As Lawrenson’s previously acclaimed quintet Dancing Years came to an end, I got the chance to catch up with him on what the prospects of the future held. Dancing Years had taught Lawrenson what to expect and where to go with his music, leading him down a path of melancholic instrumental music, and this diversion is slowing leading him into a career of music for screen.
What is your opinion on the differences in the music scene in England in comparison to the rest of the world?
I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to record and write my newest EP over in Australia.
My main connection going out there was a band called Boy & Bear, a kind of folk-rock band, as Dancing Years had spent a total of 8 weeks touring with across Europe. I loved those guys and look at what they are doing; but they’re a big name out there and there aren’t that many artists at this same calibre. When I told my colleagues at the bar I worked at that I was off to record with Boy & Bear, they were like ‘holy moly you’re going to do what now?’ Which was good fun.
It was post the band breaking up, and it was kind of a fun fresh start for me, Dancing Years’ music was often more on the melancholic side of things, so I wanted to make a change and create something that was more bright and pop-y. Due to this change in scenery and alterations in my life, I quite decisively decided to sit down and write concise pop songs which is how I got the first single I released ‘A Different Life’ which was aided heavily by the Australian surroundings. Not in a kid of tacky or commercial way but more in a really good pop song kid of way; because a good pop song focusses heavily on the lyrics and the music equally whilst also being concise and to the point.
Continuing on from that question, What about Europe?
It’s totally different, whenever I’ve played out there again there wasn’t as much good and exciting music coming out of say France or Germany, in a way that in comparison to the amount of bands in England and in America as well, where everyone is really pushing it, a high standard has been created. Whereas the industry is just not the same in any other European country that we have been to.
And due to this, they really respected the music coming to them because they don’t get it to the same level on their own soil.
Did that mean there was more respect from people and venues in Europe?
Yeah people really valued good music touring around in a way that in the UK they’ve lost sight of because there’s so much, it’s saturated whereas it’s not so saturated in Europe. Which is lovely, making it a really nice thing to do.
I don’t mean to sound negative about the music coming out of foreign places, but it is clear that places like the UK who are pumping more money in are going to create better results.
What is your background in music?
I learnt to play the piano when I was really young in a normative classical way, but I didn’t take to it. So I did that and didn’t get really inspired by it but then I fell into bands all through high school and since then, especially through song-writing, I was inspired to become a musician. My dream was to write a beautiful song, which was my predominant focus from a really young age. And then I taught myself to get my head around all the chords but it was definitely songs and from then I have begun really focussing on the lyrics. As it is definitely a bit of labour that goes into the lyrics.
Who have your inspirations been?
Well, keeping it relevant to this forthcoming EP, rather than generally, going back to Australia and this EP, there is one of Australia’s biggest bands: “Crowded House”. They create really smooth and nice pop-rock, which again in regards to pop-songs, I wanted songs with lyrics with a lot of integrity and content. So they were a big inspiration. And then a sonically there were two acts that were big inspirations, an old Glaswegian band called The Blue Nile, which is 80s synth stuff but really emotive and really sentimental but in a good way, very moving just really beautiful song-writing. And then a Swedish act called Lonely Dear, who I recently supported in Leeds, again it has a lot of synths going on and quite emotive music. I wanted to recreate something that resembled something similar to these sort of guys.
What would your advice be to people, especially in this country, who are trying to push into music?
I think I can’t express enough how important it is to just always be writing and not to put too much pressure on a certain release or too much pressure on a certain song. Don’t think ‘Oh, we haven’t got here by this point, that means that we aren’t doing well enough. So avoid these imaginary things, just avoid the pressure. Try to remember that what you are chasing is really tough and by not quite getting to where you want to be, you are with the majority and you have to kind of reset the goalposts and think how great the milestones you have achieved are. Like Dancing Years supporting Richard Hawley at Sheffield Arena, and how important that was for us to take a step back and say ‘wow this is really amazing’.
What do you think is the importance of DIY gigs like Long Division for a growing and flourishing music scene?
I think it is so important, we have played Live at Leeds pretty much every year since we started, it’s similar to Long Division, you get a pass for one day and just see loads of live music. And it’s just great with like Wakefield one guy decided to put it on and from there it has grown and increased people’s musical awareness.
Are you looking to continue solo, or to find more collaborations like Dancing Years?
Alright so I’ve kind of split my musical aspirations into three, and one part of that is continuing my passion for song writing so beginning co-writing and writing songs for other people, but in a way that it doesn’t always just have to be for me, but the stress and rewards can be split. So I would be using my songs that could be lucrative, so moving away from all the pressure on me releasing and promoting music myself. And as well as that, I have begun writing music for screen. I have just worked on the score for an adaptation of Shakespeare’s ‘Sir Thomas Moore’ – which features the powerful and timeless ‘Stranger’s Case’ speech, which when considered in today’s context it makes for a compassionate take on the European refugee crisis.
So, in all, in regards to me playing and releasing music it is less pressured. As with Dancing Years it was everything or nothing and let’s make a name for ourselves. So basically, song writing, my own music and music for screen are the three things I’m particularly focussing on.
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How far do you believe that the forms of media like music and film intertwine?
I think that it is incredibly important. Like I could watch a film and the score would be so amazing that like that in itself makes the film. Music and film form such a powerful combination that they are completely important.
Is that why you are driving into music for screen?
I mean yeah, I think so, but more than that from a mundane classical position I can see more of a career within film. And from being in a band previously that had led me on to reconsider my options.
Like, when I tumbled out of this group project and then looking at my CV and wondering what I can do, and where I can take my skills. So because of Dancing Years getting various bits out there, I was able to create a show reel and use that to continue pushing into it.
Again, I have always had a passion for writing instrumental music like forming this modern new-wave form of traditional classical music. And this modern classical scene pushed by the likes of Nils Frahm and Olafur Arnalds is something I have always been interested and inspired by. And this modern classic style of my composition is very well suited to moving pictures so it seemed a natural progression. And due to this I have been given opportunities as I have always followed the idea that ‘good music does get heard’ and that has allowed me to add to the scores on big films like X&Y and hopefully more to come.