Another thing I will be doing this year is to write more blogs and do one of my favourite things, interview more musicians. So when I had the chance to interview Carol Laula I jumped at the opportunity. I was introduced to Carol’s music through her upcoming new studio album ‘The Bones of it', what a great title for an album.
Generally when I do my interviews, a long walk to the meeting point is tradition and this interview was no different. Siempre Bicycle Café – who describe themselves as ‘a new type of chain store’ – was the location this time. A good walk before our interview helps me prepare and go over what I want to discuss and helps gets me into the 'music zone'. A recurring thought I was having was ‘This woman has toured the world and is about to release her eighth album, I hope our interview goes well’. I was putting unnecessary pressure on myself.
I was worrying needlessly, I was immediately put at ease by Carol as we start our conversation. I started by trying to find out a little bit more about Laula’s introduction to music. “I started in a covers band. I think that’s how most of us started. But I never really got into song writing. I played guitar when I was a wee girl and I couldn’t do it. Then I was in cover bands and we started writing our own stuff. I can’t even remember the names of the bands. They were great, bands like Touch and we went on to become This Perfect Heart, which was quite a funky Glasgow band at the time. I started writing songs and I remember thinking none of this is really what I want to be writing about nor is it how I want to sound.”
Carol goes on to tell a story of one of her early solo gigs. “I became quite accessible to a lot of promoters in that I was able to turn up to a gig, plug in, sing and that was it. I got a call to open to open up for Transvision Vamp. They were a real 80’s ‘we don’t give a shit’ English band. So I was able to get those kinds of gigs and get great experience, it was very weird because it was a real strange marriage. I do remember I was doing my third song and it was all hippy and I remember one guy who was really steaming down the front going ‘she’s no that bad actually’.”
In 1990 Laula’s independently released single ‘Standing Proud’ which was chosen to represent Glasgow as it's anthem for the year of culture. This brought with it a lot of media attention. “Glasgow had its year of culture in 1990 and love it or loathe it, 1990 became a big year for me. They had a song writing competition for a song that would represent Glasgow in its year of culture. When my song was chosen that kind of allowed Carol Laula to become much more of a household name. Which was great for my ego of course. But I must say when I was writing that song I was really sceptical about it. I was like, here’s Glasgow getting all this money, city of culture. When I went to pick up a cheque, to pay for the studio that I played in from Glasgow City Chambers, there were two homeless guys sitting in the street and that didn’t quite sit right with me.”
Laula is about to release her eighth studio album ‘The Bones of It’ the first In eight years. This has led her to a more organic style of song writing and without the pressures of a record label, the writing and recording has been much more enjoyable. “What’s made this album my favourite for me is there were no barriers. I had no pressure from any record labels or publishers, this was for me. I’ve been working with some amazing musicians particularly Marco Rea who has his own studio. We had the studio time all sorted out financially and that’s a big thing even for an old artist like me."
Away from recording and touring Laula finds time to work in different ways, with song writing workshops. “I’ve learned a lot more new skills when I’ve been trying to share my experience with song writing with other people. Over the last twenty-five years a lot more opportunities have opened up on that front. Song writing workshops and singing workshops. Lots of organisations got funding to put on these workshops. They want to get experienced people to come in and do it.”
Over the years the workshops have become more frequent and can often outnumber the number of live shows. “It started off just being a few wee workshops here and there along with my gigging and it’s almost like the gigging became less and less and the workshops became more and more. Now I’ve moved into a lot broader field. I’m doing a lot of work with the criminal justice system. In prisons, outside of prisons trying to help show people a different way forward in life using the arts. I’m doing a lot of work with the Citizens theatre. We will for example be going into a prison in the near future. I went in there as part of a Scottish Government initiative to see how the arts would impact on re-offending. So we went in there and collaborated with the girls in the jail, we wrote songs to go with a piece of theatre that they had created.” Luala goes on to talk about the impact the work has had on her. “The Citizens theatre is amazing. Their community work is awesome and that’s a word that is overused. My jaw dropped at the impact we were having and I can only imagine what that experience was like for the women. A lot these folk have never had that kind of experience, that audience experience. It’s really important I think for them to not just witness the process but actually be a part of it.”
After listening to the preview tracks from the new album ‘August Leaves’ was the stand out track for me. The song was chosen as the lead track from the album. “We made that the lead track and when I was a wee girl you made it the single.” Talking about the writing of the song Laula says “It’s just a wee story. It’s not about anyone in particular. I had written the song about this unrequited love, they loved each other when they were young and one of them went away. That was all fine. A couple of weeks after we recorded it I saw on the internet, it was about a Russian artist who created an art installation. She went into a museum, it was in a big room and there was lots of people queuing up. It was a cordoned off area and at the top of that was her sitting at a table. And what you’d do was sit across from her at the table, she would lift her head and look at them for sixty seconds with no words. But the back story to this was she lifted her head at one point and she saw her lover from twenty-five years ago. In my head that songs about that story even though I didn’t know the story.”
The title of the album ‘The Bones of It’ comes from a place of song writing in its purest form. To write good songs whatever the genre it may be that you need to get to 'The bones of it' to help the song writing process. After that the song can be absolutely anything you want it to be. ‘The Bones of It’ is the result of Carol Laula having the creative freedom to do what she likes and to allow us the joy of making her songs what we want them to be.
'The Bones of It' is available now from www.carollaula.co.uk