There may be a new music force rising from the alt music laboratory of Daniel Smith (Danielson). Christian musician Lauryn Peacock released her first cd Keep It Simple; Let the Sun Come Out last Friday and the clips we heard are pretty phenomenal. This swirling, piano-driven set of songs dig deep into living on this planet, as a believer and as a human being. The cd was co-produced by Daniel Smith and features Michael Weiss, Rick Mazzotta and Greg Jehanian of mewithoutYou, Dennison Witmer and Jonni Greth.
Since 1996, Lauryn Peacock been going to school off and on, playing more and more music, working in cafes, restaurants, being an administrative assistant, a tutor, guitar teacher, artist-in-residence – just living and working in Madison, Chicago, and Philadelphia. She had her first solo show on the staff stage for the Old Town School of Folk Music at the Chicago Folk and Roots Festival in what must have been the summer of 2007. In the Summer of 2008, she was driving around, playing a few shows (arts festivals and other venues), traveling with her eyes open for a place to land that was a change of pace and a good fit. Lauryn Peacock ended up feeling the most connected tp Philadelphia and engaging with a faith community that included some of the guys from mewithoutYou. She hopped on their tour bus once just to come along and hang out for a weekend tour and ended up playing keys for them for a few months on east coast shows that culminated in the record release show for It’s All Crazy! It’s All False! It’s All A Dream! It’s Alright.
Interview With Christian Musician Lauryn Peacock
One21: Lauryn Peacock is new onto the scene. Tell us how about your journey to Keep It Simple:Let The Sun Come Out.
Lauryn Peacock: One of my most formative and inspiring experiences that really got me hooked on playing pop and rock music was a strange opportunity that arose where I got to do some piano work with Jeff Tweedy ( Wilco) two years in a row for these living room concerts for charity (must have been January of 2007 and 2008). It’s funny, besides that experience, I can’t in this moment remember how I started playing live with people. Those Tweedy concerts might have been some of the first times – I had played piano since I was three, taking a 12 year break at one point, and wrote my first song in 1998 – the year I taught myself to play guitar – but really, being around the community at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago and being a part of those Tweedy concerts really birthed in me a desire to keep exploring music and playing live. Around that time, I started playing with other people, Jonni Greth being one of them, along with a few punk and rock bands… I also started writing a lot of songs.
This new cd is a culmination of everything I’ve written above – the experiences, the places, the bands: ones I’ve listened to, performed with, songs I’ve listened to, everything I’ve been absorbing – especially for the last five, maybe ten, years – all of that is in these songs, and I am excited for how it all came together; the process has been incredible, along with the people who contributed to it musically. I also had never officially met Daniel Smith before I had the opportunity to work with him; it was a serendipitous ‘accident’ that we were able to co-produce this album together. I had planned on cutting the album at another studio, but went with him, on recommendation, when scheduling wasn’t working out there. His studio is at his family’s home in New Jersey and just a really great place to cut an album. I’m not sure what to say except that I can’t picture this whole experience being anything other than exactly how it was, down to all the details and even every note we recorded in that studio. I approached this project with much intentionality, and Daniel definitely was right there in the process with me.
One21:When we first met your were performing under the terrific name Pauw. Why the change?
Lauryn Peacock:The project has gone through some changes since we last spoke – good ones. I am now releasing the album under my own name, which was actually a little foreign to me, being used to the name Pauw, but I can see that it was a great idea and appropriate, given that I write all the material, most all of the arrangements, and am the band’s most constant member (though I’ve been playing consistently with a great group of people here in Philly). I still call that band Pauw, which is Flemish for Peacock.
Background on Pauw: a composer friend of mine who also lived at an Artist Studios building that I lived in in Chicago told me, over coffee on the roof deck one morning, that the word ‘Pauw’ was Flemish for Peacock and that he thought he needed to tell me that it would be a great stage name for me. I really liked the idea and used it for several years, as I was just starting to play out. It was a great fit for a while, and I still love that I can use it for the band. I was the musician/artist in residence at a monastic community in another neighborhood in Chicago during that time, and they hardly called me Lauryn at all, they called me Pauw, which was strange for me at first, but something I got used to, so there’s a lot of history in that name.
