Getting to Know Laura Zucker

Laura Zucker is a two-time Kerrville Folk Festival New Folk finalist and has played her fair share of shows on both coasts.  Laura’s songs are best described as “accessible and compelling.” Laura writes from the heart and her words and music don’t take any detours. They go directly to the heart of her listeners.

Laura Zucker is one of 24 Emerging Artists chosen for this year’s Falcon Ridge Festival The Emerging Artist showcase is always one of the highlights of the festival. The musicians are chosen by a three-member jury and are given the opportunity to perform two songs (not to exceed ten minutes).  The audience votes for their favorites and three or four acts are asked to return to the main stage the following year.

For a bit more information about Laura Zucker, check out her website.

Take a moment to watch this poignant video of Laura’s song “Memorial Day.”

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Your early fascination with music seems to be in part enriched by what your parents played as well as your own self-discoveries from the singer-songwriter world.  When did you first put two and two together to figure out that some musicians actually wrote their own lyrics and music?

I “came of age” at the height of the James Taylor, Laura Nyro, Carole King, Joni Mitchell era, so I’ve known all along that at least SOME people wrote their own songs. In fact, I thought that was the default , I made a lot of assumptions about who wrote the songs people were singing,  and I was frequently wrong; shocked! And often delighted. Little Eva didn’t write “Locomotion”??? Carole King did?!?!?!  Cool!!!!!

What were the most important lessons that you learned when you first started playing out during your college years?

 When I was playing out during college, I wasn’t playing any of my own songs–all covers. In a real way, that experience was completely different from what I’m doing now. I think the most important lesson that I learned was that as a performer in a college pub setting, you have to develop a pretty thick skin and not take it personally when people aren’t listening to you or don’t seems to like what you do. Now, as a writer and performer, I’m still learning that lesson and it cuts closer to the bone for me since my writing tends to expose more of me to the audience.

Do you regret taking time off to pursue a law degree and then practicing law?

I try not to regret the decisions I’ve made to do or not to do; I try to stick to the view that everything furthers, and that where I am right now is the culmination of each of those decisions.  I’m not sure I had all that much to say back when I was in law school or practicing law, or a way to articulate it.  And it was a very different path for me. I didn’t really think about music then, and certainly wasn’t thinking about writing songs. That career was pretty all-consuming, as was my next career as a mother of three. I DO wish, though, that I were a younger person coming into this musical life. I often have 20+ years on my singer-songwriter fellows, and while I find this community very egalitarian, I think it is not immune from our general societal ageism. Plus, it makes it harder to recover from a long night making the campfire rounds!!

What’s your experience been like in the studio?  Have each of your four CDs been produced differently—live in the studio or tracking different parts separately, etc.?

I’ve done all of my CDs in the same studio with the same producer/arranger. He and I work really well together, and whatever I don’t play, he does.  We have a very lean approach to the process (I’m always on a tight budget), and we track each part separately. I call my back-up vocal group “The Lauras” because it’s usually me doing two or three part harmonies.  The recording experience for me has been different each time because with each CD, I am gaining fluency in the language of recording, and an ability to articulate what it is I want the tracks to sound like (much to the chagrin of my producer).  The first time I was just so starry-eyed about the fact that I was making a CD; now I have- eeek!- expectations.  Sigh. So jaded so soon….

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If you had to pick only one song of yours to put in a time capsule for people to listen to in the future, which one would it be and why?

Which song would I put in a time capsule?  Sheesh. Which one of my kids do I like the best?   Well, probably my most topical song “Memorial Day” because it was inspired in part by a moving memorial in my town to the soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also because it is a mother’s plea to end war.  And maybe also “Objects In The Mirror” because it resonates with LOTS of people who have had to recognize the end of a relationship.

It’s interesting that you admit that your first couple of recordings were all about you but then you discovered that writing about others was a whole other way of approaching the songwriting process.  Are you the kind of writer who is constantly writing down snippets from everyday life that you witness or perhaps leaving yourself voice messages so you won’t forget a fleeting moment when it occurs?

I think at first I had a great need to express and off-load a whole bunch of pain.  And that cleared the way for writing all sorts of songs.  I love taking on stories of other people’s lives and writing their stories as I imagine them, like “Rosie,” about what it must have been like for a teenage girl to have been coming of age in New Orleans when Katrina struck. Or “By The Refinery Lights,” the story of my parents courtship. And now, even when I do write about my own experience, it isn’t identifiably mine so much as a more universal emotion or experience that I happened to have too.  And I DO leave myself voice messages with little bits of melody and lyrics, and have little bits of paper all over with ideas, observations, things I’ve overheard. Now if only I had a few months with nothing to do but just sit and tease out the stories in each of them.

Do you have any sage advice for aspiring emerging artists? 

My best advice for aspiring emerging artists is the best advice I keep giving myself and not taking: never compare yourself to someone else, to what they are producing or the shows that they’re playing or the people they are collaborating with, and  feel like you’re falling short. Your path is uniquely your own. Just take the next step, and keep on going.

 

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