May May by Novemto Komo.
MayMay is Laurel Simmons of Arizona, now resident amongst the new folk milieu of Oregon. Her debut album And So I Place You in the Setting Sun is a beatific ode to her grandmother; a melodic showcase for Laurel’s beguiling vocals. I caught up with Laurel to find out what inspired her solo debut.
Your album came out in June, what has the response been like and what have you been up to since then?
We’ve been pleasantly surprised by the words shared about our music so far. It has been encouraging. Since the album was released and we returned from a tour in Japan in June, I married in July and have been enjoying the warm summer months in Portland with bikes, friends and a canoe that we were gifted for our wedding.
Congratulations! You also play with chamber folkband Loch Lomond – what are they currently up to?
Actually, though we are all still great friends, I don’t play in in Loch Lomond any longer. I left a few years ago to pursue MayMay more seriously.
MayMay by Sandra Contreras.
How did you come to leave Arizona and end up in Oregon? What is the best and worst of both places?
I moved to Oregon to experience a new place, one that I was drawn to for years before moving. The best parts of Oregon have been found in its music and proximity to the ocean. Living near water has been such a treat. The worst is by far the rain and long, dark winter months. Being from Arizona, I have never grown accustomed to the Northwest bleakness. The best of Arizona is the beautiful desert terrain and the roots that I have there (two of my favourite things in the world) and the worst…. well, I’m not huge fan of the current immigration reform policies in effect. While enjoying my life in Oregon, I am always pining after Arizona.
The record pays particular homage to your grandmother the wonderfully named Barbara Mae May – why was she so special?
Oh where to start an answer for that one……. For most of us, I suppose a grandmother is innately special…. an extension of our mother or father. Grandma May was a tender hearted and fiery lady with a magnificent laugh. I was so drawn to her for these traits. She loved her family more than anything else and you knew it! She also represents a time of life that was simpler than now. Whenever I smell an apricot I think of her and the apricot trees in her yard.
Your music making process has been likened to a religious experience, why do you find it so cathartic?
It seems like most people have some way that they experience catharsis. Music has always been my way of processing and expressing life’s deep emotion. Also, I have always been fascinated with the presence of that which is unseen; the wind, a feeling, sound… for me music is as close as breathing… a place where God dwells.
What was the process of producing your album?
Nicholas Marshall, Raul Pastor Medall and I have played music together for years in other projects; Sabertooth and Rauelsson. I was always writing music on the side, while playing with Loch Lomond, Sabertooth and Rauelsson. When I had enough material to begin recording And So I Place You in the Setting Sun Nicholas and I began tracking, Raul soon became a huge part in the process as well and we would just meet every weekend to track, arrange and record. All three of us lent a hand in the instrumentation and overdub arrangements. Definitely our favourite task was the vocal harmonies. We have always felt a deep connection when singing together. When all was done with mixing, we shared it with our friend Nils Frahm of Durton Studio in Berlin and we were honoured to have him work his mastering magic.
When can your UK fans see you live and where?
We are planning a European tour for the Spring next year. We look forward to sharing details soon.
And So I Place You in the Setting Sun, Arizona, Barbara Mae May, Durton Studio, Flau, Laurel Simmons, Loch Lomond, MayMay, Nicholas Marshall, Nils Frahm, Novemto Komo, Oregon, Rauelsson, Raul Pastor Medall, Sabertooth, Sandra Contreras
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