Lauren Aquilina Debuts Fragile New Single "Tobacco in My Sheets" (premiere + interview)
British pop/R&B artist Lauren Aquilina's new single, "Tobacco in My Sheets", is a frank and honest love letter to her mother about her own attempts to anesthetize herself from the pain of a broken heart.
As much as we can relate, share and find common ground, our parents are still of a different generation. One which grew up with different pressures, relationships, and expectations. However, while they may not have experienced life in the same way as us there are still those universal aspects of life, whether it be love, loss, despair or joy, where we can find common ground.
The new single from British artist, Lauren Aquilina, "Tobacco in My Sheets", is a frank and honest love letter to her mother about her own attempts to anesthetize herself from the pain of a broken heart with drugs and alcohol. At the same time, she draws parallels with her own mother's struggles in the relationship with her father and explores that shared experience of having your foundations rocked by heartbreak.
The song starts as a skeletal piano ballad with only tender piano chords framing Aquilina's emotive, fragile vocals. Naturally, being such a personal tale, Aquilina's voice sounds as if it might break at any moment; the weight of lines such as "When Daddy broke your heart / I held your hand" and "I watched you hide in tears / When Daddy rang" becoming almost too much for her to bare. That is until she seems to summon a similar strength and resilience, as her mother once did, with her voice becoming untethered before soaring skywards, buffeted by choral backing vocals and ringing guitar notes.
Below Aquilina goes into more detail about the musical and thematic inspirations behind the song.
What was the first thing you came up with when writing "Tobacco in My Sheets", a melody, a chord progression, a lyric etc?
It started as a joke song (a lot of my songs do), I woke up one morning and there was literally tobacco in my sheets, and I just started singing what would later become the first verse. That was all I had for ages and then I came back a couple of months later and wrote the chorus once I'd figured out the perspective.
How easily did it all come together?
It took a long time! It wasn't until I went into the studio with my friend Jonny and played him the first verse and chorus that we sat and finished it together, but that was about six months after I first started it. I just had no idea whether it was good or not.
Musically, what were the touchstones for you when writing the song?
There's a pretty obvious Queen reference in there, but mostly I knew I just wanted to be all about the lyric and be pretty classic-sounding.
Can you tell us a bit about the subject of the song?
It's written as a direct letter to my mum about my relationship with drugs and alcohol after my first heartbreak.
Was that difficult to write about?
It was, not because I was scared to say it, but more because it's a sensitive subject and I knew every lyric had to be perfect, so I really took my time with it. All of my songs come from real life experiences, but this one felt particularly honest and raw.
What was your Mum's initial reaction?
I was so nervous to play it to her. Honestly we were walking out to her car (I always play her new songs in the car) and I felt sick. I was so worried she was gonna hate it. But she loved it and told me it was the best song I'd ever written, even though it made her cry like as soon as it started. She was sad that I thought she wasn't proud of me and kept reassuring me that she is really proud of me and I'm not a total let down, so that was cute.
What did you learn about yourself as a musician in the making of this song?
Patience for sure. I haven't really taken my time over a song like this since I first started writing as a teenager. It became so much about getting everything done in one day! But it was really nice with this one to remember how it feels to just wait it out until it's right.
What's your preferred way of working? Quick bursts or long stints?
I feel like creatively, I work quite well when it's really intense. I like to do a couple of weeks of intense writing, one or two songs a day every day, and then take a week or two weeks off. It's hard to do that though because I get presented with opportunities I wanna take and then I end up writing all the time. At the moment I'm on a three- week tour which is great cause it means when I get back to writing I'll have a fresh perspective and be excited to do it again.
Can you always find the sound that's in your head? How easy is that?
No, definitely not, it's really frustrating actually. I really wanna learn to produce so that I'm always able to find it myself, but I feel like trying to be an artist, writer, and producer would be too much right now!
Who is your go to quality controller? Who do you look to to give honest feedback?
I have a really close group of friends in London, some of us are songwriters and some of us aren't, but we all LOVE pop music. We all play each other stuff and really value everyone's opinions, so they're definitely my quality controllers.
Who would be your dream collaborator?
I would love to work with Imogen Heap, she's such a boss.
What would be your three desert island records?
I actually only have three albums saved offline on Spotify and always forget to download more before flights, so I guess it would be those? Lorde - Melodrama, Bon Iver - Bon Iver, and Alanis Morrissette - Jagged Little Pill. Never get bored with them.
So what's next for you?
I'm just finishing up my EP which I'm hoping to release this spring/summer, and I have a couple of exciting releases coming out as a songwriter too. I'm really loving this US tour I'm on right now too so I'm gonna try and plan another one for later this year! Yay.