By Andréa Rojas
Lauren Mann and the Fairly Odd Folk are a folk-pop outfit that will pluck the sunflower petals off your heart one by one and serenade you while they’re doing it. The singer-songwriter and her backing band have come a long way from playing local house shows. The proof? A forthcoming and as-yet-untitled sophomore LP, slated for release this winter. Mann, a Langley native-turned-Calgarian, completed two years of a BA in International Relations at the University of Calgary. She has, however, officially left the ivory grasp of Canadian academia and is pursuing a more, ahem, practical education in plucky folk-pop melodies. Fresh off a 65-date cross-Canada tour entitled “All These Places,” Mann and her backing band have already embarked on their “Summer of Colour” tour to further promote her November 2010 release Stories from Home. Mann and her band will make a stop at her hometown’s Broken City on June 9.
The Gauntlet: Your music has been described by critics and fans alike as indie, folk, pop and all three. How would you describe your own music?
Lauren Mann: Those are good descriptions! I usually describe it as folk-pop. It’s not traditional folk, but it definitely has that foundation, and it’s not mainstream pop, but it has pop elements.
G: Let’s backtrack a little. What’s the “story from home” that led you to leave school and pursue music?
LM: I loved the program, but after the second year, I found it really difficult to focus on school, working part-time and playing music all at the same time, so I decided to put school on hold and work and play music. I worked at Goodwill thrift store full-time and put most of my energy into music, and then after [my bandmate and now-husband] Zoltan and I got married, we jumped into music full-time. We plan on touring for at least the next few years, and just taking it one step at a time and seeing where it takes us. Right now, it’s our career, so we’re putting all our energy into it. As for long-term plans, I know I’ll always be writing and playing, and what that looks like in the future, who knows!
G: You place emphasis on the theme of stories, and also use this as a metaphor in describing your writing process. How do you write stories? What’s your story, or the story you’re trying to convey?
LM: Thinking of songs as stories really helped me to use the words and the music in conjunction to create a piece of art. . . the idea behind Stories from Home is that all the songs are my starting point — they were some of the first songs I wrote and performed, so collectively they are the stories of where I came from. Having that theme in both recordings wasn’t really intentional. I guess stories are just the foundation of a lot of things in culture, so it just came out like that.
G: You released Stories from Home without a label, and it seems as if you intend to do the same with your second LP. Is this a personal choice? Are you currently looking to collaborate with a label, or do you seek to continue releasing independently?
LM: With Stories from Home, we just wanted to have something to start touring with, so we didn’t really even consider talking to a label about it. I really like working independently. It’s a lot of work and can get fairly exhausting, but when you put so much of your own effort into something, it’s really rewarding to see the results, and that’s been the case, especially for the “All These Places” tour. We put a lot of work into it, and even though some shows were really small . . . [we] made lots of friends and got to know people all across the country. So it makes it worth it. There are a lot of benefits to being with a label, so someday if an opportunity comes up we might consider it, but for now, we’re going to continue to do things independently.
G: You’re currently recording your sophomore release at the Vanguard Room in Florida. How did you come to work with producer Aaron Marsh, former lead singer of the now-defunct Florida indie band Copeland?
LM: Well, Zoltan and I decided we wanted to do music full-time, and so we thought that if we were going to do that we’d need a new album, since I’ve been playing the songs [that will make up] Stories from Home for a few years. So we looked at different producers of bands that I like and listen to. Copeland is one of my favorite bands, and Aaron Marsh . . . is now producing full-time. We found his studio and e-mailed him seeing if he would want to work with us, and he was really into it! It was pretty amazing for me to get to work with someone I’ve looked up to in the music industry for years and to have his influence on the album.
G: You’re calling your summer tour the “Summer of Colour.” What inspired this?
LM: The name came about just in thinking about summer, and to me, summer is all about bright colours and being outside and enjoying life, so I thought that the name represented that well.
G: What are you most looking forward to this summer?
LM: I’m really excited about this tour for a few reasons. First, we’ll have a duo called Reeves with us for all the shows, and as well as opening, they’ll be joining us as [part of the] Fairly Odd Folk. I think it’s going to be a really natural extension of what we started with the “All These Places” tour. It’ll also be really great to connect with people we met on the first tour, so people know that we’re not doing just a one-time thing, but that we’re serious about what we’re doing and we’re here to stay. And another plus is that the weather will be a bit warmer than [the] last time we went on tour!