When we talk on the phone, singer-songwriter Laura Veirs steps out onto the porch of her Portland, Oregon home for better reception. We are talking about Veirs’ latest album, Found Light, which tells the story of her divorce from long-time husband/producer Tucker Martine. In many ways, with Found Light, co-produced by multi-instrumentalist Shahzad Ismaily and Veirs, listeners experience her most authentic voice yet.
“In the morning,” she tells me, “I fly out to London for the UK leg of my tour.” Strangely, Veirs sounds more nervous than I would have imagined for someone who has composed 12 solo albums, parents two children, and simultaneously survived a pandemic and divorce. She admits she gets nervous, mainly with stage fright, but it’s become better over the years. “I’m feeling excited but also a little trepidation because I’m still a little in my Covid cave. I don’t socialize all the time with huge crowds.”
When I ask how it felt to work on the new album, she tells me it was both “stressful” and “really good”. “I got out what I wanted to say… talking about the complexities of a long-term relationship going away in a pandemic, disentangling my life from my ex, my house, my studio, and kids and everything. I’m glad we did it.”
Veirs is a notably prolific songwriter who has written several hundred songs, possibly more, throughout her career. She also wrote all the songs for case/lang/veirs, the 2016 supergroup composed of herself, k.d. lang, and Neko Case.
“I have so many [songs] I don’t always remember what’s lying around. It becomes hard to keep track,” Veirs admits. For someone who writes as much as Veirs, I have to ask how many tracks she initially wrote for the new album. “I didn’t want to write an excessive amount,” but Veirs admits she wrote “around 80”.
When I ask her how she could narrow the new album down to just 14 tracks, she tells me, “I went through and got my favorite batch of 20, and sent those to Shahzad [Ismaily], and from there we decided together.” She also worked with a few guests on the album, primarily her co-producer Ismaily, Kate Stables from the British band This Is the Kit, who contributed vocals to the track “Autumn Song”, and singer-songwriter Sam Amidon.
Veirs’ single “Seaside Haiku” is one of the tracks that made the cut. In the quirky accompanying video, Veirs is seen buried up to her neck in the sand but soon emerges in a full yellow rain suit. She returned to the same location where she wrote the lyrics to shoot the video.
“I thought being buried in the sand would be a fun way to catch people’s attention,” she tells us. “I was in a grave, kind of, with my head up. The first time I did it, they buried me too deep, and I couldn’t get out. Waves were coming up – you can see in that first verse – so it freaked us out. I couldn’t get out. My feet were stuck like it was cement. So, we did it again the next day, which was way shallower. So, the point of that placement is that she got up and got out. She got free.” The metaphor does not go unnoticed.
“People get divorced for a reason,” Veirs continues. “So many moms out there shoulder the parenting burden, so many single moms working their asses off, and I feel for them because I am one. I want them to feel less alone. I had become dependent on [Martine’s] opinion about everything.” When I ask whether she thinks her ex will listen to the album. “No,” she answers reflexively, then says, “We are not friends.”
I’d heard in an interview Martine did not want Veirs to sing and play guitar simultaneously while recording but that she did on Found Light. “How did it feel to be able to do that?” I ask.
“It was very liberating,” she says, “but scary. I didn’t know if I could do it. The way he [Martine] likes to record is more controlled so that things sound very clean. I like how our records sound, but I wanted to try a live take and a more fresh, airy sound. So we did. We did some overdubs and edits here and there, but mostly it was one or two takes for all the tracks. I loved it because I haven’t experienced it before this far in – 25 years in – I was like ‘Damn, that’s fun, and I’m really good.'”