Laura Nyro (1993)
Nedanstående intervju med Laura Nyro – som jag antar är den enda som gjorts av en svensk journalist – genomfördes per telefon 20 oktober 1993 (Stockholm-Danbury, Connecticut). Intervjun gjordes med anledning av hennes då aktuella album Walk the dog & light the light.
Dan: It´s a great priviledge for me to speak to you.
Laura: Oh, thank you.
Dan: You know, I´m nervous…I have been listening to your music for such a long time…
Laura: How long?
Dan: Well, since Christmas & The Beads Of Sweat.
Laura: That´s pretty long (laughs).
Dan: Are you in New York right now?
Laura: Well, I spend time in Connecticut. Have you ever heard of Connecticut? It´s near New York. It has..like…lots of trees, you know. So I spend time in Connecticut with the trees. But I have family and friends and work in New York. I spend time in the city and then with nature, you know, with the trees.
Dan: Have you ever been to Sweden?
Laura: No, I mean it´s kind of exciting to be on the phone…I mean I didn´t know if anybody knew my music in Sweden…but anyway I never been there though.
Dan: Please take the next flight.
Laura: Allright, maybe I´ll be able to go there in the next year and maybe sing a little bit.
Dan: Yeah, that would be great. Meanwhile it´s nice to have you back with this new album (Walk The Dog & Light The Light). I understand that you´ve been fed up with the music business for periods in your career, is it fun making music again?
Laura: Well, you know it´s funny because…eh…there has been many years when I went out and sang…you know…going to all the different clubs around the country. Sometimes it would be, let´s say, just me and the keyboard, very simple. But I´ve always kept the music alive in my life. I would work like…you know…thousands of musicians; they go out and they work their music. But often, when I was out working, it just wasn´t a big media thing. So sometimes I´ve noticed that people don´t know how much I´ve been singing over the years. For about three years I was playing clubs and theatres, I had a band, and some people don´t know I´ve made a recording a few years ago, called Laura Live At The Bottom Line, so I really have kept the music more alive than sometimes people think. But as far as having fun…yes, I´m having fun definitly with the music…and it´s very hard work. I´m not crazy about the music business…certain aspects of it…sometimes I feel like I belong in another profession.
Dan: Do you feel it difficult working in a cynical, commercial world like the pop world?
Laura: It doesn´t do that much for me, you know, I don´t relate to it in a big way. I would rather just read poetry or take a walk with my dog.
Dan: You mean you still find it important to make music, although the business side is…
Laura: …well, it´s like the way you put it. I think that I´m into being…let´s see…I try to find common ground with all the different people that I´m working with, they´re also trying to find common ground with me, to a certain degree, so…when you got that going then it feels right, then it´s workable. But if, as an artist, I feel true to one thing and if I´m being asked to give that up to do something else, that doesn´t work. But the thing is that it really doesn´t matter because I don´t pay to much attention to that anyway. I just think that the music business today is a little bit…eh…it´s more controlled than it used to be. It used to be more variety, more of a surprise…more freedom in music, and I personally like that kind of music better. But you can always find something to love in the music that´s happening. This week I got this cassette of Van Morrisons new recording (Out Of Exile) and I just loved it.
Dan: Yeah I can understand that. Sometimes I can feel a connection between you and Van Morrison. Both of you are making some sort of white soul…that also has a timeless quality to it.
Laura: You know, with him it´s like…you listen to the music and i´ts very…especially with his new recording…it´s like this very sensual music, it´s like you just feel it, I mean in your gut, but it´s like…eh…it´s very spiritually satisfying. You know that he knows. I just loved that recording.
Dan: You told me about a dog. Is it your dog pictured on the cover of the new album?
Laura: Yeah, that´s the little dog.
Dan: Do you have more dogs?
Laura: No, that´s his baby picture. He´s big now. You know he´s been with me for fourteen years. He´s a big Shepherd. A Belgian Shepherd, not a German.
Dan: In an old article from The New York Times I read something about a dog named Beautybelle, is this the same dog?
Laura: No, it´s not and you know…there´s certain amount of information that I have noticed that isn´t accurate…like in the past that is circulating. If you wan´t to be accurate Dan, you gotta check with me first (laughs).
Dan: It´s difficult finding articles about you.
Laura: I know…and also for a long time I didn´t do interviews…but now it´s fine.
Dan: It´s not just for the record company?
Laura: I feel that for me it´s part of a communication that I feel fine with…you know…discussing music. So Dan, what kind of music do you like?
Dan: Well, your music of course…soul music…singer/songwriters like Joni Mitchell and Rickie Lee Jones. Do you feel you have influenced them in any way?
Laura: Rickie Lee Jones has said that me and Van Morrison…that she had grown up on our music. I think she is a really swinging musician. Definitely.
Dan: The choice of Gary Katz as a producer seemed rather odd…
Laura: …in what way?
