South African born singer/songwriter Laura Reed (holding fast to her North Carolina music roots, as well) has become a global success story with her seductive, signature vocal style, her thought-provoking lyricism, and powerhouse live presence; But the insightful artist feels like she’s truly arrived with the release of her acclaimed, aptly titled solo debut album, The Awakening. Journeying to Nashville to make the pivotal album, she credits the connective creative energy of Music City and a close working relationship with the album’s producer, two- time Grammy winner, Shannon Sanders (India.Arie, John Legend, Robert Randolph) with instilling the necessary focus to turn such personal stories into universally themed gems that resonate with the listener from start to finish.
“I’ve been writing songs since I was 15, but I have to say, I feel like I never really wrote a song until I moved to Nashville and made this album,” says Laura. “The collaborations I was involved with, the approach to not only stripping a song down to its basics, but the emphasis the song- making community there puts on distilling a song down so you can convey the message without losing the ‘feeling’ of it; Bringing enough so everyone can relate, but keeping it personal enough so they also ‘feel’ the real you. I’ve grown so much as a songwriter on this album. It’s part of the osmosis there – you’re in the realm of the best songwriters in the world.”
Laura’s magnetic versatility shines through on The Awakening, with gems like the empowering “Struggle,” or the upbeat “Wake Up,” which has been featured on VH1’s hit show ‘Hollywood Exes’ and the Alicia Keys indie film endeavor ‘The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete.’ The unsparing ‘Wolves’ also reflects Laura’s ‘world music’ roots, where her almost indiscernible Latin scat flows seamlessly into a neo-soul-themed cautionary lyric about staying true to one’s self.
“I also speak Spanish and Portuguese,” she says. “I do a lot of ‘fusion’ on that song. I like the idea of melding together styles and still retaining your overall vision.” It’s been the trademark of her career, splicing together sultry soul, R&B, funk and rock influences, all braided together by her indomitable vocal prowess. She was recently invited to perform at New York’s famous Madison Square Garden to sing the National Anthem, wowing fans with the breadth of her astonishing vocal command and range.
Her inspiring musical path began as a teen in North Carolina, ‘just writing poems and stories,’ she says. “The day I picked up a guitar and put them to music was the day that changed my life. I knew I wanted to be a singer.” A self-taught musician, she says most of the songs written for The Awakening began as piano compositions, unusual for her. “Because I taught myself how to play, there’s no box I stay in when it comes to writing. The piano just felt right for
these when I started the songs out. Once I got with other songwriters, I also opened myself up to more suggestions than ever before. I like to think that I was supplying the wood and Shannon (the album’s producer) and the other writers helped me carve it all into shape.”
Best known, previously, as the front woman of the south eastern/jam-based funk band Laura Reed and Deep Pocket, she tabled the funk/Reggae-informed shadings for a more intimate but accessible exploration on The Awakening.
“I knew I was at a crucial turning point when I began writing songs for a solo album,” she says. “The band was breaking up. I had left Atlanta, where I was living for quite a while. It just felt natural to take this step. I also wanted more of a pop, universal feel.”
She first played her demo for Grammy winning producer (and mentor) Paul Worley (Lady Antebellum, Dixie Chicks) who loved the raw, unvarnished honesty of the songs.
He suggested Shannon as producer, and the two hit it off instantly. “Shannon helped me take some of the themes of the songs and make them more translatable in a musical sense. He comes from a Gospel background; A great piano player who can pick up a vibe instantly. Sometimes he would just hear me humming something and help bring it to life. Our partnership, coupled with the other writers I collaborated with gave us about 40 total songs that we whittled down to the ten best. What amazes me about the process is how the album truly captured a chapter of the many changes in my life, yet everyone who listens to it relates to it in their own
way. It comes through with a positive, life-affirming vibe.”
Laura’s savvy musical chops and years of working-band experience also served her in crafting the cornerstone album of her career. She has been joined by some stellar singers and musicians on multiple past projects, including George Clinton, Killer Mike, Karl Denson, The Big Ol' Nasty Getdown and Jewel. She’s also shared stages with a star-studded list of artists including India.Arie, Mali Music, Miguel, Daley, Valerie June and Anthony Hamilton, among others.
In December 2014, Laura opted to release The Awakening on her very own label entitled "FIVE FOOT GIANT RECORDS", with the help of experienced ex-Apple Creative Coordinator Patryk Larney of Hope Tree Entertainment. The year also saw Laura receive the NIMA (Nashville Independent Music Association) Award for "BEST R&B SOLO ARTIST 2014".
Drawing comparisons to seminal female vocalists such as Lauryn Hill, India.Arie, and Amy Winehouse, she is also proud of how only the strongest musical efforts won the day in making The Awakening. “It’s funny, for making a solo album – I really did check my ego at the door,” she admits. “I’m a singer who is never shy about her opinions. What’s great about Nashville is everyone has a unique idea about each song. The ideas that stuck were the best ideas, and that comes through on every song on the album.”