10 Questions with Lauren Carter
by Ryan Meehan
Lauren Carter is an award-winning singer and songwriter based in Los Angeles. A resonant vocalist with a three-octave range, Carter creates a focused yet eclectic sound. Her music is a fusion of dreamy pop and rock that evokes a hypnotic feel while establishing a powerful edge. Currently Lauren is preparing for the release of her debut EP “American Dream”. The title track was co-written and produced by Andrew Williams, known for his work with artists ranging from T-Bone Burnett to Jessica Simpson, while lead single “Rulebreaker” is a piano-driven pop song co-written and produced by longtime Ludacris collaborator Josh ‘IGLOO’ Monroy. Earlier this year Carter received sync licensing placement for a VW Radio Campaign, and is debuting at Hotel Cafe on Saturday, September 24, 2016. Lauren is also an actress, model, and philanthropist. Her modeling credits Sports Illustrated, Maxim, GQ and more. She has appeared on stage and screen internationally, including working with Oscar-winning director Robert Altman. Armed with a powerful voice and illuminating collection of songs, Lauren has had a breakout year with the release of “American Dream”. I am honored to have the very lovely Lauren Carter as my guest today in 10 questions.
RM: What is your earliest memory of singing in front of a live audience? Was there anything really special which happened in the moment that drew you to musical performance, or did it take a little while for you to become enamored with the concept of the art form?
LC: My earliest memory of singing in front of a live audience…I think is probably my third grade talent show. I think what happened was it really encouraged me to be known as a ‘good singer’ or as someone with a ‘good voice’ and that really became part of my identity and helped me stand out and figure out what I should do with my life, from an early age.
RM: What other avenues did you pursue within the entertainment field during your formative years of educational development? If you could go back to any point in time between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four and do one thing differently, what would it be and why do you think it would have been beneficial to what you are accomplishing today?
LC: I studied dance from age 2, acting from age 5, piano from age 5, and singing from age 9! I guess I was the standard ‘triple threat’, and I’m grateful to my parents for all those lessons! If I could go back and do anything over – – maybe in college I would have started recording demos and started songwriting earlier? I guess? Because I was training as an opera singer, mainly, which I have veered away from, and I’m now more into the craft of songwriting and recording as well as just singing. However, I loved my conservatory training and studying the history of Western music. It sticks with me today and gave me an understanding of the language of music. It’s all relevant.
RM: When did writing and creating music become the central focus of your career, considering that you had put so much energy into modeling and acting up until that point? Was it something that slowly developed over the course of time, or was there an exact moment when you knew you identified as a musician above all else?
LC: In the past three years, I turned my focus more completely to music. I quit my last commercial agency – I just didn’t care to spend all that time being available for auditions anymore. I was working a lot in the London market, and when I relocated back to LA, I went to auditions for a while and a combination of necessity and desire made me refocus on music and let go of the pursuit of acting because I really just can’t be bothered anymore to invest time in auditions, and spent that time instead in the studio where I feel more rewarded and get to craft things that are more my own, anyway.
RM: Where did the concept for “Rulebreaker” originate? Is the idea of not subscribing to any set of guidelines within your personal life something that is a common theme in your lyrical content?
LC: Well, the rule breaker in the song is the errant lover – The guy in this case. But, it’s a song about individuality and independence also, and I haven’t shot the video yet but it’s going to celebrate being part of an artistic crew of friends in LA and being fulfilled without a relationship, and getting by with your friends and colleagues and your art – and although I am a relationship person, I do celebrate that, and am pretty independent and go against the grain a little bit.
RM: What did you hope to do differently on your new single “American Dream” that you felt you hadn’t previously done on prior songs?
LC: I’m not sure. I just love that song and am really happy with how it turned out, and feel it is the most ‘me’ I have accomplished yet as a songwriter and in how it reflects my vocal style.
RM: How would you define the idea of the “American Dream” in the United States today in 2016; and in what ways do you feel that you have achieved it according to your individual specifications?
