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Laura Cantrell & Elvis Costello

A Conversation with Laura Cantrell (continued)

PM: With Matador behind this record, do you plan a great deal more touring behind it than usual?

LC: Well, trying to do more concentrated touring, we've done more organized promotion around the release itself. I've just come back from three weeks, basically, of being out. I'm not quite sure what's happening with this Lucinda tour, but I have two weeks in the UK that were on the calendar anyway. And then we'll have more touring in the fall, both here and a little more in Europe. So yeah, we're definitely committed to getting it out there. And one ingredient that you really can't skip over when you're trying to build an audience is going and seeing people, and meeting the folks who have liked your music, even if there's only ten of them in the town you're in.

PM: You need all of them.

LC: Yeah, you need to really go and make that connection. It's hard to build up an audience without traveling. So that's what we're committing to doing.

PM: I mean, you've always gotten great reviews and great press, but now you're in Vanity Fair and Elle. Where else are you showing up, and isn't all that pretty exciting?

LC: That's all real exciting. We've been trying to get a little bit more on the radio. It's been great to watch Matador try to crack away at the college market and Triple A. And I just did a Weekend Edition piece for NPR that is going to run tomorrow.

PM: Yeah, I'll be listening for that.

LC: I'm starting to get opportunities that I didn't get on my last couple of records. And I'm very grateful to have somebody who's organized to just cover that stuff.

PM: Matador must have a strong college radio thing going on, right?

LC: Yeah, definitely.

PM: And isn't that pretty new action for you?

LC: It definitely is. I did college radio myself many years ago. But it's very gratifying when you go someplace and there are some young people who are into what you're doing, and play it on the radio. It's very cool.

PM: I think this new record is really a triumph, and the best of all your beautiful records. I thought the opener, Emily Spray's "14th Street," got a breathtaking treatment.

LC: Thank you.

PM: And I think it's maybe your best vocal sound on record. What do you think?

LC: Well, we worked hard on it, let me tell you. That song is not particularly easy to sing, actually.

PM: No, it's not. Yeah, that chorus, and there's some pretty good leaps and--

LC: Yeah, there are some high notes in there.

PM: Yeah.

LC: But I really love the song. I had heard Emily perform it, and it's on a compilation locally here for Two Boots, which is a restaurant here in town that--

PM: Where is Two Boots?

LC: Two Boots is down on the Lower East Side. It's a little pizza store, pizza counter. They also have--it's a cool local business, basically. [check out twoboots.com] And they had made a little homemade sampler CD that they sold at their shop. So I had heard her recording of the song, and I'd had it in the back of my mind as something we would try. We started playing it last summer, kind of as we were doing our summer gigs, going into the Newport Folk Festival, and some stuff we did in the UK. And it worked really well in front of a live audience, so I knew we would record it.

But J.D. Foster, who produced this album, really took me to task singing. I think a lot of singers are tempted these days by the kind of glossing that you can get with technology. Without even turning on the Autotune, you can use technology to fix things that bug you, or whatever. And J.D. was really very adamant with me that we get performances and not these little piecemeal assemblings of the best line.

PM: "Yeah, we'll comp you a vocal," right. [Comping is assembling different lines from different takes until the whole song sounds good.]

LC: No, he was all like, "No, you got to go in there and sing it again." I sang all these songs tons just to satisfy what he felt was the right emotional pitch for the vocals.

PM: What were the typical number of takes once you finally got the vocal J. D. was looking for? Was it in the thirties or the--

LC: Oh, no. It wasn't that much. But it was more like we'd sing a few takes one day, and I think we had a really good set. Then we'd come back the next day and we'd sing another song that we hadn't worked on yet. And then he'd say, "I just want to try '14th Street' again."

PM: [laughs]

LC: And so--

PM: "I thought we were done with that."

LC: Yeah, or so I kept thinking. And every time we did it, it would get better. I would walk out of the studio elated, feeling like, "Wow, I didn't realize that I had that in me." And then we'd come back the next weekend, and he'd say, "Let's try that again." So it was very interesting to me.

PM: Oh, that's very educational for me.

LC: I really appreciate that he was able to do this, because as a singer, you do get emotional. You want to please people, and I had a couple moments where I felt like, "Am I doing this again because you're not pleased with it?" And he said, "No, you're doing it again because I know that you've got a better approach within you, we're just--we're finding that."

PM: Wow.

LC: It was really amazing to have somebody who was listening with a totally different set of kind of criteria for what they were wanting to hear--different than what I might have been thinking, which was more like, "Does it sound pretty?"


LC: Or "Is it in tune? Does it sound like I can sing good?" All those things. He'd say, "I don't care about any of that stuff." He was like, "I want to feel it." We worked a lot on that stuff.

PM: Oh, that's very interesting. continue

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