23 Feb Laura Brehm: The Electric Songbird
In This Article (Click on a section to quickly go to it)
Laura Brehm: The Electric Songbird
By George Ferris
*This interview is older and was in our Issue 61 magazine.
Laura Brehm is a Colorado native who’s been building up her music career for over a decade. She began honing her skills on piano, acoustic guitar, and vocals at the age of nine. Her first LP Day to Day was released in 2007 when Laura was in her mid-teens.
Since then Laura Brehm has generated over 400 million streams, released three EPs, and collaborated with dozens of the biggest names in the EDM industry. She also created her own music label Electric Bird Records which is home to the likes of Mr.Bill, Ephixa, and Elliot Berger.
Today the electric songbird is busy with her up and coming album, The Dawn Is Still Dark, which she’ll discuss with us further. Laura will also go over her creative process, shed some light on the music industry, and help us get to know a little more about the person behind the voice.
How did you come up with the catchphrase “painting the air” and what does it mean to you?
I came up with this phrase when I wrote a song that has this title (that I haven’t released yet). The song is about creating your own reality. I felt like the phrase also nicely sums up what a musician does and makes you look at it from the most artistic perspective possible.
I like to imagine that I’m painting the air when I make music because it reminds me that the possibilities are endless.
You recently released a new single, “For No One” from your anticipated new album. Can you tell us more about this album, and give three themes most meaningful to you?
My new album is called ‘The Dawn Is Still Dark’; a mix of alternative and folk with some EDM elements in the production. It’s a play on the phrase we’ve all heard, “It’s darkest before the dawn”. My title has put a twist on this by conveying it’s still dark outside when you expected the sunrise. It’s generally about times in our lives where we feel that we have waited so long, we have done all we can, we are at the end of our strength, and when we think we’ll finally be arriving at the end of the tunnel, more darkness awaits. But then with the strength, you have gained through the process, you are able to ascend through the darkness. It’s very meaningful to me because it comes from my own personal experience and also expresses concerns we are facing for the collective of humanity. The three biggest themes that are present throughout are mental health, strength to be on your own and work on yourself, and climate change awareness.
Can you elaborate more on these themes? Why are they so important to you?
Severe anxiety is something I have experienced my entire life so far, and it’s been a journey to be able to understand and manage it. It’s taken time for me to come to terms with not only my mental health but how I have been applying myself to relationships, sometimes in unhealthy ways. The idea of how important it is to be stable and strong within, and taking the time to work on yourself while being okay with being alone can directly be heard in the first single “For No One”. Having awareness has improved my life in all areas, and there is always more work to be done when it comes to health. My mental, physical, & emotional health has become a priority in my life.
Then we come to terms with what’s happening on a global scale. I think most people can say they are concerned about climate change and what we can or should do about it. The title track of my album makes it clear that it’s up to us; how we proceed with what we are faced with. It’s important to me because I feel like music is a great way to convey the emotions around these ideas and it could help people process through them, relating it back to mental health. We need strength and stability to keep fighting the good fight. So, will we choose a dark future? Or create a new beginning for ourselves?
What drove you to start your own label called Electric Bird Records?
I was releasing a lot of EDM collaborations at the time and had been for years. I started to produce my own solo music again in 2016 and realized that it wouldn’t fit with any of the EDM labels I work with.
I also felt like my solo music doesn’t quite fit in a major label setting or I’m just not at that point in my career yet so I decided to go for it and create my own space where I can feel free to release music on my terms.
What are the two major challenges you have faced since starting your own label?
I quickly found out that it’s more difficult to get an audience to follow a label than it is to follow an artist; especially when you’re doing it entirely on your own or have just a small team. Another challenge is the incredible amount of competition that is out there and realizing how much time, effort, and resources it takes to become a well-known label.
Your most recent solo EP Breath is all acoustic. Why did you make this decision?
