We caught up with Nashville-based musician Laura Mustard, following the release of the superb single ‘Eager’, for a full interview.
Hi Laura, tell us about yourself?
My name is Laura Mustard. I was born and raised in Connecticut, but I have made my home in Nashville, Tennessee, for the past five years.
I am a pop/folk singer/songwriter, and I mostly write and play on the piano, though I’m also learning how to play the banjo.
Also, as someone who has a really exciting medical history, I have a fierce belief in body positivity and self-acceptance, and these themes often come through in my songs.
What is your songwriting process?
I usually start with writing lyrics. I have a ‘Notes’ app in my phone where I keep a list of interesting song titles and then ideas and lines that I come with during the day. And then I have a notebook at home with the latest songs I’m working on.
I make it a point to try to write something for twenty minutes every day. It doesn’t have to turn into a full song or even lyrics, but the process of sitting down with the intention to write is really helpful for me. And then usually once I have some lines I like, I sit down at the piano and find a melody and some chords to put it to.
Lately, I’ve also been trying to get better at revision and really re-writing songs. This is a fun and frustrating process that has given me songs that I’m really proud of!
Tell us about your latest release?
My latest single is a song called ‘Eager’. It is about laughing at your mistakes and not taking yourself so seriously.
I had a really rough streak of bad dates and disappointments, and I just started singing to myself, “I’ve made a fool of myself more times than I can count”. It was a moment of frustration that turned into a really happy and lighthearted song.
The lyrics are playful, and I think it’s important to show yourself kindness and be able to laugh at yourself. Also, I love Motown music, and this song definitely has a 60s/throwback feel to it, which is wicked fun! ‘Eager’ will definitely make you want to dance!
What message do you think your music conveys to your fans?
My latest EP project, Treehouse has an overall theme of self-acceptance. The different ways we approach it (or avoid it) and also what it can feel like when you give yourself that kindness and acceptance.
‘Eager’, which is a single from the Treehouse EP, is a really happy song with an optimistic message and I hope it makes listeners feel better about their own dating follies.
Who are your musical influences?
As a kid, my favourite artist was Meat Loaf and Jim Steinman’s epic composition, and lyrics still blow me away today! In high school, I got really into pop singer/songwriters.
John Mayer made me want to write lyrics, Gavin DeGraw made me want to sing, and Taylor Swift made me want to write from a really personal place. I also started listening to a lot of Motown music in high school, so Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, and Smokey Robinson are big influences.
Lately, I’ve been getting into more bluegrass and folk music, and Greensky Bluegrass, Railroad Earth, Abigail Washburn and Rhiannon Giddens are my favourites. There are many more bands and artists in between all these, but those are definitely the biggest influences for me.
Who are your non-musical influences?
I’ve been studying and practising Buddhism for about six years now. I think the concept of ‘basic goodness’ and other Buddhist teachings have really brought more positivity to my writing.
In terms of literary influences, Walt Whitman is my favourite poet. His poems “Song of Myself” and “I Sing the Body Electric” really helped shaped my own journey towards self-acceptance.
I love how positive his poems are! I also really enjoy Sylvia Plath’s novel The Bell Jar and her journals. The way she describes her thoughts around life and dating are fascinating to me and sometimes similar to thoughts I’ve had.
I also come back to Emerson’s essays on ‘Self-Reliance’ and ‘Nature’ often. But, if I need some drama to write about, binge-watching Grey’s Anatomy helps too! Haha!
What’s the best gig that you have ever played?
My release show for my last EP, ‘Ramble On’, was so much fun! I played it at Café Coco in Nashville, which had an open mic I went to regularly. A lot of people came out for the show, and we had this great moment of audience participation.
I divided the crowd into teams and had them sing along to a medley of covers. Whoever sang the most enthusiastically got the prize of ‘my respect’ and everyone got really into it! Lots of friends came too, and some fans even made custom Mustard t-shirts, so it was a really special night filled with celebration!
What is your funniest gig moment?
I used to play with a band in Massachusetts called Stillbridge, and we had a regular gig every week at a local bar. We used to bring giant kindergarten blocks and a little whiteboard for the audience to play with during our shows, and it was always funny to see what would happen with the blocks and the messages that were left. There were a lot of epic pool table block towers!
What do you think are the biggest obstacles for bands/artists today?
Obviously, the safety concerns around COVID-19 that have essentially stopped live shows and touring for bands/artists is a huge obstacle.
I definitely believe in waiting until it is safe to play, but it was weird to research cities and venues for a tour around this EP project and then have it all just shut down.
I know a lot of artists are hurting since touring is such a big part of a musician’s income (not mention the crew and all of the other talented behind-the-scenes people who rely on touring).
On the positive side, I do like seeing all of the live streaming opportunities that have come out of this, and it’s really fun to see this creativity emerge online in different live streams, recordings and videos.
I’m grateful we have social media as a way to promote our art, and it’ll be interesting to see how much of this new live stream landscape remains after it becomes safe to play shows again.
What advice would you give to other bands/artists starting?
I would tell them to be persistent and to work on growing a thick skin. Music is so subjective that not everyone is going to like what you make, and you will be told ‘no’ a lot. But as long as you keep creating and keep promoting yourself, you’ll eventually find the right people who will give your music a home.
What are your hopes for the next two years?
I am excited to keep promoting my ‘Treehouse’ EP, and the full project will be out in September! After that, I already have ideas for another collection of songs that I’m hoping will become an EP project or album, so I’m excited to see what that turns into (and what fun visuals and videos I can create for it).
I also want to dive more into songwriting and co-writing, since my focus has been more on promotion this year. And I really hope we can get back to a place where it’s safe to tour and play out. I’d love to do a local tour, but I’m also brainstorming ways to make live streams more exciting in the meantime. But, there’s lots of creation on the horizon, so I’m excited!
FV Music Blog August 2020
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