Cornelia Murr has some friends everyone would like to meet. Her new album Lake Tear of the Clouds was produced by Jim James of My Morning Jacket. It also features Bo Kester of MMJ. It features Shane and Justin from Amo Amo, and a little known artist Lola Kirke is also there.
Beyond having good friends, Murr has an album with a voice all its own. It delves fully into that area between ethereal and dream pop. The songs transport the listener to a dreamlike state while wrapping them in a bed of woven lyrics. As example of this is “Tokyo Kyoto”
FEMMUSIC: Lake Tear of the Clouds was originally going to be a 4 song EP. What made you decide to make it more? What standard did you use for a song to make the album?
CM: We had a very finite amount of studio time that initially seemed like it would only allow for an EP, so that was the plan. But then when I was going through demos trying to decide which songs to record, there were just so many more than 4 calling out. I had been writing for so long without ever releasing any of it so I just had a lot of material stored up. In the end it was Jim who said what the hell – why don’t we try to bust out a few more songs in the days we have and make a full length, so that’s just what we did. It wasn’t a leisurely few days in the studio but it ended being actually the perfect amount of time, not allowing me to overthink things too much. (Though I did the vocals at home and took my time with those.) The songs that ended up on there are a mixture of old songs that were most dear to me and seemed to get along with some new ones that I knew I wanted on there. The Yoko Ono cover was just a song I was enjoying singing to myself around that time that my friend Audrey had introduced me to. It’s such a great song that didn’t seem as well known to the world as it should be.
FEMMUSIC: What was the biggest challenge making Lake Tear of the Clouds?
CM: I’d say equal parts self-doubt and tuning trouble, haha. I had never really had anyone pay attention to my songs before because I wasn’t confident they were worthy, so just getting over the paranoia that I was wasting everyone’s time was a big internal challenge. And then the Omnichord has a mind of its own when it comes to tuning – it definitely is out of tune with some other instruments on some tracks which made the vocals VERY hard to do. But in the end I think some of that weird tuning creates a good kind of tension.
FEMMUSIC: You worked with both Jim James & Bo Koster of My Morning Jacket on the album. How did you meet? What made you decide to have James produce?
CM: I had met Jim over the years in a couple of different musical scenarios but then we properly met one night at a mutual friend’s party. He walked in the door when I was singing a Supremes cover with my friend Lola Kirke, and we just hit if off that night. I met Bo through Jim and just asked if he would lay some stuff down when we were recording, and he very graciously agreed.
FEMMUSIC: James is also producing Amo Amo’s album. I see you were working with Shane & Justin for Lake Tear of the Clouds. How was it to work with them? What did they bring to the project?
CM: Those guys are the best rhythm section around. It’s crazy to go from hardly ever playing my songs with anyone to then having those guys in my band. I’m just so lucky. They’re impeccable players but yet love to get weird and groovy and are dear friends of mine on top of that. They comprehended my songs on a level that I never knew was possible – like on a song called “Cicada” for instance, it’s very strange and in a jazzy time signature that has the potential to sound really forced and awkward, but they just made it so fun to play and brought the best out of everything.
FEMMUSIC: You’re signed to Autumn Tone Records. Why did you sign with them? How is it working with them?
CM: Autumn Tone was the first offer I got. I was just happy to get one at all and I really respect Justin’s taste in music (Justin Gage that is, who runs Autumn Tone and Aquarium Drunkard). Also my friend Greta (Springtime Carnivore) is on that label and had nice things to say about working with them, so that was that!
FEMMUSIC: Can you describe your songwriting technique?
CM: Hmmm I don’t think I will ever be able to answer this question well. Either a song appears in a few minutes or it takes me years and endless re-writes to consider it worthwhile. Usually it’s the latter. I don’t really ever consider something finished, that part is very hard for me. One thing I pretty much always do is record while working out a song, for better or worse. I have thousands of voice memos and garageband files that I shudder to think about anyone ever discovering, because it’s mostly just me playing things over and over with different lyrics or parts, trying out so many ideas that will end up getting rejected. I gotta make some plan about what to do with all that haha… But I just like having it all recorded however haphazardly so I can remember ideas and bring in old ones if they want to come back. Also changing instruments helps sometimes, if I’m feeling stuck on guitar I’ll bring in my friend the omnichord or keys or something. I never really use beats, but I love recording shakers and claps and banging on walls and things for percussion ideas, that can also really open up a song when it’s lagging. Harmonies too. My songs tend to rely heavily on them.
FEMMUSIC: What song (not your own) has had the biggest influence on you and why?
CM: Right now I’m going to say Mariah Carey’s “Heartbreaker” – because I remember singing that at the top of my lungs in 1999 and realizing that not only did I really love to sing but I could, like, hit some of those high notes and that made me feel pretty special.
FEMMUSIC: As a woman in the music industry have you been discriminated against?
CM: I mean – of course. I’m sure most women can attest to getting weird vibes in, say, a music store for example. You often either get hit on or ignored. Both obstacles to just getting what you need in there. Sound check is another scenario where some serious dick swinging often goes down. My dear friend (and magical singer), Becky Stark, recently gave me a super helpful (and hilarious) feminist guide to soundcheck over the course of a few very long text messages. I employed this guide at my last show and it did really help. Just certain ways of making sure your voice is optimally heard (no compression on the mid range for example, this the heart center frequency of your voice!). That’s the most common drag for me I guess – saying very deliberately to the (usually male) sound person how I want the levels to be on my voice and on every other element, and then of course at the show my voice ends up buried and the electric guitar is all jacked.
FEMMUSIC: Whom would you most like to collaborate with, or tour with? Why?
CM: Well, I love Meg Duffy of Hand Habits for one – would love to work with her in any capacity because she’s the best guitar player around, has such great songs, and is a sweet person. Touring with my friend Lola will probably happen and would be a blast because she’s my best friend. I guess dream scenario collab would probably be Kate Bush, if I’m allowed to dream here. I don’t think I need to say why.
FEMMUSIC: What one thing would you like to change about the music industry?
CM: The percentage that artists are paid through streaming services. It’s pretty criminal…