Sound & Vision with Laura Fell

Laura Fell’s debut album, Safe from Me, has caused quite the stir – lauding reviews from the likes of Paste Magazine, Gold Flake Paint and When the Horn Blows over recent weeks. And alongside the stunning instrumentation of the record, which has drawn wide ranging comparisons to the likes of Tom Waits and Laura Marling, it is Fell’s distinctive voice that has constantly drawn superlatives – with Uncut Magazine stating ‘Fell’s alto is pure poetry.’

We caught up with the London based songwriter, whose debut was the first release on the newly formed Balloon Machine records, to chat influences. These are her Sound and Vision picks…

Three favourite albums:

Blood on the tracks – Bob Dylan

Ok, so top of this list has to be Blood on the Tracks by Dylan. It has a real emotional attachment for me as my Mum passed me down her vinyl and it was the first record she ever gave me. As soon as I put it on, I fell utterly in love with it. I soon knew all the lyrics start to finish, and I think I had it on repeat for a good couple of months. It was my entry-point to Dylan, but also to that level of poeticism and lyrical craftsmanship in music. In my mind, it really stands the test of time and encapsulates heartbreak in such a tragic and tremendous fashion. The record has some of my all-time favourite lyrics! I particularly like the lyric from Idiot Wind‘I can’t feel you anymore, I can’t even touch the books you’ve read.’ I mean….!! After my Mum passed this album on to me, I went down the Dylan rabbit hole, never looking back, and I think he and Cohen were what got me into poetry and, in that sense, contributed to me going on to study Creative Writing at University some years later.

Capacity – Big Thief

Big Thief are pure genius in my mind. As a fellow female artist, I especially draw inspiration from Adrienne Lenker – I love her voice, how it can waver at points, how she allows whatever sound comes out to come out, and how much emotion it carries. I feel her voice is emotionally driven over being technically driven, and I love that – it’s raw and very real and personal, and those are all qualities I definitely aspire to capture and communicate in my own performance. I love all of Big Thief’s records, Adrienne’s solo stuff, and her duo stuff with Buck Meek, but Capacity was the first record I heard by them and so, I guess, I hold a special place for it. Mythological Beauty absolutely blows me away lyrically – you’re taken through such a dense story in the space of five minutes – it’s definitely my favourite track on the album and one I never tire of hearing again and again.

Heigh Ho – Blake Mills 

To me, this record is perfection. The production blows my mind – it’s so dense, but so delicate and sensitive at the same time, in the sense that there’s no sound on that record that feels like overkill, or like it shouldn’t be there, exactly where it is. I also really enjoy the juxtaposition of the big, dense production and the concise, straight to the point narrative style of his lyrics. There’s a rawness and a vulnerability in that for me – something softening. I love how he creates these huge eruptions and climactic moments then lets it all collapse back down to quiet again. There’s something incredibly unique about the sound of his records – his first and previous record, Break Mirrors, is also a big favourite of mine, and he’s produced some other faves – Laura Marling’s Semper Femina, Alabama Shakes’ Sound & Color, and Perfume Genius’ No Shape.

This record, sonically speaking, was a huge influence and inspiration for my record, Safe from Me. I knew I wanted a lot to be going on in each track, little sounds your ears would pick up for the first time on returning listens. But this record was also part of the inspiration to keep the vocals quite pure – I did each vocal take as full performances of the songs, and most of the final vocals you’ll hear on the record are first-third takes through – I wanted to keep that authenticity and vulnerability, focusing on the feelings emoted by the voice, and allowing any imperfections to add to that feeling, rather than seeing them as taking away.

One film that I love: Paterson

My dad is a total film buff, so I grew up always seeing new films, and also a lot of old black & white movies. Like my Dad, I watch so many films, so it’s impossible to pick a favourite, but one film I saw recently and loved was Paterson. I watched it one afternoon, off on my own, and really enjoyed the patient pace throughout, and it brought back fond memories of when I was at University studying Poetry and delving into some amazing writers for the first time. I also found Adam Driver’s performance very moving – I think he’s a real talent. The film focuses a lot on routine, and I guess also the mundanity within that – taking you through a regular week in this guy’s life where not much really happens, objectively speaking. He’s a bus driver in a small town, but he’s also a poet and a huge fan on William Carlos Williams (same here!), squeezing in writing in between shifts in a notebook, he refuses to make copies of or let anyone read. I really invested in that character, as I think it’s an experience I have definitely felt in previous jobs and times of my life, and I think I know many people who I’m sure would also say the same – it’s that whole idea of doing a job to pay the bills, but really you’re an artist and you’re having this ongoing inner struggle with yourself to find a way to take and own that title.

One book I love: Bluets – Maggie Nelson

Last year for my birthday, my sister bought me a copy of Bluets by Maggie Nelson. I love prose poetry anyway, but Nelson just writes so beautifully. Her writing really whisks me away to some place else, and is full of excitement and surprises. I recently did my third re-read and love it more each time.

One song that’s important to me: First Day of My Life – Bright Eyes

There’s so many I could list here, but I’m gonna go with First Day of My Life by Bright Eyes because it was the first song I sang a cover of when I was an angsty teenager badly strumming a very out of tune starter guitar – an instrument that soon gathered dust in the loft until I bought another one and started playing again a few years back. When I first discovered Bright Eyes, I was going through puberty and teenage angst, trying to explore identity and figure out who I was and how to then communicate that to other people. Their records were such a relief to me – they held the experience of finally feeling seen and understood. I felt like their lyrics and songs helped me sit with my emotions and process and move through them. I still adore them I absolutely love their new record, Down In The Weeds, too.

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