Interview: Laura Imbruglia
Laura Imbruglia is a name that has always been around the Australian music scene but only now has she come into her own. The 29 year old singer-songwriter is set to release her new album What a Treat. The new single off it is called ‘Awoooh!’ and the songwriter is showing a more maturity and creativity in her music. She has been writing music since 2000 and describes her personality as “dark, silly, pensive, unfiltered (and) honest.”
This intriguing and darker side allows Laura to tap into a song writing process that allows for diversity and creativity. She says “For me songs either come together super quickly without me even realising it’s happening, or they take weeks or months of labouring over. More often than not, it’s the latter. Although 3 songs on this album (including the single ‘Awoooh!’) pretty much wrote themselves. It often depends on how complex the narrative is. If the lyrics are fairly straight forward and it’s a simple pop song, I try not to over-think the lyrics too much because it can take away from the loose, relaxed feel of that kind of song. Whereas with a heart-wrenching country ballad, I’ll be more inclined to labour over particular lines to make an emotional peak at some point. It’s kind of hard to explain. It’s not really THAT consciously planned out, but when I dig through the songs with a fine-tooth comb and some perspective like this, it does seem like there is at least some kind of method to my writing (as I’ve just described). Other songs can take a while to complete if the lines are very mathematically/precisely arranged, like with “Limerence”. It’s a really annoying feeling when you know a song has promise, but you can’t quite get it right. I start most songs singing stream-of-consciousness lyrics and then re-write the lyrics once I have a melody I like. I spent months and months re-writing the chorus of ‘Harsh Dylan Songs’ to get it to a point where I was happy with, ‘cos the gibberish lyrics I’d been singing were pretty average, but they flowed well and were hard to replace. Another song on the album “Ain’t Done Yet” is the lyrical culimation of 3 different song ideas. I wasn’t happy with any of the ideas, so I put all the lyrics together and sang them over a 12 bar blues kinda idea and with some finessing, it got there! I have a no pain, no gain attitude to writing.”
She comes from a broad musical background. She grew up with broad musical interests.
“My musical influences are very broad. This is because I spent 7 years working in a specialist heavy metal record store (with no prior interest in metal). When I started working there I was fresh out of high school and thought my taste was diverse and excellent ‘cos I liked Travis, Nirvana AND The Carpenters. Ray from The Hard-Ons also worked at the shop (Utopia Records, Sydney) and saw promise in me as a music fan. He took me under his wing and introduced me to lots of 70s pop like Todd Rundgren, Big Star and The Left Banke, which I love. I also slowly learned to appreciate metal and found myself purchasing a Black Sabbath box set of the Ozzy years. My music manager for 10 years (Nik Tropiano) also taught me lots about music over the same time period and got me into 80s and 90s bands like Pavement, Jellyfish, Dinosaur Jr, Husker Du and The Replacements. Evan Dando from The Lemonheads released an EP of country covers which subconsciously piqued my curiousity over time and led to me purchasing albums by The Louvin Brothers, Gram Parsons and John Prine. My obsessive interest in Darren Hanlon in the early noughties led me to discover lyrical legends like The Lucksmiths, Billy Bragg and The Magnetic Fields. I am a sponge and I’m very open and observant. I like all kinds of stuff. Yes, my family used to have a shared love of The Carpenters and spent many hours singing their songs in the car. My sisters would blast the Flashdance soundtrack, Whitney Houston and John Farnham in the late 80s and would hold little backyard concerts for family members. As I was the youngest kid, I ended up spending lots of time alone (as my older sisters moved out of home at a fairly young age) and would lie in front of the boombox listening to the radio and waiting for a good-sounding song to come on so I could hit record. I was really obsessed with that Richard Marx song ‘Hazard’! In high school, I got into Nirvana and decided to learn guitar. Once I started getting guitar lessons, I was writing my own songs all the time.”
Some of her favourite albums included The Magnetic Fields 69 Love Songs, Fleetwood Mac Rumours, and Cheap Trick In Color. Singing came naturally to her but says in all honesty “I am not great at guitar and terrible at music theory which makes it hard to easily communicate my ideas to band members. I’ve definitely become better at rhythm guitar over the years and better at vocal harmonies, which has taken a lot of work. Vocal harmonies are one of my favourite things in the world but definitely don’t come naturally to me.”