I feel I’ve made a transition in my life and with my music and the name change marks that. While not everything I sing is autobiographical by any means, the emotions of the songs are tied very directly to my life and experience. I feel that honesty and bravery are important in the art we present, in being willing to say the risky things and stand behind them. I felt this is tied to stepping out and using my own name, especially in regard this this new record. I went with the change at the nudging of some friends, but I was already asking the question for a reason. This record needed to not be released under a band name, but under my own. It was a very personal process for me and I feel it changed me from the inside out, in many ways, or at least gave me a brand new perspective on what I do. The recording of this record was the first time I really gave myself permission to do what I loved and to throw everything I had into doing it. I’ve never felt so satisfied in the process of doing something as I did recording and co-producing this album; it made me feel like I was inching closer to something I could only call vocation.
One21:How would you describe your sound? What artists influenced you?
Lauryn Peacock:I have spent a lot of time listening to a lot of 60s songwriters: the Zombies, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, and I hope to capture some of their style even in the slightest, but really most of the influence of other artists has been subconscious, or at least not intentional. I have listened to a good bit of Indie music in general, also: Gillian Welch, Damien Jurado, and Jeff Tweedy, the Velvet Underground, Nico. People recently have told me they hear Regina Spektor or some Joanna Newsom in the sound.
One21:Have we heard you on any other recordings or is this your first time out in the digital world of music?
Lauryn Peacock:This is nearly my first time! I sing with Jonni Greth on the 7 inch split he did with Bill Tucker, entitled Little Jesus, which we did in October of 2007.
One21:Tell us about the record.
Lauryn Peacock:The motivation for the record is that it was simply time. Time to put it down and get it out there. The right people came along to help me do it (some really good friends) and it just felt like the right time. I don’t feel the record has an overall theme, but there is much imagery related to the sunshine, kind of as a marker of universal human experience in time. I would say that most of the songs deal with the emotional landscape we all experience in one way or another during our time on earth. I tried to authentically capture my experience and what I see in the lives of others. “Divorce” for example is a fictional song, but contains sentiments and moods which I think most of us have felt as some time or another. “I’ll Be Wearing Gray” is a lullaby I wrote about two lovers meeting in death, but also as an allegory or conversational prayer, more being sung over me than me singing it. The outtro to “Between the Sunshine”, when it talks about the Still Point, is a T.S. Eliot reference from his poem ‘Burnt Norton’ and is an idea that I have used in my poetry for many years. Eliot’s Still Point is a Christ allegory, the axis on which the world or the universe spins, a place out of time. The lyric in my song goes ‘Driving shiftless forward through the still point, stuck between the sunshine and a song.’
I chose the title ‘Keep It Simple Let the Sun Come Out’ as the title for the record because it is the positive side of the mirror of the emotions covered on the album – I wanted the focus to be there, as there are plenty of melancholy moments, lyrically and musically. ” Monument”, the last song on the album also has a line ‘And I know that I’ve never been forgotten and the sunshine is no different this time’ – It was important to me to end on that note. I actually wrote that song in the process of recording, as an outtro to the album, just marking the new season on which I felt myself embarking. I say many things through the course of the songs on the record, cover a lot of my human experience and what I observe in the world. That last track is my way of (hopefully) bringing focus back where it should be, while still remaining open and raw about what experiencing life on earth is like, to me.
One21:It is pretty impressive to have your debut produced by Daniel Smith and to have Jonni Greth and the guys from mewithoutYou play on the record. How did you assemble this cast of music heavyweights?
Lauryn Peacock:Haha. Most of them were my friends. And they believed in me, and the songs, and for that I am eternally grateful. They also happen to be some of my favorite players.
I actually was scheduled at another studio (a friend of Daniel’s) who ran into some scheduling difficulties and offered to introduce me to Daniel. So really I met Daniel by accident, through a set of circumstances over which I had very little control. And even that was a huge blessing. I had so much fun putting all this together with him and being able to lean on his expertise and all the experience he has. Plus he’s just fun to work with. And artistically it was just what the album needed. It would have been great either way, but this was truly special, the way it worked out!
One21:What are your expectations for Keep It Simple;Let The Sun Come Out?
