A Newport Folk Festival veteran is returning to the area for a concert on Folk Festival eve, Thursday, July 21. Laura Veirs is headlining a show at Newport Vineyards in Middletown on Thursday at 6:30PM along with openers Brooklyn songwriter Mary-Elaine Jenkins and Richmond, VA-based Andy Jenkins.
Thanks to Newport Live (formerly Common Fence Music), we have a pair of tickets to the show to give away. Just E-mail Ken Abrams at email@example.com with “Laura Veirs” in the subject line by 9AM Wednesday, July 20 to be entered in the giveaway.
We caught up with Veirs by phone last week as she was juggling tasks in her busy life, a theme that is revealed on her latest album, Found Light. She recalled some warm memories of her first Newport appearance in 2015 where she shared the stage with musical standouts K.D. Lang and Neko Case in the trio Case/Lang/Veirs.
“It was an honor to play there because it’s such a traditionally supportive, well-known Festival, probably the most well-known, a great gathering,” said Veirs. “It’s fun to play with people from different places around the country, and the off-the-cuff collaborations that happen there are fun. It draws all these great artists nationally.”
In addition to the trio, Veirs played a solo set on the Museum Stage that year. “I like playing the big outside trio shows and I like doing the intimate, smaller solo shows. It can be hard to reach people in a more emotional way, in a more visceral way at a big outdoor show, but I still like to do those, especially with Case/Lang/Veirs. They are such great performers and they bring these really excited crowds,” Veirs noted.
Her deeply introspective new album, Found Light, has been critically praised with noted music blog Pitchfork calling it “spacious and stirring …. bright yet mysterious, part crystal and part smoke.”
Veirs explained how the album came together during the pandemic.
“I went through a divorce three years ago from my longtime producer and the father of my children Tucker Martine. When we separated, I realized I had to figure out how to do this on my own because he had been my producer for twenty years,” she explained. “It was during the pandemic, so recording at home wasn’t realistic for me as I had my kids most of the time. I did record one song from the album on my own, ‘Can’t Help But Sing.’ I really like the way it sounds.”
“I went to my friend Dave Gepper’s house to start the recording process,” Veirs continued. “He’s the multi-instrumentalist for Death Cab for Cutie, we did a few basic tracks there.”
Life gets in the way for all of us, and it’s no different for performing/recording artists.
“We did a few basic tracks there, but then my babysitter quit, and I had to move, and everything got derailed so I didn’t really work on the record for like six months,” Veirs continued. “Then I reached out to my friend Shahzad Ismaily who lives in Brooklyn and has a studio there. He came out to Portland and (later) we did most of the tracking at his place in Brooklyn, Figure 8 Studios.”
“It was hard to get there,” Veirs continued. “I went through a lot of emotional pain going through my divorce, but the recording process, in the end, was really fun. That was important to me because when I was working with my ex, and our relationship was breaking down, it wasn’t fun to make records. Record-making should be fun. We did all our tracking live … my ex always had us doing separate tracks, it feels more clinical that way, less musical, less performance-based. I’m proud of the records we made, they sound great, but it was really great to realize that I have the skills to play and sing live to get those performances that are recording quality.”
“The album is a living, breathing piece of art versus something that’s put together like a case of jewelry. It’s rougher around the edges and has varying tempos, I started experimenting more with playing out of time. The basic part is in time, but I would add embellishments that are out of time, those kinds of things were new for me, and really fun to do. I had full ownership over this one in terms of the sound side and the business side and that feels really gratifying,” said Veirs.
Veirs did some writing during the pandemic, but not all of her work made it onto the album.
“When you go through something traumatic, which was my divorce, combined with the pandemic, it’s easier to write about it in a meaningful way when a certain amount of time has passed. Sometimes you get the deeper, more resonant, more truthful songs later when you have some space from it,” she added.
Veirs is looking forward to playing Newport, where she’ll be playing solo, “the audience can expect some good jokes and a lot of fingerstyle guitar.”