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A Song of Her Own

Eugene singer/songwriter Halie Loren to record album of originals
Halie Loren

Oodles of music fans around the world recognize the voice of Eugene musician Halie Loren — that smooth, rich, pitch-perfect instrument that’s graced nine album’s worth of pop and jazz. Fewer, it would seem, are aware that Loren is also a crackerjack songwriter, but one listen to “Butterfly” from her most recent album, Butterfly Blue, reveals a sophisticated composer and lyricist who seems poised to soar solely on the strength of her own originals.

For years, fans, friends and fellow musicians have been urging Loren to take the leap and release an album devoted exclusively to her original work. That time appears to have arrived. The songwriter is currently in pre-production work with producer Troy Miller — who’s worked with the likes of Amy Winehouse, Jamie Cullum, Gregory Porter and Laura Mvula — and is crowd-funding the new album through a Kickstarter campaign.

Eugene Weeklycaught up with Loren this week to talk about her latest project.

 

Tell us about the new project?

I'm about to go into the studio to create a new album; it’ll be my tenth album, but this time the spotlight is going to be on my original music. So it connects my identity as a recording artist, singer and songwriter, giving equal attention to all three of those roles that I get to play. I’ve been waiting a really long time to create an album that highlights my songs as the primary focus. And so, as a result, this album feels like an intensely personal and artistically important undertaking for me. I wanted to do something entirely different, approach-wise, in order to completely step into a new realm. And so I'm going to be working with a producer rather than self-producing, for the first time in my career, and working in the context of other studios instead of my own. And essentially stepping outside all my comfort zones in hopes of making something that surprises my fans and me in new way.

In order to embark on this pretty big step outside the ordinary for me, I’ve taken on something else new for me, which is a crowd-funding campaign through Kickstarter to help fuel this project, and give it possibilities that it wouldn’t otherwise have, and by that, I mean the music. The kickstarter campaign also has opened up this entirely new door for me to be able to interact with my fans and the listeners of my music in a totally different way, as kind of partners in the process, as opposed to being more of a lone wolf about it. I get to engage with people about it while I’m doing it. It's also kind of scary for me; it’s more akin to the live experience in a way. It's about engagement.

 

Was it a tough decision, to ask people for money for a record?

Absolutely. It’s hard to ask no matter what you do — whether you’re an artist or not. It’s challenging for humans to ask each other for help, or for time, for effort. But I had to work up to this for a really long time. I read prospectives on it. I watched other people’s interviews on it, got all these angles on what crowdfunding is all about. I really had to change my thinking about what it all really means.

And my sheepishness has sort of morphed into less of an asking for a favor and more of an invitation for people who are already interested to have access. It feels more like an exchange of energies, and a fun collaboration. It’s always hard to ask. It never stops being hard to ask; at least it hasn’t yet for me. Because you’re putting yourself out there, you're making yourself vulnerable. There’s always that small part of yourself that you feel responding with that independent streak — putting so much value on being able to do it all yourself, and that pressure to keep going that direction even when it's self limiting and even harming what you're trying to do, just for the sake of knowing you can go it alone. Being totally a one-man army for your art. That doesn’t always serve the art. So I'm trying something new.

 

Why an album of originals right now?

For a lot of different reasons. One, I've had a dream of doing a project like this for years, but I kept sort of putting it off and saying, ‘Oh, the next time.’ And now here I am with nine albums, and I felt like maybe waiting until the moment where it felt safe to step out in a new direction, I would just be waiting forever. Because I’ve made all these albums that have mostly been focused on known songs, by the jazz greats and by some of music’s most notable songwriters, I’ve sort of put my identity as a songwriter as a peripheral identity. But, in truth, I’ve been writing songs as long as I’ve been a professional musician, and they're just as much a part of my internal identity as being a vocalist is. I've sort of underplayed it my entire career.

I have gotten so much feedback for so many years from so many people who listen to albums and who have seen me live that they would really love to know when I’m going to create an album of original music, because they really have felt a connection with the songs that are mine, and fully my voice. There’s a different kind of connection that they have to those songs. After enough times hearing that, it stirred my own courage on being able to take this step ... I’ve heard a lot of encouragement from a lot of people, and that has definitely helped me in making the decision in making this artistic move. Artists are sensitive; we're scared to reveal ourselves to the world when it’s really personal. So hearing that feedback, it means something.

Thirdly, I’ve written some songs in the last year or two that I feel more compelled to put out into the world than anything I’ve written in the past. I really need for these songs to live. And I have a strong feeling that someone else out there might really gain something soul-food wise from these same songs, that I’ve gained a lot of personal strength from, hopefully.

 

What’s the status of the campaign right now?

As of right now, it’s at 80 percent of the goal, which is really an amazing thing to see so much outpouring of support, with still nine days to go. I’m super grateful for the contributions that everybody’s who’s participated has made so far. It’s really been an extremely humbling experience in many ways, to see how many people are willing to get behind this. It’s an amazing trust that they're putting in me, and in turn I’m really trusting my fans to help lift this project up. We’re making it happen together. One of the most fun things of doing this Kickstarter campaign is seeing which rewards people choose, because I’ve created so many different options. Original art created by me was one of the most popular packages. So many people have responded to the packages that are nature oriented. There's a calendar where I'm going to Photoshop the fan’s cat and me. I love that. It tickles me.

 

Tell me about the album itself?

We’re going to be recording my original songs, myself and the producer Troy Miller, who has worked with so many artists that I deeply admire, including Jamie Cullum, Gregory Porter, Laura Mvula, Amy Winehouse … and I really admire his artistry, and I’m super excited that we are going to be collaborating. I think it’s going to blow my mind what he comes up with, and what we come up with together as a result. We are going to be working both in London and New York. What we’ll ultimately be working on is somewhere between ten and 12 songs for the album — some that I cannot leave off of this project, and a few that I absolutely love, but I'll see when we put our heads together what one of these songs will really steer the album together in a cohesive direction that we can really get excited about. A big part of the excitement for me of working with Troy and working outside the zone I've been working in for so long is that I will get to focus almost entirely on the creative aspects as opposed to technical studio aspects of the recording process, and I don’t know what that feels like. My entire career I've spent having to wear so many hats at the same time recording an album.

 

For further information or to donate to Halie Loren’s new album, visit her Facebook page or go to https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/halieloren/halie-loren-is-making-a-new-album. — Rick Levin