Miss Lauren Pratt | Nashville, TN, USA
“Pratt forges her own distinct path… Equally at ease with a warbling coo as she is with stern condescension, Days Like Tonight announces Pratt as a voice that can capture any mood and a writer of close-knit tales.” - Bucket Full of Nails
It was a dark and stormy night when the knock on the door echoed through the front hall. Observing the delivery man's uniform, the little girl cautiously turned the creaking door handle. The brown-clad man stumbled through the entryway, wrestling an oddly shaped package to the ground before returning to his oversized van and rumbling away down the road. The cardboard box was not much smaller than the the little girl, but oddly shaped. Her name might have been Pandora for all the curiosity funneling from her mind down to her itching finger tips. What happened next, no one could have imagined.
If fairy tales are intriguing, the truth is much more satisfyingly riveting. The South Florida day was, in fact, bright and full of promise when the Baby Taylor guitar arrived at Pratt’s doorstep like an unexpected relative. Up to that point, Pratt tinkered on piano, toyed with the clarinet, screeched on the violin, and hooted on the obligatory school recorder; none of them were fulfilling. The existential crisis that is the artistic pre-teen mind grew exponentially in length and breadth, until the solution dropped – quite literally – at her feet.
The guitar in question passed from a cousin in California, to the children of a family friend in New Hampshire, until it landed in South Florida. For Pratt, the connection was fingerpickin’ quick, as was the songwriting that had begun as poetry writing only a few years prior. Not wishing to overstay it’s welcome, the Baby Taylor quickly traveled on to Montana to serve the eager young musicians of another family friend. Pratt pursued what was once a habitual dalliance into songwriting by studying classical voice at Belhaven University in Jackson, Mississippi.
It was during these years that she took the southern influence (and the biscuits) to heart. During an opera internship somewhere high in the Rockies, Pratt realized it was "now or never" to truly sing her heart out. The Opera world almost had her by the throat, but she narrowly escaped and made it to the bright neon lights of Nashville in 2012.
Since that story began, Miss Lauren Pratt has independently released a full- length album Days Like Tonight out of Nashville, TN, and has toured over 30 venues in support throughout the country, including showcases at the 2016 Folk Alliance International Conference in Kansas City, MO. She is an active participant in the Nashville community, and is a member of NSAI, Folk Alliance International, and SESAC.
Miss Lauren Pratt is currently in the studio with co-producers Don Bates and Guthrie Brown working on a new project to be released in late 2016.
J: What is the story behind your song "One by One"?
PRATT: "One by One" was written from the perspective of someone dealing with addiction and the issues it causes for them and their loved ones. Ultimately, we all struggle with some form of idolatry and addiction, not always with substances. Everyone who has approached me about this song has a particular take on it. To me that's what true art is - it is Truth that reaches the heart of any person.
I had just moved to Nashville and was volunteering at the Hope Center with women recovering from substance abuse when I wrote this. Almost all of them had a family at home or estranged children they wanted to reconnect with, and I sympathized with that. The words flowed effortlessly along with the melody, although it took me a while to polish it.
J: Why do you write music?
PRATT: As my cousin says, "I do it because it is how I express myself to the world and find my place in it." At this point, I'd say it's compulsory, but I still find practicing and routine difficult. I never could get it down in college - three hours in a glass box doing vocal exercises? No thanks. I spent most of my undergrad studying the texts of operatic and writing my own lyrics. After graduation, I was poised to attend an MFA program for classical voice and was completing an internship at my second opera company, but it wasn't fulfilling or exciting to me. In the end, I packed my car and drove to Nashville wearing my first pair of cowboy boots (clearly a necessity).
J: What is your fondest musical memory?
PRATT: I apologize in advance for the length of this one...I am blessed to have three parents who were all instrumental in my musical education (pun intended), though none of them would accept that they are particularly gifted in music.
My father used to sing "Yellow Bird" to me, a Bahamian lullaby he heard as a child. He also sang me Beatles songs, but that proved to be tragic when I found out Lennon was dead. On the way to school in the mornings, we sang along to Alison Krauss.
My mother always had upbeat music playing - the B52s, the BeeGees, the Stones, anything you could dance to. Thanks to her, I know half of the "Rapper's Delight" and all of "Vogue" by Madonna. I fell asleep to James Taylor's Greatest Hits every night.
My step-mother sang Amazing Grace to me every night (especially soothing in The-Beatles-are-dead epoch), and to this day I know all five verses (yes, five). It's her I can thank for my deep and abiding love of hymns and four-part harmonies. When I was eight, the movie Ever After came out and life as I knew it changed forever. I fell in love with George Fenton's film score, and Loreena McKennitt's music on the trailer. I grew up with Celtic music stringing itself through my ears on both sides of my family and into my heart like a mystical and ancient luthier.
When I was seven years old, I went to see Alison Krauss and the Union Station perform in Tampa, FL. All I remember was being struck by this angelic sound and declaring, "that is what I want to be". I wrote a letter to Alison in my best first-grader's script and six months later I received a manila envelope addressed to me from Nashville. I still remember my father looking at me skeptically over the envelope saying, "Who is sending you mail? You're seven." It turned out to be a signed portrait of Alison that simply said: "To Lauren, I'm glad you liked the concert! I'd love to hear you sing. Alison Krauss". For the past 18 years, that portrait has hung on my bedroom wall, no matter where I lived. Every experience since then has been a variation on those themes.
J: If you could open a set for anyone, who would it be?
PRATT: Oh, goodnight. This is a difficult one. Mostly because I live in of the highest concentrations of musical talent in the world and every week it seems I meet another excellent musician. Encompassing multitudes of talent aside, I have to say Alison Krauss.
J: Why is independent music important to you?
PRATT: Now, more than ever, the world is a DIY canvas for the arts. However, supply and demand makes it difficult for those who have the talent and will to make music their primary income. Soundcloud and Spotify haven't done much for me, nor many other independent artists. Why would people pay when they can stream or illegally download? Creative solutions to this exist in sites like Noisetrade that allow artists to give away music for free in exchange for emails and zip codes - invaluable knowledge to the touring artist when booking shows.
For the independent artist, creating a fanbase in the social media age is vital. I'm curious to see how this will affect us (musicians) moving forward. As Sting says, we’re "rewarded for revealing [our] innermost thoughts, [our] private emotions on the page for the analysis, the scrutiny of others." Artists are expressive, but they are also very private about certain things. In this day and age, everyone expects full access to everything - they want to know where you are, what you're doing, what you think - it's become quite the red line to tread when trying to build a fanbase and also maintain peace of mind and a private creative thinking space.
The Folk and Americana scenes are burgeoning with intelligent musicians and songs, which greatly bolsters my hope for the future of the music industry and consequently, for myself.
J: What is your advise to fellow independent artists?
PRATT: Become a good project manager for your band. Maintain contact with those you meet at the beginning of your career. Copyright your songs. Sign with a PRO. Keep track of everything - for tax write-offs and PRO payments. Always have things to sell at shows – people want to give you money. Be a regular in the writer’s round circuits, but only play solo shows every month or so in your town. Co-write as much as possible. Be nice – we’re all in this together.
J: Aren't you releasing music soon?
PRATT: I’m in the studio with two of my good friends, Don Bates and Guthrie Brown, working on the material for a new album right now. I released my debut album, Days Like Tonight, this past August.