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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Chicago musician Laura Glyda performing at Uncommon Ground with new music in tow



By ERIC SCHELKOPF
 
For those fans of Chicago musician Laura Glyda who have been anxiously waiting to hear more of her emotionally stirring music, the long wait is over.

Glyda recently released the EP "After Everything and All This Time," her first new music in 10 years. To celebrate the release, Glyda will perform Nov. 7 at Uncommmon Ground Lakeview, 3800 N. Clark St., Chicago.

Also on the bill is Nick Peay. The music starts at 8 p.m.

I had the chance to talk to Glyda about her new EP. 

Q - Great talking to you. It's been 10 years since you've released a CD. Why has so much time passed between "A Little Truth" and your debut solo EP? In sitting down to make "After Everything and All This Time," what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them?

The last album I released was with my full band back in Boston in 2004. After leaving the band to move back home to Chicago, it was basically the end of a long-term relationship.

I felt like I just wanted to be by myself for a while, focus on my writing, on my style, and being more agile in where and when I could perform. Coordinating four schedules and schlepping band gear had me a little weary...I was looking forward to being solo.

http://lauraglyda.com/media

But that also brought limits to the sound I could get from a single acoustic guitar. So I went through a period of some pretty heavy writer's block, where everything I wrote felt the same.

But I kept writing as it came to me, and eventually I had this collection of material I felt good about. I also thought 10 years was way too long...so my goal was to release something in 2014. "After Everything" was the answer to that. 

Q - How do you think you have grown as a musician over the years?

I have definitely found inspiration in wider varieties of music.  (Although I'm still embarrassingly in love with '90s pop records...)  I've still stuck mostly to guitar as my primary instrument for writing, but I've recently gotten back into composing on the piano, which I've been playing by ear as long as I can remember.

I still have a lot of room to grow in performing on that instrument, but I write differently on a piano than I do on a guitar. I have to think more about rhythm and every note that goes into a chord. 


On guitar, it's easier for me to define a meter or pattern because it comes more naturally to me. But in the end, my writing style still feels very honest and open, and is based on experiences, senses, and memories...I think this is the core of what I do.

Q - You are a Chicago native, but spent 3 1/2 years playing shows in New England with your band. What made you want to come to back to Chicago? What do you think of the Chicago music scene and how do the two scenes compare? 

I actually got homesick for Chicago while living in Boston. I really enjoyed living in that city, and it still feels like home in a way. 

I spent seven years out there between college and the years following, and it had a profound effect on me. Honestly, I wasn't sure I would want to come back to Chicago after college - I wanted to travel all over the world and never live in the same place for too long...but one day I just wished I was back here in the Midwest.


Shortly after that, I decided to move home. The Boston music scene is really fascinating - The Laura Glyda Band started when I was at school at Northeastern University, so we had kind of a built-in audience of our friends and classmates.

But that audience turns over every four years. You can experience this great surge in fan base and popularity, but as people move on and away from the city, you end up starting all over again to gain ground.

Obviously things have changed over time and now people can access music anywhere. Overall, Boston was a pretty small, tight-knit scene in my opinion. 

It was easy to get started, but hard to really break through the 100-person rooms you'd play once a month just to stay current. Chicago is teeming with venues of all shapes and sizes, and while I think there is a lot of room for improvement when it comes to collaboration and camaraderie amongst artists in the city, it's a big place, and there are a lot of people willing to support local bands.

Q - Where do you think you fit into the Chicago music scene?

I am really proud to say there is a strong community of songwriters in Chicago, coupled with some wonderful venues and booking folks who work hard to keep the community thriving. The Chicago Songwriter's Alliance was formed last year which promotes not only a wide variety of artists for people to listen to and discover, but it's a fantastic way for artists to network and meet other performers to collaborate with. 

I've recently been attending a small songwriter workshop a friend of mine put together so we could hone our ideas, share our work, and get valuable feedback from other writers. It's challenged me in a way I wasn't able to challenge myself, which is pretty amazing.

As for the Chicago scene as a whole, I'd like to see some larger venues working to incorporate the local songwriting community into some of the larger-known acts they get coming through the city. I know a lot of artists tour together, but where there is an opening on a bill, there is likely a really talented local performer who could contribute to that experience for the fans and the club. 

Q - I understand that Patty Larkin is one of your musical inspirations. How did she inspire you? What is your approach to songwriting?

Patty Larkin was one of my heroes in my formative songwriting years (a.k.a. high school). She is an incredible guitarist and lyricist, and she challenged what I often feared was a dime-a-dozen category in the music business - the solo, female, singer-songwriter.

Her music also incorporates alternate tunings and witty storytelling...something that inspired and also motivated me to try and write to that level. I write very organically, usually with one phrase, melody, or line 'appearing' in my head and sticking with me until I write around it to bring it to life. 


Sometimes I'll hear a song in a store, walk out humming a few notes from that song and changing it a little bit with each iteration, and five blocks later I'm singing a completely different line than what I started with, and I'm compelled to find words to match. (And I couldn't begin to tell you what the song in the store was by that point...)

Like a lot of artists, I write best when I'm struggling with something, or when someone close to me is going through something I can try to internalize to understand. Sometimes it comes from going back to something that made you write an old song and 'digging' it up, so to speak, in order to feel what you felt that made you write in the first place.

Other times, a song just comes to me. That might sound weird, but honestly some songs feel like they write themselves.

Although in retrospect, the seeds for that melody or hook or pre-chorus may very well have been tumbling around in my head for months before it broke the surface and grew into a song... 

Q - You taught yourself how to play guitar at the age of 14. What made you want to start playing the guitar? I understand that you've also given guitar lessons. In teaching guitar, what are the fundamental lessons that you stress?

I spent a lot of time at my grandma's house when I was young, and my uncle had a guitar there. I used to just hide in the basement and make up songs on the guitar whenever we'd visit.

Then my mom bought herself a guitar and a book of chords, and I became obsessed with playing and learning. I think I played that guitar more than she did. 

But to me, a piano felt like handing someone a dictionary and saying, "Here, write a story using anything you find in this book." It was so open and overwhelming, all laid out like a linear, blank canvas. 

I've found I create much better with a bit of structure. With guitar, the strings were tuned a certain way, and I could only play where my fingers could reach; and because I played by ear, I wasn't bound by traditional chords. I could explore combinations of fingerings that sounded different or odd...and when I couldn't find a note I wanted, I'd mess with the tuning to create it.

In teaching guitar, I worked mostly with elementary school kids. What seemed hardest for them was playing loud or strong enough for fear of making a mistake. 

One of my favorite music teachers once told me, "If you're going to make a mistake, make a big one." It taught me that there is no room for fear in songwriting...you have to step fully forward into the light with your words and with your music, or it won't mean everything it could. 

Q - Do you have any dream projects or collaborations? 

I have a running joke with myself that someday I will write an open letter to John Mayer convincing him that we should collaborate on a song, or two, or a whole album, or a tour...but I couldn't date him in order to get on his record.  (Although I do really think he is a captivating musician.)

Seriously, though, I absolutely adore Kathleen Edwards' music and would really love to perform or tour with her. I also dream about having a great indie rock band where everyone sings and plays everything (in the vein of Typhoon or Hey Rosetta!)...maybe for my next record...