstimates. It took ages to complete (or at least, the whole night I had allowed myself on the eve of the deadline).

This morning, I am booking a bus to Bath where I will stay with some local artists and perform at a private event they are hosting. I have tabs open comparing train and bus prices, departure times and the advantages of different drop off locations. I’m hoping to do better on the project this time around.

[Note: if you want to check out more pictures of my adventures, head to instagram and follow @loulaurencemusic . If you or someone you dig is in the UK and wants to see me play, the Upcoming Shows section of this website is being updated regularly)

Ed Sheeran and My Mama

Exactly one week from today, I will arrive in London, England. I’ve been running around for the past few weeks trying to organize myself, my gigs, my bags, my apartment, and my brain in preparation for my big trip. So far, I have organized the gigs. Amidst the running, my sister (a talented painter and incredible ally in creative endeavours) and I filmed a music video.

The video is for a song I wrote called, “My Mom Wants Me to Marry Ed Sheeran.” The title is not a misdirect. My mother is a woman of infinite good advice and a world of wild card advice. One day, we were chatting and she said, “You know who I think you should be with? That English guy.” Blank stare. “The redhead one.”

“Ed Sheeran?”

“Yeah! Ed Sheeran! You should marry him.”

Both of my parents are tremendously supportive of myself and my music career and I’ve understood that this suggestion was just another demonstration of that support – he’s a hugely successful songwriter and singer and she wants to see me at that level. Also, she was hugely charmed by an interview she saw of him. Naturally, I was rather amused by the suggestion and it became something of a running gag. “Why Ed Sheeran, mom? Why not a prince?”

“Oh no, Prince Harry couldn’t handle you.”

  Pretty much the apex of my photo editing skills. Thanks to Mika for being the neck and shoulders for this monstrosity.

Pretty much the apex of my photo editing skills. Thanks to Mika for being the neck and shoulders for this monstrosity.

As a Christmas gift for Mom, I wrote the long-titled song and first performed it at a gig at The Wise Lounge in Vancouver, late December. That night ranks as one of the best performance nights of my life so far. The venue, staff and co-headlining musicians (Max Boyle and Kristi Hawkes) were fantastic, and the audience was infiltrated by a generous dose of family and friends. My parents were there with some of their friends as well as my lovely aunt, uncle, and cousins, as were my friends from my Victoria days. Towards the end of my first set, I told the audience I had a special song to dedicate to my mother. Every punch line landed. Mom and Dad laughed until their eyes watered and my friends alternated between watching my mom’s reactions and me singing. At the end of the song, Mom ran up to the stage to give me a hug.

Performing is fun. Honestly, I love it. You have some fantastic gigs where the whole room is with you and you don’t see it, you feel it – there isn’t your energy and theirs, there is only mad, shared buzz. And you have some shitty gigs where you aren’t all there or they aren’t or the sound person is on their phone finding Tinder dates while you try to get their attention because there is no sound coming from your monitor. This particular night in Vancouver was in a league of its own. A feeling of completely nailing a gift for someone combined with doing exactly what you love in a room of people you love so. damn. much.

Check out the video. Call your Mom or favoured life-advice-figure and ask them which celebrity they want to set you up with. Profess the good love stuff to the good loving people. And if you see Ed Sheeran, tell him I’m very happy for he and his bride-to-be, but my mom isn’t.

Eviction and Evacuation

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              For myself, 2018 began with an eviction notice. Actually, with six eviction notices and a bailiff who harassed me by mail, e-mail, parcel service, and finally face-to-face. The landlords are gutting the apartments they’ve wilfully watched erode over the years and replacing them with shiny new spaces at shiny new prices. A common narrative in my neighbourhood these days – but that’s another story.

             2017 ended with my bathroom sink falling off the wall. Yes, falling off the wall – it took seven days and some choice language to get a plumber into the place. This week the toilet pipes cracked. The waters are revolting and it’s time to react.

            Three years ago, I had applied for jobs teaching English in a number of countries around the world and was choosing between my top two when I got an e-mail from DJ Champion’s manager asking me if I wanted to meet Maxime.  The two came to the pub where I had a musical residence at the time to watch me play. At the end of my two sets, after I had put the tables back into place and settled into my after-gig pint, they asked me to sing with Champion and his G-Strings at Festival de la Poutine in Drummondville, QC, at the end of that summer. The show was on the same day I was meant to be packing up my life and leaving for a year. I chose music. The festival was fantastic – my first time in front of a crowd of thousands – and a few months later I was in the studio with Maxime recording Best Seller.

