by Alex Teitz
Laura Kidd is a prolific songwriter, producer, director who works under the name She Makes War. Her music is both alternative and mainstream. She released “I Want My Country Back” to coincide with the UK election. She released Direction of Travel last year and is already working on the next album. She Makes War will be playing at the Loud Women Festival before beginning her next continental Europe tour. FEMMUSIC was honored to speak with her. For info visit http://shemakeswar.com/
FEMMUSIC: Can you describe your songwriting technique?
LK: I always think in terms of collections of songs – and so far that’s meant albums – because I want to create a musical world each time which the listener can immerse themselves in, if they choose to. The title and themes come first, a culmination of experiences, world view and personal interests at the time, then the songs start coming subconsciously inspired by those. As for the practical side, it varies, but for the latest batch of songs I either came up with melodies and chord progressions to follow them, or the other way round, and I tried to write the arrangements of the songs in one sitting. I either wrote the lyrics the same day or a few days later, and edited a few bits and pieces later on when I made “posh demos”, by which I mean proper layered demos with all the drums, bass, guitar and backing vocal parts, plus keyboards where the cello and piano would go. I demo as I write so I can get all the ideas down.
FEMMUSIC: I understand you are working on your next album. What are your goals and vision for it?
LK: I finished recording my new album in May and it was mixed in June, just before I went away to spend 7 weeks in Indonesia for a British Council funded music exchange programme which was a complete break from my own creative life. Now I’m home my goal is to create all the artwork for it and figure out the best way to release it next spring. My vision for the music was to up my production and arranging game from previous releases and to make a set of songs that sound really coherent but still take the listener on a music journey inside my head. The songs are about love, bereavement, mental health and inner strength.
FEMMUSIC: Are you approaching it in a different way from Direction of Travel?
LK: The main difference between the new record and Direction Of Travel is that this album was written in a happier, hopefully wiser state of mind and in one location – my home in South Bristol. I wasn’t exorcising any particular demons or working through any particular issues, but looking back at my life so far and picking out some key events that shaped me as a person. It’s very freeing to know that I can make an album I’m excited about and proud of when I’m not in a state of heartbreak or bitter regret.
FEMMUSIC: What is the biggest challenge making the new album?
LK: As always, finances are an issue. I never want to compromise on the quality of my work, and it costs money to work with people who can realize your dreams. I produce my own music and this time I had the supremely talented Dan Austin both engineering and mixing (he mixed Direction Of Travel), and it was by far the most fun, enjoyable recording process I’ve ever had. Working with someone who respects my vision and has the talent to make it sound even better than I could have imagined is just brilliant, I’m very lucky to have found him.
FEMMUSIC: How has your own songwriting and production changed over time? What do you wish you knew earlier?
LK: With the latest album I forced myself to finish lyrics very shortly after writing the music for each song. Previously I’ve left lyrics right up to the wire, which is a technique that has its benefits and drawbacks, but this time I wanted to make sure that the melody and meaning of each song was very clear to enable me to pick out the songs that fit best within the title and themes I’d decided on for the record. I like working like that, the titles of the albums come to me really early on and then everything is shaped by that. I’ve already picked out the title for album 5 and my thoughts around that are starting to coalesce.
FEMMUSIC: As a woman in the music industry have you been discriminated against?
LK: Of course, and it sucks. There will always be the odd idiot around, but I have found that the more I’ve grown as an artist, the more professional I’ve become and the better I am at what I do, the fewer of those people actually speak up and get in my way. There’s absolutely no excuse for sexism, or for being unprofessional when working with artists, but I try to give people the benefit of the doubt to start with. Some people are awkward and don’t know how to deal with artists, some people act differently around solo artists of any gender (it’s easier to be in a band because there are more of you!) and some are misogynists. I think it’s important to try and work out the difference, because essentially when I’m playing gigs I just want everything to go smoothly, and a grumpy sound engineer, misogynist or no, shouldn’t be the reason I or my audience don’t have a good time. I haven’t come across much sexism online yet, the most annoying thing so far has been when reviewers don’t read the press release properly and start crediting my engineer/mixer as the producer. When you’ve created every aspect of a piece of music that can feel like a slap in the face, but again I think that’s just someone’s lack of care over details rather than a misogynist swipe at my role.
FEMMUSIC: Whom would you most like to tour with or collaborate with and why?
LK: I’m a huge Prodigy and UNKLE fan, it would be a dream come true to contribute vocals to their songs in the future. As for touring, my favourites at the moment are The Big Moon and Marika Hackman.
FEMMUSIC: What one thing would you like to change about the music industry?
LK: It would be really cool if people gave you opportunities based on merit, not whatever they think is cool at the moment. If audiences were emboldened to figure out what they actually like rather then being fed stuff through advertising that would be great too, though I appreciate with a gazillion bands to sift through that’s too overwhelming for most people! I would just encourage people to go with their gut instinct – if you like something, you don’t need someone else to tell you that’s okay! There are no “guilty pleasures” in music in my opinion.