While U.K. summer weather is notorious for being temperamental, every once in a while we’re surprised with a warm, sunny day and blue skies. Those days, the ones perfect for long, aimless drives and lazy afternoons, require the perfect soundtrack. For those looking for a calm, smooth record to use as a summer soundtrack, London based singer-songwriter Lauren Ray’s debut album We Will Need Courage is a great option. While holding down a full-time job, Ray spent time in Nashville working her album, and despite juggling so much she has made putting together an impressive debut album seem effortless. We Will Need Courage, which features both new songs and previous tracks from her EP Praying for Love, proves to be a great first step for Ray.
From the moment Ray coons “It’s been 2 years, 3 months, 1 day” on album opener ‘Drive’, you get a sense of the almost spellbinding experience that Ray aims to create. Throughout the album, from bopping track ‘One of the Lucky Ones’ to dreamy album closer ‘Pull the Trigger’, it’s impossible not to be swept away in her world. Ray holds an incredible amount of emotion with each note, and her voice only adds to her confessional lyrics. Each word used in her lyrics has a purpose, and when combined, paint a clear picture in your mind and take you through her story. The balance between deep, honest lyrics and the ease of her voice is striking, and creates a seamless record worthy to be added to your summer haze playlist.
Lippy had the chance to speak with Lauren Ray to learn more about her career and her experience working on her debut album. Check out our interview below!
Lippy: Can you tell us a little about how you got your start in music?
Lauren Ray: I was always singing from a young age – much to the annoyance of my siblings and I’m sure my parents at times. I was in the school choir and would take part in shows and musicals at school or in local theatre groups in the holidays. My older sister saw an advert on TV one day saying that the BBC wanted kids to audition for a choir to sing with Martine McCutcheon for the new Children In Need charity single. I was 12 or 13 at the time and I got it and I loved the whole experience – I loved the recording process, the filming and the live TV performance. Although I was just a kid, and one of one hundred in the choir but I knew this was something I wanted to do again.
I started writing my own songs when I was around 14/15 and it was my music teacher at school who put me forward for a song writing competition at LIPA – I got to the finals which won me enough Yamaha vouchers to buy a keyboard and my first recording equipment which is how I started making my own demos.
Since then, it’s just been my keyboard and I, writing songs, making demos and gigging anywhere and everywhere just trying to get better to the point where I have now somehow managed to record and release an album… very surreal.
Lippy: Are there any artists that have helped inspire your sound?
LR: I listen to so much music from so many different artists I am sure it all seeps into my sound and writing in ways I can’t begin to recognise or explain but I would say listening to artists who are great storytellers like Laura Marling, Carole King, Amos Lee, Sara Bareilles and Norah Jones have influenced my overall pop-country blend.
Lippy: What inspired the lyrics on this album?
LR: My songs are grounded more in fact than in fiction so almost every lyric in every song is inspired by my own relationships (both romantic and otherwise) or the relationships of those around me. The only song that is inspired by fiction is What Would You Do? which is inspired by the movie ‘Love Actually’- the scene between Emma Thomson and Alan Rickman where she has just discovered his unfaithfulness (I love Emma Thomson and I tear up watching this scene every time).
Lippy: Which song on the album are you most excited to have people hear?
LR: I hope people hearing ‘Unexpected Man’ for the first time are pleasantly surprised and like it because production wise it was the hardest to ‘figure out.’ It was the only song on the album where the producer and I didn’t have an immediate ‘vision’ for it and it was fairly late in the whole recording process that he had the genius idea to add all the synth sounds, which I absolutely love, and somehow brings a whole different feel to the song which I could never have dreamt up.
Lippy: Nashville is known as a major city involved in the music industry. What was it like?
LR: Nashville is an incredibly inspiring place, not because of the city itself per say (although it’s great) but because of the people who live and create there. Everyone I met and worked with is super talented and everyone is so passionate and collaborative. I have a great deal of respect for Neilson Hubbard (the producer for my album) because he is so passionate about just creating beautiful music that has a feeling, which means something. I hope to go back there in the next 12 months to start writing new material – I would like to write with Neilson this time and also some of the other artists/writer I met whilst there.
Lippy: What advice do you have for singers/songwriters looking to break into the industry?
LR: Network, network, network….and then don’t be afraid to ask for help. As an independent artist and songwriter there is so much you have to do yourself but it’s simply impossible to know how to do everything or even find the time to do it all. So much of what I’ve been able to achieve these last two years has been down to the people I’ve met and finding a way to be OK with asking them for help (and giving help in return of course). Once I realised that this was an OK thing to do, it’s been incredible; people have done me favours like design my artwork, introduced me to musicians, photographers, producers, new writing partners and the list goes on… what’s nice is when I’ve been able to return the favour for a good ol’ fashioned ‘knowledge swap.’
Words and Interview by: Karishma Karia