For more than a decade now, Portland-based singer and songwriter Laura Veirs has glided between twee folk, politically charged indie rock, gentle country and rippling '60s pop. July Flame, her seventh album, was released this year on her own Raven March Band label. The collection marks a kind of synthesis: While opening her lucid melodies and evocative diction to new vistas of string quartets and choral arrangements, it retains the individualism of songs written simply and purely on a bedroom guitar. B-Sides caught up with Veirs in Lund, Sweden, as she prepared to head to Oslo, Copenhagen and then back to the States.
B-Sides: Because my sins are many, I read musician tour blogs. Yours is very good, maybe even desert island quality.
Laura Veirs: I've never actually read another tour blog. I don't know what the competition is like.
I never thought I'd come across the phrase "sign of the preggo times."
When is the baby due?
At the risk of stating the obvious, I can't quite imagine having a new record out and touring the world while with child. It sounds so pedestrian.
It sounds pedestrian?
I was trying to make a joke.
Ah, okay. No one has used that word before to describe it. It's fine, actually. I've toured three months of this pregnancy. I feel I've got my feet under me. I am getting bigger and bigger, and I have to field lots of comments about it. Mostly it's going great. It's a little tricky, just being tired a lot. My bandmates and manager are very understanding. I've been getting more sleep, eating better and getting more exercise than on any other tour I've done.
What's been the highlight of the tour so far?
The reception has been better than ever before. I've been coming over here the bulk of my career. I got started in Europe. I've been coming over here since 2002, I think. The momentum is still building. We played a packed show in London, at Union Chapel, which has 800 seats. That's new for me. It definitely feels like there's awareness of this record. That's happening in the States too. I don't think we'll play for a crowd of 800, but something about the album is resonating.
The new record, July Flame, is a little hard to listen to during winter in St. Louis. I do like the strings and the choral vocals.
That was somewhat new for my records. I think Tucker [Martine], my producer and sweetheart, might have had the idea for the string quartets. We tried to dabble with the choir thing on the last album. It's just really fun to sing with people. Now that I'm touring, we have four people on stage, and we're doing four-part harmonies. Some of the vocal arrangements are tricky. It's fun to feel like you're trying something new.
You're a great lover of diction, choosing words carefully. The metaphors are literary, almost bookish, but when you sing them they don't come across that way. Do you think of yourself as a literary or pop writer?
Probably not either one. I'm a songwriter. I don't think I'm particularly literate or literary, but I do love to read books. Novelists are some of the people I look up to the most. That's one of the art forms that's mysterious and out of reach. I've tried writing short stories recently and found them incredibly hard to do. I'm sure the same could be said by a novelist of a songwriter. I don't even put myself in that world. I think of songs as solving puzzles I create for myself. I do work hard on the lyrics and struggle with them. The melodies and music come easier for me now.
You mentioned your husband and producer, Tucker. Can you talk about life, love, music, procreating?
[Laughs] This is the first album we made at our house together. Since we'd already made five records together, we have a creative relationship, a good relationship. We don't struggle. There's a trust. I come in with completed songs, and we discuss the instrumentation. I don't micromanage it.