In conversation: She Makes War

Hey Laura, how you doing? Can you introduce yourself to our loyal readers if they’re not familiar with you?
I’m solo artist She Makes War, based in Bristol. I make melancholy, grungey pop music and play around 100 gigs a year all around the UK and Europe.

How did things get started for you?
I released my first album Disarm in 2010 and have been touring, making videos and releasing stuff ever since.

What can you tell us about Direction Of Travel?
It’s my third album, it came out earlier this year and I’m very proud of it. It was written at the end of a really sad year of bereavements and heartache and is my attempt to reflect on all the things that were happening in my life, make something beautiful out of some dark stuff and draw a line under it all, looking to the future with hope.

‘Paper Thin’ is such a wonderful song, how did working with Tanya Donelly come about?
I came across Tanya’s gorgeous Swan Songs collaboration EPs and tweeted my delight at finding them, she followed me back and listened to my stuff then invited me to sing backing vocals on two songs when she played in Bristol on the Throwing Muses tour in 2014. After that I got brave enough to invite her to sing on my album and she graciously obliged. I’ve been a Belly and TM fan since I was a child so it means a lot to be respected musically by Tanya. Making a music video with her in Boston in February was a dream.

What’s your approach to songwriting?
It has to start with having something to say, then some songs start with a chord progression and a vocal melody that jumps into my head as I play, and others come from lyric snippets I save on my computer.

Your live show is generally more stripped back than “Direction Of Travel”, how have you evolved as an artist since your first record?
My solo live show is always going to be more stripped back than the records, which are all very layered with instruments. I think it’s way more interesting to present the bare bones of the song than try to replicate the album version live, but I do have an excellent live band now who come with me on special occasions.

What is it about Bristol that means you’re based there now?
London lost its sparkle for me over the years and it’s an insane place to try and afford to be a musician. Bristol is much more manageable, I can afford a place to live with a dedicated music making space and the quality of bands here is far higher. It’s a great scene to be a part of and people have been very welcoming.

Touring’s been a big part of your life over the last couple of years; what do you love about it?
Sharing the songs I wrote in my various houses over the years with strangers from completely different backgrounds and cultures is an amazing thing, plus seeing as much of the places I visit as possible in the short time.

And hate?

Are you excited for 2016, how do you see it playing out for you?
I’ve really enjoyed the year so far and I’m excited for the festival slots I have coming up and my tour supporting Carina Round around the UK at the start of August. After that, I have no concrete plans but the nice thing about putting yourself out there is that you can never predict what’s going to happen next.

We always like to check; is there a musical style you just don’t get?
I’ve never enjoyed ska, and that particular genre of strokey beardy jazz that centres around endless meandering solos makes me roll my eyes and leave the room.

You’re pretty active on social media, are Twitter and Facebook a blessing or curse for artists?
A blessing. People forget how hard it was to communicate with people before we had all these amazing tools. There’s always a downside but you can’t account for idiots.

If you could only listen to one song this week, what would it be?
Anything by Car Seat Headrest.

What’s the question we should have asked you today but haven’t?
What’s it like to be a musician with a broken foot? Answer: difficult! I broke it at the end of my soundcheck for my show supporting the mighty Brian Jonestown Massacre on Saturday night, played the gig by standing rather wonkily and not using my overdrive pedal and got put in a cast on Sunday morning. I am not graceful on crutches yet, but am looking forward to the amazing upper body strength that lies ahead of me.

Finally, how do you take your coffee? Or alcohol?
I rarely drink either, but you’re welcome to make me a cup of Pukka tea anytime.

Thanks so much for your time Laura, and congrats on the ace new album.

As mentioned She Makes War is continually touring the UK and Europe, so catch Laura live when you can. Or just buy her album(s) from any online outlet or decent real shops.

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