In amongst all her favourite music, does she have a favourite Beatle?
“I prefer Lennon because he seemed to be a no-bullshit, no frills kinda guy which is more up my alley. McCartney wrote some cool melodies but a lot of them are a little too sacchirine sweet for me.”
She recorded her debut EP (described by Laura as a 1/2 album) in 2003 at age 20 called It Makes a Crunchy Noise. Laura says “it was really exciting and terrifying. I recorded it with a musical hero of mine (Tim Oxley) at his house and he and his wife (another musical hero of mine Jodi Phillis) played instruments and sang on it! I was so thrilled that Tim asked if he could produce me and then when he would play me the stuff they’d added after I went home for the night I would feel giddy with happiness. I didn’t have internet at home and he lived a couple of hours away, so sometimes he’d call and play me stuff over the phone. It was really sweet and a nice calm way to welcome me into the land of recording. Jodi told me I reminded her of Liz Phair (who I’d never heard of), and then proceeded to blow my mind by playing me Exile In Guyville on the stereo over lunch one day. That was awesome.
In 2005 Laura released the single ‘My Dream of a Magical Washing Machine’ and proved to be a big hit for her. Unfortunately for Laura her own washing machine has not proven to be as magical as the single ever was. She recalled
“…I think my washing machine is broken. The detergent tray keeps clogging and filling with water. When I find out which housemate keeps putting powder in the fabric softener compartment, I’m going to punch them so hard.”
Laura is hoping the new single ‘Awoooh!’ proves to be just as big a hit. She says the new album was predominantly written over about 6 months, “which is very fast by my standards. The songs are about poor decisions and unrequited love and the shame associated with consciously putting yourself repeatedly in similar bad situations. I’m big on masochism and self flagellation. They’re probably my worst traits. The single ‘Awoooh!’ is however, upbeat and a rollicking good time! You should watch the video because we put lots of time and effort into it and it’s actually pretty awesome. Also, the physical version of the album comes with fan-funded jigsaw puzzle packaging! I mean it comes in a little box with a 16-piece jigsaw puzzle. I highly recommend you buy it over the digital version, cos it’s a lot more value for money and I think you will get a kick out of the puzzle.”
Laura has always enjoyed touring. She recalls “…I think we get better at playing the songs when we’re on tour. Touring gives you a musical fluidity that you can’t reallyget any other way. Even if you were to rehearse every day, you wouldn’t achieve the same things you get from a quick run of shows. There’s something special about the adrenaline you get from a crowd and you learn lessons in real time. I dig it a lot. I also enjoy the long car trips, fruitful conversations and hang-time with my band members, who I don’t get to see much outside of musical endeavours…”
Laura is pretty low key about her instruments. She has both an electric and accoustic guitar. Laura says
“…I play a Harmony “Rocket” electric guitar and a Maton “Overlander” acoustic. I’m not much of a guitar nerd. I chose the Maton years ago when my previous guitar was stolen, as I knew they were a good brand. It’s the only acoustic I’ve ever played in my entire career! I’ve gone through phases of hating it but it’s actually getting better with age, like a fine wine. The Harmony was purchased just after I recorded my last album The Lighter Side Of… but I was actually wanting a solid body 70s guitar…like an old Eastwood or something. I got talked out of it. This guitar is pretty nice though. I don’t know that I’m a good enough or natural enough of a guitarist for the instruments to be an extension of me. I guess I’m kind of clunky, which is how my guitars sound, cos I’m the one playing them…”
Despite her modesty Laura is fast becoming one of this country’s finest singer songwriters. And there is always hope outside music that this sharp minded young wwoman may yet find her niche. If she wasn’t a musician Laura says she’d loved to be “some kind of person who gets paid for having excellent ideas. I’m pretty sure that job exists. I have good ideas all the time and I just give them away for free. It’s a crime!”
Written by Peter McAlpine
Here previous single;
And some of her earlier works;