Sometimes those of us who live here have a tendency to forget just how great and sprawling America is, but for those who need a reminder, they need look no further than Laura Carbone’s latest record Empty Sea. Carbone sat down and spoke with mxdwn prior to her September 12th show at Hi Hat in Highland Park, which kicked off her North American tour. During the conversation we discussed her inspiration, influences and interests.
mxdwn: So one thing I actually noticed that I thought was really interesting when I was listening to your music, but especially your recent album and particularly the first song is some of your music actually sounds like it’s very influenced by the type of music that comes out of the American South. What, what sort of got you inspired to be making that style of music? I don’t know how popular some of that music is all the way in Berlin.
Laura Carbone: I guess you’re speaking of country right?
mxdwn: Yes. So like Country, Folk, Americana particularly.
LC: I mean, I’m very much into Fleetwood Mac. Of course, I also like Johnny Cash, but I wouldn’t reference in like now as my most influential idol. I’m very much into Chris Isaak; into all this romance that he’s delivering and the dreamy aspect and yeah, that’s what really hooked me on this Americana kind of thing.
mxdwn: On your latest record, which is called Empty Sea it seems like you jumped between genres a lot. Was that an intentional conscious choice or do you find that in the process of creating an album that you just don’t find that you particularly want to be a part of a single genre and you just make music that speaks to you?
LC: What kind of genre and what path to follow, that wasn’t in my head. I just wanted to write and create and then see where this could go to. And I also love the idea of being completely free and not having a box or a segment in which I would put myself into even before I would start the process. So actually that’s my thing to do, to give a lot of room to the creation and not name it before.
mxdwn: That’s awesome. So I, when I was looking around at the album, I saw that you created a companion photo book. What was it like getting to do that? And is that something you’ve done before?
LC: Well, I’m a photographer and you just can’t hold me back if I see something I like I just grab it and then shoot photos. To visualize the process of how this record came to be and came to be shaped, because I was traveling quite a lot and it was kind of a journey to create this record. But somehow I couldn’t do it for the release and forgot about it. Then my North American label encouraged me to do it and again or rather restart the process of doing it for my German tour. And that was such a good idea because otherwise I’d have forgotten it entirely.
I preselected the photos even before, like really a year ago and forgot about this whole book thing and then came back and I was so happy that I already had selected the photos, you know, because the process is so hard. Looking at the photos and then feeling like, ‘Oh, I know where this was. I know how I felt and what it did to me or how it helped me on my journey.’ But yeah, I’m very, very, very happy I did that and I have it with me.
mxdwn: What if anything in particular do you hope that listeners come away with after listening to your music?
LC: They don’t need to take away anything. They should just, I would wish them, if they listened to a song of mine and I would wish them to be at a different place mentally for those four and a half minutes or 30 minutes, just to be taken somewhere else. And I think that would be nice. I wish for it to leave them fulfilled.
mxdwn: Last year you released a single called “The Flowers Beneath Your Feet” which featured The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. What was it like working with them and how did that collaboration come about?
LC: That was amazing. We were invited to support them on tour in Germany. So we did and that was so, so very sweet being on the road with them. And they instantly invited me to sing a cover at the encore, that’s a thing you do in Germany, you play your encores because people want encores. So they invited me on stage to perform sometimes, with them and Jesus and Mary Chain and Mazzy Star. And then after they left Germany Kip [lead singer of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart] sent me a message and said, ‘Hey, I have something here. Like, could that sketch be interesting for you?’ And it absolutely was. So we flew to New York and Kip and I sat down and went through the song and wrote the whole piece together. That was so, so very beautiful. Then recorded the rest of my band in New York in our recording space. And that was just a really, really sweet, nice process.
mxdwn: That sounds amazing! So I always like to ask because everyone has a bunch of different interests. First fun question. If you could get into the studio with anyone who would you most like to work with?
LC: (Pauses) Nick Launay, the producer. He produced Nick Cave’s Push the Sky Away, Anna Calvi’s Hunter, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, that last record. He’s a very interesting producer and I feel like he can capture sounds in a very honest and direct way and I love the fact that the band always sounds like the band but just with a little, a little help. I mean that, that would be cool, but I wouldn’t say no to any Cave! (laughs)
Pitt: What outside of music is currently inspiring you? It could be anything. A book, a TV show, a movie, a painting, anything.
LC: Music has been the topic as of late. I mean, I guess that’s because I’m going on the road. My guitar player gave me a book by Phil Ramone, a producer, and he worked with Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, a lot of very, very big people and he’s just sharing out how he’s doing, how he is producing something and… oh and he worked with Simon and Garfunkel. And I love Paul Simon. He [Ramone] has really, really nice stories or just moments that he’s sharing in how to give a person the best place and space to perform on their highest level. And he starts off with a very interesting moment that he had with Frank Sinatra who needed a couple of days to, to be really there and finally say ‘Yeah, today is the day where I’m going to record.’ But yeah. Interesting little stories about how to record something.