Lauryn Peacock:I don’t really have expectations. I try to be really careful about that. But I do have a hope: that if people could benefit from this music being in the world, that they would find it. I find some comfort, myself, in some of these songs (the reason some of them came to be in the first place), and I know a few others do too, so if the music can be a benefit in that way, then I feel like I’ve done something that matters.
One21 : Do you have plans to tour? When and what will the show look like?
Lauryn Peacock:I definitely have plans to tour. I’d love to go now! But I am finishing a master’s degree at UPenn. I may be able to start touring in the Spring, but no specific plans yet. I go back and forth about what the show would look like. I could see it being really simple: me, a background vocalist and maybe a drummer. I also think about how fun it would be to have enough people to realize the full sound on the record. I especially love the cello parts we came up with. It’s fun both ways – I love doing house shows and presenting the songs in a simpler form, and I love the big shows where we can really make waves with the music.
One21:What is the best thing about making music?
Lauryn Peacock:I just love it. Pure and simple. I can’t explain how I feel about it, especially playing the piano, it’s just a part of me. Guitar too, and I think I need to sing. It’s just something, like dancing, that I have to do. So, the best thing is the music itself, especially working with others and seeing things come together, or collaborating to find new arrangements and sounds.
One21:How does your faith influence you musically and lyrically?
Lauryn Peacock:My faith influences my life, so it is infused in everything. I let myself live it honestly. I am in constant conversation with God, and I think God is not afraid of my being human, so I consider it all holy, every bit of struggle, my walking out what life on earth was meant to be – and God has everything to do with that. I hope my lyrics reflect that accurately. And the music comes from a deep place in me. That also has everything to do with my life with God.
One21:How do you think the general public and the mainstream music industry view faith based music?
Lauryn Peacock:Honestly, I try not to think about it. Or maybe I don’t really know what faith-based music means. I think about certain artists I know, who are “mainstream” who get away with highly Christian lyrics in their music: I say they “get away with it”, because I used to think mainstream music left little room for faith. Now I think it is quite the opposite. I think what people want is something authentic, especially my generation. We want something real. If it’s not real, we can tell, so if you are singing about faith in a real way, most people don’t really think twice, they just feel affected by the reality of the experience being shared. If I am talking authentically about my experience in the world, something is going to resonate with people, people who are conscious of having faith or not. I don’t concern myself about being in a category or how another category would respond to me. I see us all in one category of art (hopefully authentic art).
One21:What responsibility do you think you have, as an artist/performer, to your listeners?
Lauryn Peacock:To share something authentic, something of value. I owe to them that I be honest to myself and what I really want to make. I have faith that that then translates into something that may be of use in a more universal sense. I also have a responsibility to be me.
One21:What is your best memory of your career so far?
Lauryn Peacock:I would say playing keys for mewithoutYou‘s record release show at the Trocadero in Philadelphia for their last album It’s All Crazy, It’s All False, It’s All a Dream, It’s All Right or having a strange opportunity, two years in a row, to play piano for Jeff Tweedy for these living room concerts for charity he did near Chicago. I hope to add one more favorite experience: my own record release show I have coming up this Friday (10/28) in Philadelphia. It’s not about big names, just being able to play on music I really care about.
One21:What do you love about music?
Lauryn Peacock:I love melodies. I love the way they communicate without words, how it all communicates without words. I also just love to play it.
One21:What is your favorite song?
Lauryn Peacock:This year: ‘Love Minus Zero / No Limit’ by Bob Dylan, and ‘Care of Cell 44′ by the Zombies
One21:What is the best live show you have ever seen?
Lauryn Peacock: Gillian Welch, joined by David Rawlings on guitar of course, at Union Transfer in Philadelphia. Both of them have their own unique, and equally powerful musical genius about them.
One21:What is one thing people don’t understand about your music?
Lauryn Peacock:Let’s wait and see, Ha. I’m not sure. They can take it as they like. But maybe it might not be obvious that everything that sounds happy might not be happy and everything that sounds sad might not be sad.
Go now to buy Keep It Simple; Let the Sun Come Out . It is a terrific recording that will definitely make it onto our “Best of 2011″ list.