I don’t produce a lot of electronic music myself although I am learning and doing more of that and this was my first solo release entirely produced and mixed on my own. I wanted to make sure that it could still be competitive in the market songwriting wise but also at the production level. I have an immense amount of experience with producing audio. I also felt like an acoustic EP fit with the title since it is completely organic and pure.
Do you believe every musician should step outside of their comfort zone and play around with releasing music in different genres? Why or why not?
It depends on the artist. For me, I think having versatility and flexibility is really important. An artist might surprise themselves with trying something new musically they originally had thought just wasn’t their “style.”
Going outside of your comfort zone equals growth and I don’t see why it would ever hurt to experiment. That being said, if you have a specific style that really works for you and you can grow within that, that’s great too!
How has having a background in piano and acoustic guitar impacted your creative process?
I think it was immensely important to the songwriting and composition process. It’s one thing to be able to sing a song that you know or to be the artist who performs the vocals alone and it’s another thing to be able to back yourself up musically.
It also allows you to understand music theory which is not necessary but certainly helpful. I think having the piano or acoustic guitar while I’m writing goes hand in hand with my voice and I can’t really imagine not being able to use these instruments.
How long does it take for you to write, record, and fully produce a song? What part of the process tends to be the easiest and hardest? Why?
It varies. Some take just one studio session in a day while others take years of the song going through an evolution. I think the hardest part of making a new song is getting the very first initial spark as well as also getting to the point where you say, “It’s finished.” Once you’re fully in the flow of making it, I think the easiest part is just letting the ideas come through you.
What has been your favorite song to write so far? Why?
That’s a very tough question! I like the songs I’ve written for different reasons. Right now, my honest answer would be the material I’ve written for my upcoming solo album which will be announced soon. Outside of that, I would have to say my solo single “Don’t Wait” because the message behind it resonated with me in such a complete way and still does to this day.
What’s your favorite venue you’ve performed in so far? What stood out to you about it and how could other venues learn from it to improve the overall experience for the fans and the artists who play there?
My favorite venue that I’ve performed in would have to be the Paramount Theater in Denver, Colorado. It’s a very intimate setting yet still draws a big enough crowd to be a substantial gig. What stood out to me about doing a solo acoustic set opening for the rock band Heart was that no matter how nervous and tense I felt, I actually played my best when I was just completely in the moment, relaxed, let go, and enjoyed it.
What have you learned about yourself after traveling to gigs around the world?
I have learned how important it is to take care of not only my physical health but my mental and emotional health as well. Traveling and playing gigs abroad can look very glamorous from the outside but the reality isn’t quite so.
If you can, make sure to give yourself some free time to relax and adjust to the time zone. Keep somewhat of a routine going. Make sure you’re still enjoying the traveling aspect. I’ve learned a lot more about myself from traveling, meeting the people there, and the experiences I gained than anything I could have ever learned in a classroom at school.
With 5.8 billion views on YouTube combined between your tracks “Mortals”, “Prism”, “Vertigo”, and it’s Spitfya remix of it through the channel NoCopyrightSounds (NSC), do you believe releasing copyright-free music is necessary for an up and coming artist to break in the current music industry? What were the downsides of releasing those tracks as copyright-free?
There is actually a misconception about the “copyright-free” aspect. It’s not copyright-free; the simple aspect of recording that song, writing it down, and/or uploading it to the internet means it has copyright. The key here is that these songs are actually “copyright strike free,” meaning that anyone can use them as background music or for promotional purposes.
People still don’t have the right to copy the lyrical phrases or exact melodies into their own work or distribute that exact song under an alias that is not the original composer, which is what copyright protects.
I think having songs that are copyright strike free is immensely helpful in gaining a larger audience, and maybe the only downside is having people misunderstand what that actually means and running into problems with that.
Have any of your tracks been licensed for tv, film, commercials, video games, or movie trailers? If yes, which ones and what project was it placed on? If not, are you looking into sync licensing due to the pandemic and uncertainty with touring?
