SXSW: Laura Jansen Interview

Already a massive success in her native Holland, Los Angeles based and Hotel Cafe grown singer-songwriter Laura Jansen, aims to repeat that task stateside with the release of her debut full length album, Bells, released nationally on March 22nd (Decca Records). Based on her instore set at Waterloo Records yesterday, I would say she is well on her way to accomplishing that feat.

TVD Austin: Is this your first time coming to SXSW?

Laura Jansen: This is my third time. But the past two times I’ve done one or two shows, and then spent the rest of the time having a reunion with people I know in the music world. But this is the first time I’m really promoting something and it’s a big week for me. It’s a lot of work, it’s great!

TVD: You have a total of six shows this week?

LJ: Six shows and a bunch of running around making sure I meet everyone I’m supposed to. Plus, my band from Holland is here. It’s a jam packed week. I’m really excited.

TVD: Any artists you hope to catch while you are town?

LJ:  It’s funny, on the night I’m playing at St. David’s (Historic Sanctuary) on Saturday, there’s actually a ton of artists I’m a fan of. I’m very excited to see Agnes Obel (7:30). I’ve seen her a few times in Europe and I’m excited for her US debut. My best friend’s band, Elizabeth & the Catapult are playing at the Hilton (Creekside at Hilton Garden Inn). It’s just a bunch of friends really that I haven’t seen in a long time.

TVD: You’ve been on the road for quite awhile.

LJ: I’ve pretty much been on the road for the past 11 months.

TVD: So the new album Bells is getting released next week in the US, but was originally released in Holland in 2009 right?

LJ: It was picked up by Universal in Holland a year and a half ago. I’m from Holland, and to have a record in my Motherland was pretty special for me and it did really well over there. It was an organic thing and it just grew slowly and steadily and then was picked up by Decca. We actually re-recorded some of the songs on the album to make it more cohesive.

TVD: That was my next question actually.

LJ. In Europe, it was picked up as two ep’s and squished together and called an album. That was hard for me to support because I’m a perfectionist sonically and I need to have it sound like a record. So we went back into the studio this year and re-recorded a bunch of the old stuff. They are newer, better, brighter versions. Songs change so much when you play them live so I’m really excited that the music reflects what the live show is all about too.

TVD: How did you come across covering Kings of Leon’s “Use Somebody”?

LJ: I was on this radio show in Holland, and the DJ is really tough, like the “Howard Stern of Holland”. He asks artists to do a cover, as well as one of their own, from the charts, but the charts were all Euro dance electro stuff except for that song. And I am such a fan of Kings Of Leon, I didn’t think I could touch that song because it’s so heavy. But breaking it down and changing it to a female perspective and making the arrangements piano based, it really changed the feel. I think that song is so strong with how they wrote it, I’m sure you could play it as a Polka and it would sound decent.

TVD: Who would you consider your influences?

LJ: Super random. Through my Mom, I was raised on Queen and Brazilian protest songs from the 70’s. I discovered singer-songwriters like Joni Mitchell and Kate Bush in my teens. Now, I listen to a lot of Radiohead, Rufus Wainwright. Really, anything orchestral and complex in arrangements is really inspiring.

TVD: How did you get involved with Hotel Cafe?

LJ: I knew about that place before I moved to LA. I was a fan of so many artists coming out, and I kept hearing that name so when I moved to Los Angeles, it was one of the first places I went to have a drink. I really hoped to play there, but ended up being a wallflower, sitting in a corner just watching for about a year. That’s when I realized I needed to step it up because there was some really heavy talent coming out of that place. When I was finally invited to play, I brought in 10 people the first time.

TVD: Ouch.

LJ: (Laughs) Luckily, the owner was nice enough to invite me back to play the next month. That was a couple of years ago and now I’ve been on the national and international Hotel Cafe tours. The whole nature is super collaborative and non-competitive which is rare in our business. I really don’t know how you could artificially create it. It’s a very natural thing that goes on there.

TVD: One last question that we ask everyone. What was the first album you ever bought?

LJ: I’m so embarrassed. Debbie Gibson’s Electric Youth. And right after that was Milli Vanilli.

You have five more chances to catch Laura Jansen during SXSW.:

Friday 3/18– Berklee School of Music Party at Friends Bar (1:40pm). Dutch Impact Party at West Tent Brush Square Park (5:40pm)

Saturday 3/19UMG Showcase at Speakeasy (12:40pm). Patagonia Store (7:00pm). Hotel Cafe Showcase at St. David’s Historic Sanctuary (10:00pm)

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