We all know that Celebrity culture is everywhere these days. Being famous is seen as a legitimate career choice by many who are no longer hindered by the need for some kind of talent to be seen as special by the masses. Society’s obsession with fame and the celebrities, from A-list right through to Double-Z list, has engendered a sense of entitlement amongst a large proportion of the adored. From full on diva demands, vast entourages and crazy rider requests from the uber-stars, to the age-old ‘don’t you know who I am?’ from anyone who has ever been on TV for whatever reason, reality often appears to be something our idols are detached from. Perspective, modesty and humility can be no more than words in a dictionary to some so it is refreshing when you meet someone whose feet are firmly planted on the ground, who appreciates what they have and the people around them, who works hard to achieve their ambitions and who has an opinion, rather than press-speak learnt by rote.
Laura Kidd is one such person, exceptionally easy to talk and warm to; she is very down to earth and open. Relaxed and chatty, she engages enthusiastically on all subjects of discussion and offers reasoned and articulate opinions in response. Like her approach to her life as a musician, she is pragmatic and considered, willing to listen to others and take on board what they say. Respect is given where it is due and deservedly asked for in return and she can be quite forthright about where she feels it is lacking. Like her singing voice which exudes both fragility and strength, she gives glimpses to both vulnerability and vigour.
Performing now as She Makes War Kidd had previously travelled the world as a professional bassist, playing to thousands of people as part of a live band for numerous artists. While many could have been swept away by it all, Kidd saw it for what it was; a job that would pay the rent and put her on the road to becoming a performer in her own right. Already writing her own music, she took time to learn from the experience and used it to help her move forward as an artist and musician. “They weren’t there to see me but that doesn’t matter”, she explains when we meet. “It doesn’t matter at all, it [was] just such a brilliant experience, learning so much really from the people I was playing for”.
“I don’t necessarily feel that my music owes me a living …….I don’t think you get one chance or one opportunity with your music”
Breaking out, going her own way if you like, was always the plan but it was to be done on merit. There was no consideration of using the artists she had performed with as a stepping stone or launch pad for her own career. As she approached the planned launch of her debut album as She Makes War, Disarm, she was working as a session musician with an established artist and considered pushing back its release. ”I didn’t want it to look like I was piggy-backing on them” she admits.
With her second album, Little Battles, released to the world and acclaimed by critics and fans on both sides of the Atlantic, she is unquestionably an established artist in her own right, yet her pragmatism remains. As does her passion for other media and work. She Makes War might be gaining Laura recognition and support from across the globe but it is not the only string to her bow or way of making money. ”What I do for work is mainly I’m a camera person, an editor and an events photographer and I do lots of social media stuff, lectures and things which all of which I love”.
Her expectations and wishes are modest and reasonable, ”I definitely wanna engineer it much more so that She Makes War’s the main thing or at least the musical output is the main thing and then everything else just supports it”. She aspires to have her music make up three-quarters of her income, and that’s income she needs to live, not three-quarters of a multi-million pound salary with endorsements and the like making up the remainder. That sense of entitlement that we mentioned exists within so many young artists these days is nowhere to be found.
“I don’t necessarily feel that my music owes me a living. I think I can make some money or at least I can cover my costs and that’s really what I wanna aim to do. I don’t think you get one chance or one opportunity with your music, I wanna be a career artist so I wanna keep releasing albums. One a year, one every two years, ‘till I’m an old lady and as long as I’ve got stuff to say”.
”People either love that term or they hate it but I don’t care cause I like it, I think it really describes what I do cause it’s not happy, shiny, lovey-dovey pop music”
Playing to less than the hordes she got used to on the road with others is not a cause for frustration or disappointment either. On the contrary, she gets genuinely excited by the crowds she can pull in, because it is she they have come to see. Her album launch show in an area of London not easily accessible by public transport exceeded her expectations, and she was blown away by the turnout, explaining that she thought it would take another year to draw that sort of crowd. Kidd understands it can be a slow journey to build a solid and sustained fan-base, ”if I can retain my current fan base and grow that over time then that’s wonderful”, especially on your own with only the money you personally make (or that you can raise via the likes of PledgeMusic) to put into it; it’s not something that fazes her.
