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Plenty of people already know Laura Welsh as the frontwoman of the London-based band Laura and the Tears. But since the group disbanded a few years ago, she’s been performing as a solo artist — and luckily, we’ve been hearing lots more of her since then. Back in March, the soulful crooner released her debut LP Soft Control in March, where she worked with big names like Blood Orange’s Dev Hynes, John Legend and Emile Haynie. Influenced by iconic artists like Carole King, Prince, and D’Angelo, Welsh has put her own twist on pop by making soul the sole focus (get it?). Alongside her release, she recently came off of a support run with UK dance-poppers Years & Years. Welsh dished to us recently about her band’s breakup, working with John Legend and how to get her look.
What’s the biggest transformation you’ve made since Laura and the Tears disbanded and you went solo? For me it felt like the timing of it was the right thing to do. I gained a lot of experience by playing live up and down the UK, but for me, musically something wasn’t quite right. Because I had that experience, I knew musically what direction I wanted to go in. When I was writing for the record, during the year I knew to trust my instincts. When you’re on your own, you don’t need to compromise as opposed to when you’re with other people.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced since going solo? I don’t think it’s going solo because I knew I wanted to do that. Throughout the process of making the album, it was important that I made music that I wanted to make without compromising. There can always be a lot of outside opinions, so for me, it was about making sure I was staying true to the path I wanted to take. It’s important to trust your instincts and do what you want to do.
How does your LP Soft Control represent that transformation? I wrote some of the key songs for the album after the band fell apart. I kind of took a step back for a year. I didn’t play any live shows. During that time, I wrote songs like “Ghosts” and a song called “Call To Arms,” which for me I knew was the start of this record. They were key songs that were written when I was in a place where you need perspective on what you’ve been through. I write from personal experience so it’s really about what was going on during that time. I had just put those songs up online and started making the album.
You collaborated with a lot of big names on your debut LP — Dev Hynes, John Legend and Emile Haynie — who were you most excited to work with? Well, John Legend was incredible. I love his music, so to go in and write with him was just an amazing experience. He’s such a talented musician. We just went into his studio in LA and recorded a demo. It was really cool just stripping it back and writing on keys. Robin Hannibal was somebody I just clicked with musically. I met him in LA for the first time and we just hung out and chatted about music. That was good because I knew straight away, musically, we were on the same page. “Cold Front” came out of our first day together.
Is there a consistent theme throughout your album that connects the songs together? It’s an album that I’ve written from my own experiences, and I think that’s what I wanted to do. For me, it’s about taking back control when things fall apart. It’s making sure you come out the other side. There are songs that are lyrically a little bit darker, but it touches on a few significant relationships I’ve had. It’s the journey back from that. For me, by nature I’m not the kind of person that can have easy conversations about how I’m feeling. When I write, it’s reactive and emotional.
You have a really great smoky eye in every photo taken of you. What’s your secret for a standout smoky eye? I use quite a bit of MAC Cosmetics with eye shadow underneath to give it a bit of smoke and a really small flick. I basically never leave the house without mascara on either. I’m using Benefit mascara at the moment called ‘Bad Girl Lashes.’ It’s really good.
What do you recommend people do in order to copy your amazing hair? I use loads of dry shampoo and backcombing. I think dry shampoo, hair spray and backcombing is my ritual. I use Baptiste Dry Shampoo and I love Bumble & Bumble mousse. That’s the best for getting loads of body in your hair.
There are a lot of up-and-coming dark pop female musicians — how do you feel like you stand out? I try not to think about that too much because you’re always going to get compared to somebody. I wanted to focus on making music that I was 100% happy with as well. I just wanted to make an album I loved and didn’t want to worry about what anyone else was doing. That’s how I make music and how I’ll continue to make music.