Quick Questions: Laura Jurd

We are looking forward to the return of Laura Jurd to the Turner Sims stage this autumn! Our Concert Promotions Intern Lauren Jolliffe asks her some Quick Questions ahead of her concert on Saturday 1 October – part of her Big Friendly Album tour with her band.

LJ: How did you come up with the concept and title of the new album?

LAURA: Over the past few years I’ve been commissioned to write a lot of intricate music for various ensembles and institutions in the contemporary music world. I have often found that world a little insular and yearned to welcome more people into my musical world. The result is a body of work, closely connected to my roots with a high feel-good factor – hence ‘the big friendly album’. A lot of the music I love draws from folk traditions, which by their very nature have a close connection to community and togetherness. This music is highly influenced by Celtic folk traditions, the blues and occasionally a sprinkling of alt-rock – all of which I can’t live without. It is my hope that the listener can join me in a dance around the kitchen, or find themselves whistling a tune on their way to work. This is instrumental music full of big friendly tunes and grooves, plus a world-class band to bring it all to life!

LJ: Tell us about the personnel and the instrumentation for the album line-up. Was it inspired by a particular sound you had heard elsewhere?

LAURA: I had already been playing trio with Ruth Goller – bass and Corrie Dick – drums. They both have such a unique sound and an incredible time-feel which makes the rhythmic core of the music really strong. To improvise amongst their collective groove is a wonderful thing. I had been aware of Alex Haines‘s incredible guitar playing, consideration to sound and ability to meet a ‘style’ for some time and had been waiting for the chance to play for him to present itself. As for the brass, I am of course a trumpet / cornet player and brass playing is huge part of my world. A lot of my previous projects have featured brass and it is so great to be joined by the wonderful duo that is Martin Lee Thomson – euphonium and Danielle Price – tuba. They are both highly influenced by folk and jazz music, music which is at the core of their own duo ‘Dopey Monkey‘.

I was also aware that I wanted to have some “melodic partners in crime” on various compositions. Each tune suggested a different sound to pair with the cornet. Special guests on the album include Finn Peters on flute and Frode Haltli on accordion, amongst others. The touring band however will just be the core ensemble mentioned above.

I love brass playing that doesn’t feel trapped by the idiom of brass playing. Bands old and new, such as The Westerlies (a current American brass quartet) or the legendary Lester Bowie’s ‘Brass Fantasy’ have been fairly recent discoveries for me. They didn’t inspire the project as such, but for sure re-confirmed my love of the potential of creative brass playing / writing.

LJ: The illustrations for the album that we’ve seen so far are fantastic. How did you find the illustrator, and did you work closely with them to design the ‘look’?

LAURA: The album artwork is by a wonderful illustrator named Sarah Willis. I came across her via euphonium player, Martin Lee Thomson who had worked with her before. Having seen her work on Instagram, she seemed like she’d be a great fit for the project. Her artwork has a folkloric and child-like energy that I’m very drawn too. We met via zoom after I had sent her a message, I told her about the music etc. and she came up with all of these fantastic illustrations. It has been really great to collaborate with a visual artist in this way and brings the whole project together.

LJ: In the last year alone you’ve finished the new album, and had commissions for London Sinfonietta and National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain premiered. What is your compositional approach to writing for each, particularly if there are overlapping deadlines?

LAURA: Writing music for musicians I don’t know is a completely different feeling / thing. The exchange feels more transactional, which upon reflection doesn’t feel as human and communicative as the collaborative feeling of writing for a band of musicians you know really well. When writing for fellow musicians like Ruth and Corrie, their sound completely hijacks my imagination and their own creativity adds fuel to my ideas. For example, I’d hear a bass line that I could completely imagine Ruth playing. Don’t get me wrong, writing for classical ensembles can be a wonderful experience also. Depending on the ensemble, there is often great license to be extremely intricate and hyper-detailed. This requires a very complete vision of how you want each moment to sound, which is a great challenge in itself.

LJ: Do you have a fixed routine for writing music, eg. first thing in the morning, late at night, in extended spells/short bursts?

LAURA: At the moment, it’s all about quality not quantity for me. I have a 7 month old baby, who naturally takes up most of my time. Consequently, I have to plan my time really well and make use of the odd hour here and there when I’m able to get some writing done. I’m just embarking on my first composition project since becoming a mum and the challenge of it is certainly coming to light. I’m realising the great value of ‘dream-time’ when it comes to the composition process. Just thinking about creative ideas, when doing other things (multi-tasking being the only means of survival just now!) for instance, when doing the washing up, when out on a walk etc. enables me to solidify a clear plan of action for when I do get the chance to sit and focus on working. Ordinarily, I’m a morning person and love to work at this time, but just now it’s grab any moment when I can! I think there’s something great about having to make creative decisions and not have all the time in the world to think over things. It takes a certain kind of creative focus and an ability to manifest inspiration in the moment, which I actually love!

Book your ticket to see Laura Jurd and her band live on Saturday 1 October here

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