”I don’t have any funding other than money I make myself through my work and not many musicians like saying that, they’d rather pretend that they’ve got loads of backing and everyone thinks they’re the best thing ever and I’m just a lot more realistic in that, I’m not shy to say ‘I’m not a well off person’, it is very sort of self made in that way”.
Her music suits her business model. It’s not something that is reliant on trends or that fits the current slash and burn mainstream model of music being a disposable commodity. She doesn’t make shiny pop, the kind where 90% of tracks appear on a perpetually rolling conveyor-belt and disappear off the end within a week. She makes ‘Gloom Pop’, a term we were previously not familiar with that Kidd herself coined to describe her sound. ”People either love that term or they hate it but I don’t care cause I like it, I think it really describes what I do cause it’s not happy, shiny, lovey-dovey pop music but it’s not not pop music either, it’s obviously pop music. I used to call it grungy pop music and then people got a bit too confused and started calling me grunge which is not appropriate in 2012 so I just call it gloom pop”.
It’s not a term we hate, but is certainly one we didn’t get to start with and one from which we drew some poor connotations. We expected her music to be much more morose and self-indulgent, bordering on emo. While it is introspective at times, it certainly doesn’t wallow in any way. We put this to her and she is receptive and considered. Our view, however misguided, is not dismissed and we are made to feel as if we have something to contribute, as well as being some more background on her thought process. ”For me gloom pop just implies genuine meaningful, heartfelt, but not happy”. It makes perfect sense when you say it like that.
“Bloggers are doing so much of a better job, spending much more time listening and really relating to it, and even if they don’t like it you can hear that they’ve heard it”
She is not as forgiving though about what she sees as a lack of respect, or even courtesy, from certain areas of the press. She is quick to point out that any criticism is valid and that she is not affected by poor reviews and she has been so open and honest that there is no reason to doubt her.
”My belief in my own music is not changed by someone’s bad opinion or someone’s good opinion. If someone says I’m amazing, I still feel the same about my music, if someone says I’m the worst shit they’ve ever heard, I still feel the same”. Her disappointment is when pieces are factually inaccurate or just lazily written or researched. Print articles in major publications that called Little Battles her debut album for example when the press release clearly identified it as her second, or another that read like the album hadn’t even been listened to as it completely misrepresented her sound.
”I can’t prescribe what people write about me and I don’t want to but that has pissed me off a little bit, especially when bloggers are doing so much of a better job, spending much more time listening and really relating to it, and even if they don’t like it you can hear that they’ve heard it”.
That’s not to say bloggers get off scot-free. The race to be first that so many us engage in is not a pastime Kidd is really a fan of. Album reviews going live within an hour of the record being made available to the press for example are particularly disrespectful. You can’t adequately comment on an album if you have barely had time to hear it, and it isn’t fair on the artist if you try to. An artist will work and craft and agonise over sounds, sometimes for years, and she feels (and we agree) that it is only a common courtesy to actually listen to an album a few times before you publish anything on it. The artist takes pride in their work and it sometimes feels, as we rush to post content and hopefully draw in readers before others, that the same cannot be said for the critic.
”I love the internet and I love digital publishing and I love digital photography and digital video and all this stuff but I’m still very conscious of the fact that you can put out untold amounts of shite on the Internet and clog it up. I’m quite careful about that. I don’t wanna put stuff out that’s just rubbish, whether it’s a blog post or even really a Tweet”.
It is that consideration, pragmatism and genuine goodness that helps set Kidd apart from other aspiring artists. She is quite prepared to graft to get where she wants, but she isn’t going to dump all over others to get there, nor does she expect it all just be handed on her. She may achieve her aspiration, she may not, but with her determination and realistic expectations, we fully expect to be hearing a lot more of Laura Kidd over the years. That her music is lovely will no doubt help a lot as well.
In Session… She Makes War – “Minefields” / In Session… She Makes War – “Exit Strategy” / Album Review: She Makes War – Little Battles / Watch: She Makes War – “Exit Strategy” / She Makes War Website