This article originally appeared in NARC. Magazine
Back in 2012, one-person music machine, one-time Tricky collaborator and all-round formidable singer-songwriter Laura Kidd released her sophomore album Little Battles. It was paid for through crowdfunding, letting Kidd stretch her DIY tendencies into other areas by providing her benefactors with all manner of handmade goodies in return for their support. For her third effort, Direction of Travel, she decided to do it all again.
What exactly attracts Kidd to the idea of funding her music through a Kickstarter campaign? “I don’t want my artistic vision to be held back by budgets but I also don’t believe in making an expensive thing for people if they don’t really want it,” she explains. “Setting up a Pledge or Kickstarter campaign means you can test the water and get a reality check. If you’re being overly indulgent you’ll soon know because the pledges won’t come in.” In the past, she’s laid on a smorgasbord of goodies for her fans as a thank you, including playing for people in their houses and hosting a listening party. “I played an acoustic gig in the kitchen of a studio where I recorded,” Kidd remembers, “then hid in the corner while everyone squished in the control room to listen to it. It was a bit strange being there when people were hearing it for the first time but kind of cool too.”
This time around, Kidd has again put on an array of super-creative rewards for pledgers, including specially recorded cover versions of any requested song and handwritten lyrics. With so much openness though, is Kidd getting any unusual requests? “People have been picking things they think they’ll enjoy as well,” she laughs, “which is very sweet of them. Two that stand out are Home by Lou Barlow and an as-yet-unchosen Pixies track. I’m looking forward to getting stuck into those.”
She’s also promising to write a song from scratch for any fan generous enough to donate £1,000. It’s a tough challenge, but one that she’s sure will reap creative rewards. “My friend Kim Boekbinder is partway through an incredible Kickstarter project at the moment called the Infinite Minute where she’s writing 169 one-minute songs based on two words sent to her by whoever’s bought the song. It’s always good to shake up your way of doing things and try to keep pushing yourself creatively.”
Kidd needn’t worry about reaching her monetary targets though. Thanks to her die-hard legion of fans, even with weeks still left on the clock, Direction Of Travel exceeded its monetary target. “I’m always amazed at how generous and supportive my fans are,” Kidd says. “Some of them have been with me from the very start and when I see their names pop up on pledges and pre-orders I feel very grateful they’ve stuck with me. Everyone who gets involved has a big part to play in keeping the whole thing going and I really value that.”
The campaign has funded a third album that sounds more polished without losing any of Kidd’s usual electro-rock edge. Direction Of Travel draws from her somewhat nomadic childhood (“the concept of ‘home’ has always been an obsession of mine”) and shrouds it in a grungy, electronically tinged soundscape, with a few more quieter ukulele moments breaking up Kidd’s usual powerful fuzz.
It’s been engineered by TJ Allen (Roxy Music, Malachai) but also features a slew of musical guests, from Throwing Muses’ Tanya Donnelly to Portishead’s Clive Deamer. With so much talent on board, it’s not hard to see how far Kidd has come since releasing her first album, Disarm, in 2010. “Disarm gave me the confidence to really throw everything into this project creatively,” Kidd remembers, “and I feel that travelling around performing my own songs for the last five years has allowed me to blossom as an artist and as a person.” Even with the amount of outside support she’s gathered and continues to receive, Kidd is still very much in charge of her music. “I’m producing my new album myself, so I’m getting to present this new music exactly how I want to.”
It’s almost hard to believe that with Kidd’s pedigree and support from some of the music world’s most respected critics, that she’s only just now venturing on her debut solo tour. Like everything though, Kidd takes it in her stride. “To be honest I approach any slot on a bill as my opportunity to be in the spotlight,” she explains, “that’s my time on stage to communicate with the audience however I decide and there shouldn’t be a difference between the way I perform as a support act to a headliner, other than having a different set length and either thanking the headliner or thanking the support bands.” Of course, this doesn’t mean she isn’t thrilled about heading up the bill. “I am excited to be off around the country though, of course, and to returning to the towns where I supported The Levellers last year. Playing more intimate venues is going to be a lot of fun.”