Dan: Well, you know, I love his production work with Steely Dan but I think that…he..maybe should be to macho for you…
Laura: Well, you know Gary loves soul music and Gary has been around for a very long time. He grew up through many different times in music, you know what I mean, he knows all that old school of music, he does know that. And he´s got this really nice studio and he can make a good, clean professional record. He can go in with an approach that´s simple and he´s open minded to a certain degree and not a producer that is going to impose on me, or try to impose on me a definite style, because that would not work. So I feel that those were some of the strong points with Gary. But of course, he and I are…two independent thinkers and..(laughs).
Dan: Why do you laugh?
Laura: ´Cause I´m thinking back…it was quite amazing that we…you know…that we just came out of it alive (laughs). But I´m very, very happy with what we created together.
Dan: I think your records between Smile and this one has been…if I may say so…rather dissapointing…the production and the musicians hasn´t really matched the songs. But this new record is something else. Much better.
Laura: Oh, thank you, and you know I think that´s true.
Dan: There are good songs on those albums, of course, but the production has been too ”soft”, if you know what I mean.
Laura: I think it´s true that this production has bite.
Dan: Yeah, you don´t only have this soft, tender side, you also have these funky grooves…
Laura: Definitely. Gary and I produced it together. He is a professional record maker…and we…I think that each one of us brought our strenght to it and…eh..it was so easy to sing, it was like…just delightful and it happend right away. Mixing…oh my God…mixing took a hundred times longer (laughs) beacuse we had to match three peoples…vision of what this record was gonna sound like mixvise, and you know things can change quite a bit in the mix. So you know it was very hard work…but we got through it. You wanna be sweet and good to the people that you work with but sometimes you just have too fight…you know. I had to forget about being sweet at certain times (laughs).
Dan: Do we have to wait six or ten years for the next record?
Laura: Definitely not. In fact one of the things that I´m working on is…eh…I´m putting this harmony group together, did I mention that to you?
Laura: Oh, my goodness, wow, it is some kind of…harmony group. It´s hard for me to describe, but it´s really…I find it just really special. The singers in it are great, there´s not even a band, it´s me and the keyboard and the harmony group and…eh…for me this is like…eh…what´s happening with the music, so we´re gonna go out and we´re gonna sing…on weekends…some of us are mothers and have children and we´re trying to take care of them…so there´s a whole balancing thing happening and we´re gonna be…eh…Christmas Eve at The Bottom Line and I just might record that.
Dan: Sounds great! Do you think that Columbia will reissue your older records as a boxed set?
Laura: I was told that if Walk The Dog & Light The Light does nicely then…well yes.
Dan: Would you like that?
Laura: It doesn´t thrill me that half of my records are out of print…
Dan: They´re still as good as they were in the sixties.
Laura: I don´t listen to them…but you know what I did hear…let´s see…Gonna Take A Miracle…I did hear that because I was at someone´s house and it was on and I enjoyed it.
Dan: What about the Laura Nyro-myths, were you eccentric?
Laura: No. I think that…there was a certain period of time…okey let me put it this way…I think that the present times can get sensational…and…listen, even today sometimes someone can call me eccentric, but, you wanna know something…what does it really mean? Sometimes you can mean it in a gentle way and sometimes it´s a put down; it means this person is not to be taken seriously. You know a lot of my songs are very serious, I´m like dead serious about certain things and I feel that I´m writing about the world, through my own eyes, through a womans eyes and sometimes I have this sexism coming at me and even today sometimes I´m called like…I could be called eccentric, that the things that I write about are eccentric, but I tell you…it´s some sort of a way of not taking a woman artist seriously, I know that game already…you know…at this point it´s like people will say what they will say but I think that´s if it´s not clear it will get clearer that I´m not fooling around as far as music goes.
Dan: Have you ever made a video?
Laura: I haven´t been asked to do a video yet. If I could do like a…you know…a very independent video…I might consider it.
Dan: It´s like you still do the same kind of music you grew up with; Motown, Spector, Curtis Mayfield and so on.
Laura: Yeah. Always. I just remember being a very young teenager, like thirteen, and just like listening on my little record player, listening and listening to Curtis Mayfields songs with the Impressions, you know, for hours and days and weeks and months and years. I used to find a lot of comfort in his music.
Dan: Just like I find comfort listening to your music.
Laura: Maybe it is the same thing.
Dan: Do you listen a lot to new music…or…I get the impression that you´re not bying records yourself…
Laura: No. If I´m very drawn to something and if I can´t resist it I get it. It´s funny because right now all I´m doing is listening to harmonies, to the new harmony group, and when I´m on my way to the harmony group I listen to Vans new recording and sometimes I even listen to a meditation tape just to…you know…let go with the world and find some quietness.
Dan: How´s the weather in Connecticut right now?
Laura: Well, you know it´s autumn and autumn in Connecticut is just beautiful. Do you have autumn in Sweden?
Dan: Yeah. Sure. But right now it´s more like winter, but without snow. It´s terrible. But this is not what we were supposed to talk about; the weather in Sweden, so let me ask you: what´s your plan for the rest of the day?
Laura: Let me see…my son will be home from school later and…
Dan: How old is he?
Laura: He´s fifteen. Just basicly I will be organizing things for the harmony group and from that to washing the dishes and…just all kinds of things. And later I will be going to New York.
©Dan Backman 1993
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