LC: The American Dream I’m writing about in the song is the ideal of the rock ‘n roll dream, of the pursuit of fame, which so much of American life and culture is obsessed with and idolizes. I personally am very inspired by things like Andy Warhol, the 60’s, and also the 90’s and the icons – tragic or not – from that era. I love the sort of – canon – of idols of rock ‘n roll and fame in this country. They’re our royalty. Today we have the Kardashians, et cetera. They are the current American Dream, and I’m no Kardashian basher as I find them fascinating, I may just not be that into their specific aesthetic. They are an interesting phenomenon and represent a new form of the American Dream. Still, fully wrapped up in the Andy Warhol 15 minutes of fame, really. At the same time, an artist whose aesthetic I love – Lana del Rey, well, as far as I know she really became viral and that’s how she broke, and it’s because her style and vision and talent were so worth it, and she had the means to pursue it, I think – – and you have Kardashian and Lana del Rey – two people who invoke very different styles but represent the current American Dream of fame. And as a side note, Lana sang at Kim’s wedding.
Anyway…The song is about that dream, and about burning the candle at both ends. If you go back to the punk era, and through into the 90’s we have a million tragic stories about people who LIVED for their dream and that’s kind of a rock n roll ideal, it’s also an American ideal – because we have the right to pursue our own individual dream, expression, and freedom -it’s uniquely American really. It’s a love letter to that romantic ideal – so obviously, that ideal is often doomed – -but it’s also quite American to live and die for your own right to expression and your own pursuit of happiness – – and that’s why the song is melancholy and has a twinge of, I guess irony? It’s obviously not just a happy ‘wow American Dream’ song – I guess if you really read the lyrics you’ll get some more of the subtle references to invoking I would say, the ‘patron saints’ of the rock and roll / fame / history – – I don’t name names, but I do reference the Chelsea Hotel and I guess you just have to listen and make your own inferences. I don’t like lyrics to be over analyzed or too specific, so I don’t want to spell it out. But the song to me is about a specific ‘American Dream’ but it applies to all kinds of references to the American Dream including more political – – – there’s a melancholy like, the dream is still here and the same at its core, but also no longer innocent. Maybe that’s it. Rather than getting super specific: it has melancholy, nostalgia, and it also has a sincere message. I definitely, personally, believe in this country and believe in the pursuit and power of being an artist – so I’m certainly into these ideals – but I think there is a nostalgia of all that’s happened and all that is yet to happen – it’s not a flawless dream. However, more than political I’m referring to the American Dream of two things: a more personal romantic love (it is a love song) and a love affair with fame. More than making a really political statement, but it’s in there, too.
RM: The is a certain somber feeling to both of the aforementioned cuts even though there is a great sense of movement going on there…Do you have any intention of doing any tracks in the future that might be a little more upbeat and would fall into the genres of club or EDM, or is that not something that you’re particularly concerned with at the moment?
LC: I’m not so much someone who would write a totally upbeat song that has no nostalgia or irony, however – never say never. I love upbeat up tempo stuff I’m just not sure about straight up EDM for me.
RM: As a songwriter, at what times do you feel like you are most likely to reach out and develop a single idea into an actual structure? What is your favorite part of brainstorming when it comes to that aspect of the process?
LC: It varies. Sometimes I just sit at the keyboard and mess around until I like how something sounds, and build from there. Other times I start with an inspiration from a groove and chord progression I like and improvise on top of that – I don’t ever pre-meditate lyrics. They come once I’m messing around on top of the chords and rhythms. I don’t start with lyrics and melody – almost never. And once I start I figure out what I want to say and build it from there, in a more analytical way. Then of course I’m thinking of things that go with the message, what rhymes, what I want to say, but initially I think it’s very subconscious and free form. I love that part of the process. Pulling a full concept from thin air and then piecing it together – that’s how I feel it works for me.
RM: What can you tell us about some of the producers and songwriters you’ve worked with up to this point? How are each of those individuals able to extrapolate on your abilities and allow for you to grow as an artist while perfecting the task at hand?