Several of my collaborations with TheFatRat have been in video game apps as he is very popular in the gaming community. “We Won’t Be Alone” with Feint is in the VR game Beat Saber, and my song “Losing You” with Ephixa was placed in the TV show “Queen of the South.”
Very exciting stuff! I’m definitely looking more into getting placements and especially for my new upcoming solo material. It’s a great income stream for artists especially now that touring is not in the picture.
What do you look for when deciding which music producers you want you to continue to collaborate and work with?
I look for the quality of their productions of course, but I am most interested in production that has something very unique to it and stands out to me. I admire producers who are doing their own thing rather than going with the current trends.
I also look for producers who have similar influences as I do because I think that automatically creates a greater understanding between us musically. Also, I look for people who are kind, open, humble, easygoing, and fun to work with.
As it’s common for artists to sometimes get stuck finishing their tracks, what specific habits have you formed to allow you to consistently finish your tracks?
Taking a break from the track always helps. Sometimes you just get tired of hearing it over and over so much that you start to dislike it. This is also when you should ask some friends and colleagues to listen to it and give you some honest feedback. Perhaps it’s even time to start a new track or work on another current project and then come back to the initial one with fresh ears.
What are the three most common actions you take to get through days when you are stuck in a rut and experiencing a creative block?
I always allow myself to take a break. No one can be creative 100% of the time. It’s those times when we are not feeling creative when things may just be unconsciously brewing or you just simply need to go out and experience life in order to come back to your studio to write about it.
Forcing music never works for me, and sometimes songs are written in the most unexpected times or places. Just allow it to flow and run its course. You’ll always get that creative spark back.
What do you do to keep your spirits high in times of turmoil?
I do my best to keep my mental health in check, keeping in touch with those who are close to me, and working on music every day. It’s important to put your health first, to focus on the positive relationships in your life, and also to have a creative outlet.
Having music during times of turmoil whether I’m writing, recording, or just listening to it, has helped a lot to get me through it.
What does a typical weekend in your life look like when you aren’t on tour or working on new music? What hobbies are you most interested in at the moment? Why?
Since I’ve been in lockdown, a typical weekend would be waking up and making a nice breakfast, going for a walk, and then using my time to relax by watching movies, reading, chatting with family and friends online, learning new things by watching YouTube videos, cleaning my apartment, and anything that has to do with health and spirituality. I tend to get a lot of anxiety so I use my free time to do things to help maintain a healthy level.
What are your five favorite songs blasting through your speakers right now?
It’s really difficult for me to narrow it down to five songs, so perhaps I’ll say which five albums I’m listening to the most right now! The top would be ‘Invasion of Privacy’ by Cardi B. She’s one of my favorite female artists and I admire her boldness. Her music gives me energy and confidence.
Another would be ‘RTJ4’ by Run The Jewels which was released very recently. The messages portrayed throughout his album could not be more important for what’s going on in our world today.
The third would be a classic album, The Beatles’ first full release ‘Please Please Me’. It brings some lightness into my world and helps me to feel positive emotions.
Fourth would be ‘WHEN WE FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?’ by the world-renowned Billie Eilish. With incredible songwriting and simple but clever production, she has proven that something more experimental can still be a smash hit in today’s climate.
Finally and most recently from the recommendations of my friends in the UK, ‘Zeitgeist’ by Camo & Krooked, as it’s making me appreciate and fall even more in love with drum and bass. It’s also great workout music!
What festival do you dream about headlining and what about it specifically makes it stand out?
I would love to headline Glastonbury Festival one day, specifically because the location would be really meaningful to me as most of my main influences and favorite artists in the world originate from England. I also dream about headlining a festival that takes place at Red Rocks Amphitheater because it’s a legendary venue close to my hometown.
What kind of impact and legacy do you hope to leave on the world?
My aim is to inspire others, to create a space where people can listen to music that allows them to escape and to dream, and to provide hope and encourage people to be their own light during dark times.