This interview was originally conducted and written by me for the Occtober edition of NARC Magazine.
During our conversation, Colorado-born singer-songwriter Laura Veirs casually dropped a line that demonstrated everything about her dedication to music: “I have about twenty songs but usually for each album I’ll write about seventy to eighty… And a lot of them end up kind of bad.” The fact that Veirs finds the time to write so many songs is in itself miraculous. Over the past four years alone she has become a mother – twice – alongside releasing three full albums: 2010’s July Flame, last year’s Warp and Weft and Tumble Bee, a collection of British and American folk songs for children. In-between times she’s toured extensively and has clearly not stopped working on new material. The question of how Veirs continues to produce so prolifically while still being a devoted mother was a theme that ended up constantly punctuating our discussion.
In 2010, Veirs and her partner, Portland-based producer Tucker Martine, introduced their first child into the world. Last year, not long after the recording of Warp and Weft, their second child was born. It’s no secret that Veirs recorded most of the LP while heavily pregnant but she tackled the experience with grace and faced the challenges head-on. “At that point in the pregnancy I got tired and it can feel really exhausting. But at the same time it was really fun to have a project to work on.” I still found it hard to imagine that playing the electric guitar while eight months pregnant was easy, so I decided to ask Veirs how she managed. “Definitely the first time I was pregnant I really wondered about that because I was touring a lot… But no I shifted [my guitar] to the side so it was even more rock’n’roll.” It seemed as though even nature wouldn’t separate Veirs from her guitar, her other true love.
Motherhood ultimately became the recurring theme in our conversation. It was hard not to constantly return to Veirs’ balancing of her family and professional lives while talking to her, thanks to her passion for both her children and her music. For Veirs, though, the two elements have found themselves naturally intersecting, with her maternal experiences feeding into her songwriting. “Maybe on the last record especially I got closer to the essential questions of life and death because when you have a child everything is so pure but at the same time so fragile.” It’s only at this one point that her drawl trails off into nowhere, lost in thought. She soon regains her enviable powers of expression by quickly adding, “I think the shock of it has worn off. Not that it’s any easier being a parent but now I have two children and they’re getting bigger and I can think about other things.”
Being a mother is also providing logistical challenges for Veirs. “I’m having trouble working out how to combine the touring with having kids because most people can take their kids on the road but I’m not at the stage where I can get a bus and it’s a little more complicated,” she ponders. “Our parents do come and help but if you’re thinking about touring four or five months a year, that’s just not going to happen.” Still, there are times when Veirs understandably wishes to escape from the pressures and responsibilities of being a mother. Her upcoming UK tour sees her travelling the country solo for seven days, with no children in tow. “I sort of chalk it up to working vacation time,” she laughs. “I hardly get any time to myself properly anymore… My mom says to me ‘aren’t you going to be lonely’ and I just say ‘hell no, I’m going to be in heaven’.”
The idea of taking to the stage completely alone would be enough to unnerve even the steeliest of souls. Veirs, on the other hand, is quietly pragmatic. “I’ve been doing this for so many years that it just doesn’t affect me anymore,” Veirs states before admitting “if I have a glass of wine beforehand then I’m fine. Maybe if I’ve not had the wine then it can be scary.” I wondered if she’d ever suffered at all from intense nerves when performing in the past. “I used to suffer a lot from stage fright but – knock on wood – it’s got a lot better and I kind of just get into a flow most nights and just do my thing… I don’t really have any more fears by myself than I do when I’m with my band. If I’m nervous I’m nervous, whether there’s a band there or not.”
Throughout the time I spent talking to Veirs it gradually became clear that she wasn’t willing to sacrifice any part of her creative side. Having admitted that she was already working on new material, it also became evident that her career shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Veirs herself provided a simple explanation to her extremely diligent attitude towards music: “I love to write songs and keep going and make it all work as both a mother and an artist. That’s challenging sometimes but I love writing music.”