LC: Andrew Williams in particular understands my direction and the cultural references I like to use, but everyone brings something. Every collaboration is cool and unique and I like everyone I’ve worked with. I guess at this point in my career, I’ve been trying out different relationships and seeing who sticks and where I can go with them. And then going down whichever paths arise.
RM: What do we need to know about Ender Legard and their current line of products? How did you end up getting sponsored by them; and in what ways have they been able to support your career as a musician?
LC: Ender Legard is a fabulous high end corsetry designer, whom I discovered online at www.net-a-porter.com. I approached them and they liked my work, and were willing to send me some pieces for my video and photo shoots. It’s a small European boutique, but quite amazing work. I think the founder used to tailor for Margaret Thatcher – which you can imagine is a pretty posh assignment. So, it just is a brand that espouses amazing British tailoring, of which I’m a huge fan, and beautifully made corsets – I love their pieces. They shoot beautifully as a stand alone piece, I mean you can wear this piece as a top, in the evening, but they also are quite popular with brides because they form an amazing foundation to a dress and give a lot of shape, and one of their specialties is a plunging neckline or a plunging back – good stuff. I love them – check them out.
RM: You’re an avid supporter of arts education in schools…Let say for the sake of discussion that I am a fairly conservative individual and tell you I think that music and arts is a waste of money…In that hypothetical situation, how would you go about telling me that I’m mistaken in that assumption? What would be a personal example from your own life that you would cite to make your case?
LC: Ok, ‘conservative man!’ (laughs) – Art is an integral part of society. There is no question it has value and will continue to be valued. Music education sharpens brain pathways, and is a universal language that by the way, is increasingly more accessible as a career path to anyone who knows the basics and has some software; creating theatre creates confidence, communication skills, and team players…story telling is an integral part of any community. Visual arts are a universal language and part of every day life – the truth is creative careers are abundant now in the internet age. These are skills that matter, and that hold value. And they lead to viable careers so – ‘conservative guy’ shut up 🙂 Just kidding. Even if you don’t go on to play with the Vienna Orchestra or come to Hollywood to work on a TV crew, there are many avenues for creatives in today’s job market – perhaps combined with some tech skills – being creative is easier than ever.
RM: Do you think most people who claim to have a negative attitude towards pop music feel that way because they genuinely dislike it, or because they feel some kind of pressure from their peers to not take it seriously? What are some things that the industry of pop music is doing correctly that the average entertainment consumer doesn’t necessarily give it credit for?
LC: I don’t know. I really can’t speak for other people, and don’t judge them. (laughs) I mean, I enjoy pop music. I enjoy hip hop. I just don’t really work in either genre, but I like quality versions of ALL music – OK except for canned, cheesy country – sorry. That’s just too removed, for me personally, from my aesthetic and my world view. However give me some cool retro country-ish stuff and I’m in. But I think if someone says they dislike pop music they usually mean they dislike the predictability of the chords, structure, melody, and maybe find some of the voices annoying. I know I do. That’s why I do like the new infusion of R&B into pop – we’re getting some better singers and more style and soul and less high pitched belty whiny attack – sorry not a huge fan of that – and overly saccharine and predictable songs – although I think someone is lying if they say they hate all pop music. That’s just not possible. Is Michael Jackson considered pop? I mean, who doesn’t like Michael Jackson?
RM: What’s up for you in the remainder of 2016 and beyond? Anything else big in the works that we should know about?
LC: Lots! I have my debut headlining show with my band at Hotel Cafe, which I’m very proud to do on Saturday, September 24th, 9:30 pm. I’m finishing the music video for ‘American Dream’ and working on other videos. I’m also involved in a fashion line, called A Summer of Love. Please follow us on Instagram. We’re launching in a matter of weeks and it’s a project that is tied into my music, also. Thanks so much, Ryan!
Official Website: http://laurencarteronline.com/
Lauren Carter on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/lauren-carter-8
Lauren on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lauren.carter.792740
Lauren on Twitter: https://twitter.com/hilaurencarter
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