Laura-Mary Carter, one half of the mighty Blood Red Shoes, is set to release her solo debut album “Town Called Nothing” on 3rd December.
Andy Von Pip had a chat with Laura- Mary about going solo, Jimi Hendrix’s bedroom, starting a podcast, and returning to touring with Blood Red Shoes.
After 17 years alongside bandmate Steven Ansell as part of acclaimed duo Blood Red Shoes, Laura-Mary Carter is releasing a mini debut album “Town Called Nothing.” To be clear this is not a collaboration, this is very much all Carter’s work and it’s a beautiful album tinged with a wistful sense of melancholy. The stirring title track also encapsulates the sense of displacement that runs throughout the album. “To be honest I’d written these tracks before lockdown” explains Carter. “But with all our gigs cancelled it gave me time to work on them and record them”. The title track certainly demonstrates Carter’s vocal range and shows a softer side which isn’t perhaps apparent when singing and shredding as part of Blood Red Shoes. It was also the first track she wrote for the album, “ I suppose it does capture the essence of the album, a sense of abandonment of heartbreak and restlessness. I seem to have an inability to stay in one place, and I guess the songs do reflect my true self. ”
Carter’s nomadic lifestyle was influenced by her Irish family when she was a child. They moved around to the extent that she was the only one of three siblings to be born in the UK. As a teenager, a Tarot card reader once predicted Carter’s wanderlust. “I mean I know a lot of that stuff can be nonsense” she laughs “but that tarot reader really did say a lot of things that made sense later. Like saying that I’d travel lots but only stay in places for a day, which is very weird as that basically is my life on tour.” Carter has performed well over 1000 shows all over the world and sometimes can spend more than 250 days a year away from home.
After taking a break from Blood Red Shoes Carter moved to L.A. but even there she was constantly on the move exploring new environments. She eventually paused at one place which had a battered acoustic guitar hanging on the wall, with a couple of missing strings. Unable to tune it properly she started writing. “It was strange that the music I wrote at that stage came out sounding like it did because I’d never previously considered myself to be an Americana fan.” She reflects “ However since writing the album I’ve discovered lots of things I do love about the genre. So it will be interesting to see what my next album will sound like.” Despite the Americana flourishes and country leanings, there are still moments that recall Blood Red Shoes such as on one of the album’s standout tracks the cinematic “The City We Live In.” “I guess it’s bound to seep in somewhere” reasons Carter “but I did try to approach this album in a different way than I would do writing for Blood Red Shoes. I also wanted to explore my voice and use it as more of an instrument. I mean I’ve always been in a band as part of a duo with Steve since my teens, and I’m certainly the more reserved one. So I wanted to break away, to find that voice, but not break from my band because I love Blood Red Shoes. But it’s important as you progress as an artist to have another creative outlet. When I write for Blood Red Shoes we both know what we want it to sound like, but outside of that Steve and I like very different music. He’s brilliant at electronic production whereas I love singer-songwriter stuff like Elliot Smith.”
It was also a case of trying to almost reset herself as an individual and not just be viewed as ‘Laura in Blood Red Shoes.’ Finding her voice meant finding her true self and expressing her own experiences. “It can be very frustrating and it still happens even now but people do tend to go to Steve as the authoritative voice of the band,” she says. “It’s not Steve’s fault, he’s cool and very outgoing and I’m much more reserved. But people seem to forget we are a collaboration. Perhaps being a duo and male /female has something to do with it, like if I was the lead singer in a band with four men it might not seem like an issue. Sometimes I feel I don’t get put in the same bracket as other female artists who are known as songwriters because I’m in a band with a man. Maybe it’s in my head, but this album maybe will go some way to soothing my sensitive musician brain.”
During lockdown Carter has kept herself busy with a number of projects “it’s great being a musician in that you have a creative focus although I imagine like many during the pandemic, sometimes you just don’t feel like doing anything and there were times when I just sat around eating crisps’ ‘ she laughs. Carter also started a podcast with her good friend Carré Calleway AKA, Queen Kwong. The podcast entitled “Never Meet Your Idols” invites musicians to chat about meeting their idols. Izzy from Black Honey once claims to have met a very rude John Lydon in a street smoking outside a studio whilst bizarrely wearing chef whites. “That made me laugh,” says Carter “because we began to wonder if it really was Lydon or just a chef on break who happened to look like Lydon and was freaked out by the attention.” Other episodes have included CHVRCHES on being laughed at by Morrissey as his security manhandled them, Mark Lanagen talking about writing his memoir which he likened to “climbing Everest naked” and Ian Astbury of The Cult talking about hanging out with the Clash and living in a squat with Crass. “The initial idea was to do a podcast called ‘ Tour Stories’ because as musicians we’ve all got stories, but then we thought maybe some people wouldn’t want to share what goes on,” explains Carter. “But we will be back with another season, we’re just having a break at the moment as it is quite a lot of work turning them around so quickly. But it’s quite liberating to do a podcast one night, edit it and get it out the next day because as a musician sometimes you’re sitting on projects for so long you can get impatient.”
As well as releasing her solo album, Carter is back with Blood Red Shoes next year who are releasing a new album “Ghosts On Tape” on Velveteen Records. The band have previously released records via their own label which they started for a variety of reasons and Carter admits “we are a bit control freaky and if you’ve been around awhile the industry can write you off. They are obsessed with new, new, new all the time so we just thought, “who else is going to do it?” We always found that when working with people in the industry, they just didn’t care as much as we did. I find it different in the States, but in the UK it’s the negativity that bothers me. The default response seems to be “no, you can’t possibly do that!” Nobody has the drive to do stuff.”
The pandemic has decimated the arts and music in particular, a recent survey by UK charity Help Musicians found that 22% of musicians were thinking of giving up music completely whilst one third are still earning nothing after restrictions have been lifted. Even when faced with such a challenging landscape, Carter has no plans to give up. “I’ve been in my band since I was a teenager,” she says “I wouldn’t know what else to do. And yeah when you’ve got no money and no house people will say – “why don’t you do something else?,” which I get. But I’ve done the 9-5 before and I was pretty unhappy. I’ve achieved many goals as an artist and I’ve still got loads more I want to achieve. These days artists often don’t get a chance to grow. And If you’re not a rich kid it is really hard to carry on. But this is what makes me happy, it’s all I know and it completes me.”
And as you might expect Carter has also missed performing live and touring “I arrived back in the UK last year and it’s the longest I’ve been in one place for ages, so touring with Blood Red Shoes in 2022 should help assuage my restless spirit. I’d also love to play some shows in support of my own album.” For her solo work, Carter put together a band composed of Seb Rochford (Polar Bear, Electric Ladyland, Patti Smith), Jack Flanagan (The Mystery Jets) and Patrick Walden (Babyshambles). During Lockdown they recorded a live session at Jimmy Hendrix’s flat in Bond Street London. “We were all like wow this bedroom has such a vibe. It’s been restored to exactly how it was when he lived there. I’d previously visited it with a friend who is much louder than me and she was saying “you should play here, you never push yourself.” So she went and asked the people who run it. The original intention was to do a small gig there but Covid happened so we did this live session instead. It would be great if I could keep that band together for a few shows in the future. And then I’ll make another album. “Town Called Nothing” is essentially a mini-album, but I’ve plenty more songs written so hopefully, I’ll be recording them later in 2022.
“Town Called Nothing” is released on 3rd December 2021 – You can order it here – https://lauramarycarter.ffm.to/towncallednothing.oyd
And connect with Laura Mary on Facebook , Twitter , Instagram and via her official website
Andy Von Pip is an author and photographer at Louder Than War and his profile is here