            The past two years I’ve spent touring with the band, playing galas, festivals, TV shows and playing solo gigs in between. It has been fantastic. I know I made the right choice and I’ve loved every town I’ve discovered, every beautiful musician I’ve had the sweet pleasure of playing with and the new friends I’ve made. But there’s that itch. That part of me that has had an eye on the horizon – and let’s be honest – the part of me that wants to get the hell away from Montreal winter for a short reprieve.

            Last fall, I went to Toronto for two weeks to play some gigs and open mic nights and to try throwing myself into a new musical community. It was a great experience, but I still wanted to go further. One time while I was busking in Carré St. Louis and a young man with a lovely smile came up to me and said, “You are so lucky. You can go anywhere in the world and do this thing that you love.” This interaction has been in my head since. I can go anywhere and try, so why don’t I?

            I’ve got some things to figure out this year – where will I live when my lease is up? Where will I take my songs next – who can I get to play with me? How do I want these pieces to grow?  What’s my next move? But first, I’ve got an itch to scratch. I have got to get out of my comfort zone again.

            And so, it is with great anticipation (and a couple jitters) that I tell you I’m getting on an airplane on February 5th and I won’t be back until March 5th. My plane lands in London, England and returns from Dublin, Ireland. I have two gigs booked in London, so far and I’m going to fill the month with gigs, open mic nights, adventures, new sights, soggy temperatures and hopefully a couple of new songs.

            So if you have some friends in the UK and Ireland, send them to my facebook page so they can come to a show. If you have some tips about what to see, who to hear, and where to dance or stare at stars, drop me a line. Check back in on this blog to follow me on my journeys. See new sights with me on my instagram account. And as always, watch me put it all out in the music on my youtube page. My landlords can’t unsettle me if I unsettle myself first. I wish you all a 2018 of the best of the old and the even better new. I’ll be back in March to share stories and songs. Cheers to upsetting old habits. Here’s to the glorious unexpected.

Lou gets a webpage...

Hello and welcome to the online home of Lou Laurence! Despite the months of foreboding grey, (and a brief and offensive episode of winter jackets in early June) summer has arrived in Montreal. I'm looking forward to the upcoming festivals with Champion and his G-Strings. It will be my first visits to Alma, Chicoutimi and Rimouski, Quebec and I can't wait to explore these places. If you haven't had the chance to see a Champion show before, you are missing out! Imagine four guitars, one bass, two badass lead vocalists and the Champion himself conducting, bringing in the rhythm and beats, improvising, jumping and generally bringing out the dance in everyone. It's a hell of a time! (Here's a little clip of us at Le Festif last summer!)

I'm also getting ready for singing for a historical train yard tour in Montreal's Parc Extension neighbourhood. That'll definitely be a first. For any non-Montrealers, summer here is rife with unexpected performance opportunities for musicians.

In August, I'll be doing my first wedding gig. I've sung a song for a friend's wedding before, but this will be my first multi-set wedding takeover. Who knows, if all goes smoothly, maybe I'll be serenading you and yours under the moonlight of your choice... I must admit, I can be a drippy romantic when it feels right, so the idea of playing for a room full of folks ruminating on l'amour seems like a good time to me. Also, I've noticed my music brings the make-out spirit out in people (perhaps in a future blog post I'll look a little further into that), so I think weddings and I could get along just fine.

Also in August, I have the very exciting opportunity to open for King Creosote + Michael Johnston at Quai des Brumes.  These fellas are coming all the way from Scotland to bring the beautiful Quai des Brumes some fantastic sounds. I was very flattered when I was asked to be a part of this night. Take a listen to "You Just Want" off of King Creosote's latest album and you will find yourself buying tickets for everyone you know (and regretting nothing about your spending spree).

I'll be adding gigs along the way and of course busking around town in the glorious sunshine. I'll add adventure stories and thinkings to this blog and I'll look forward to sharing in the season of trees-with-leaves with you!