I love revisiting an old, beloved CD. Songs that you know so well you pick right up and sing the lyrics word for word, whether it's been 2 years or 12. I paid a visit to Lori Chaffer's 1beginning which is not that old (2003), but I have not listened to the whole album in at least three years. I highly recommend this CD, from start to finish, but especially two songs: "If I Said I Don't Mind" and "You Will Always Hurt."
The first year I started writing this blog (some bad writing then) I mentioned "If I Said I Don't Mind" which will always remind me of a friend who I truly love, but who hurt me (and others) a lot, many have decided she is mentally ill, and she is dying of cancer. I have forgiven her and one day I will write all about her, the good and some of the bad, because thank God, I have several good memories tucked inside, and she is forgiven by One greater than me.
This afternoon I ran errands, admiring the blooms of Spring, and played Chaffer's song "You Will Always Hurt" on repeat. If not that, it was Lucinda Williams' West. Have I mentioned that woman can write, play, and sing? I dig her. And no one can cuss more artfully than Lucinda. "You Will Always Hurt" might sound pessimistic, but the lyrics speak honest, last-minute peace. I love those lyrics - I believe there is a place for melancholy in beauty.
I interviewed Lori Chaffer at an old job a few years ago, an indie music company. I will post the interview here, not because my interview was spectacular, but Lori offered very interesting answers and I enjoyed that interview the most (Kemper is a tie).
~ The interview ~
This has been quite a year for Lori Chaffer. She and her husband Don (Waterdeep) gave birth to a baby boy, Miles Wayne Robert Chaffer, in January. Lori also released her first solo CD, 1beginning, in the same month. With the opening Bjork-esque phrase “Make no protest as you go”, a journey ensues through joy, pain, celebration, mourning, and wisdom. Sonically and poetically, Lori has set a standard: every CD should be such that upon first listen you are stunned by the beauty of sound, then upon first glimpse of the lyrics you are healed by the art of a wordsmith. Lori accomplished this with co-production help from her husband, and also by offering a diverse blend of genres including soul, rock, cabaret-style, folk, and ethereal songs. Her lyrics are that of a sage having jubilantly lived life and suffered hardship along the way.
After healing from a recent illness, Lori graciously did an impromptu phone interview, all the while holding Miles who would murmur now and then...
Jenni: Is that Miles?
Lori: Yeah, that’s him.
J: Congratulations! How has the transition been for you and Don?
L: Thank you. The transition has been pretty all-encompassing. A baby takes all of your time.
J: What did the pregnancy and birth do to you creatively?
L: Initially, it made me kick it in gear to finish my album. I started it when Don was working on his two solo albums. I used whatever gear was left at home when he was not recording. I had been taking my time, but when I got pregnant, I decided to get it done because I knew once we had the baby it would be really hard. When I finished recording I discovered that while you are pregnant, (at least this was true for me) all of your energy goes towards creating a baby and a home to fit him whether it is making his room, or whatnot. I was not as creative during that time. I noticed that I was not as interested in performing and playing towards the last four or five months of my pregnancy. And just now, I’m getting back to where I want to do art again mostly because I want to do art for him. It’s not even that I want to do children’s art, but I like the idea of him being my audience. In other words, it makes me want to practice because I have somebody to practice in front of, you know? I’ve never been much of a practice person; I’ve always been really undisciplined. There is an aspect of just having him around that makes me want to practice because I have a reason to kill that time so to speak. That and it puts him to sleep.
J: Is it also wanting to surround him with music?
L: Yes, because I value music and I want him to value music as well.
J: Other congratulations are in order for your first solo CD which is phenomenal. I read that the songwriting spanned ten years - why such a long time?
L: Honestly, I have a bunch of songs stored away that I never felt were right for Waterdeep. And when Don and I got married seven years ago, we planned on doing a solo album for me, but somewhere along the way we decided to go ahead and do a band album which turned out to be Sink or Swim. That was the first album in which we shared songwriting and lead vocals. A solo album has always been something I wanted to do, but we just didn’t have time with Waterdeep. When we slowed down and Don did a solo album, I got to thinking of doing one as well. So, I pulled out some old songs and recorded them.
J: I like every song, but two in particular struck me a certain way: “If I Said I Don’t Mind” and “You Will Always Hurt.” Would you mind telling me about both songs?
L: Those two are very similar in context in that they are laments about the reality that people hurt you. There are some people in your life that will continue to hurt you whether it be in action or if the thing that happened or the relationship was just painful. A great example is death. Don and I have gone through the death of his father and his mother in the last two years. That will always be painful; you don’t ever get over people dying. Both songs are laments about pain and the realization that you have to accept that in order to really live. And maybe that some of our neuroses in life come from trying to avoid that pain instead of just accepting it. And also, some people are just chronically not good for you and keep doing painful things to you, and you have to accept who they are.
J: Throughout the rest of the CD, lyrics seem cathartic at times and celebratory at times. Do the other songs relate to specific events in your life?
L: Some of them do. “Welcome” is actually a song for Brandon and Christena Graves’ son, Keegan, when he was born. It kinda worked out, though, because a lot of people think it’s a song I wrote for my son, so we pretend it’s for Miles, too. “Everything’s Going to be Alright” is a song I wrote while on a cruise with my mom and grandmother. Though the situations are not verbatim in that song, a lot of the vibe is from walking around and seeing people have another drink and celebrating. The people were 70 or 80 remembering old times, and it was pretty neat to see. And, a lot of the songs are pretty vague.
J: More thematic?
L: Yeah, and just drawn from different things. Like, “Stella” is not a particular person, but a drawing based on several people.
J: I love the loops and programming on the album. Did you have those sounds in mind while writing the songs, or did that aspect develop afterwards?
L: They mostly developed afterwards. Actually, how that went down is that Don has a loop program on his computer, and I would look around for different loops. When I was recording my demo, I would use whatever loop was close enough, and a couple I found were really cool. When we went to record the live drums, we tried to copy a few of the loops note for note. Don and Brandon pulled that off miraculously - it was really amazing. They also made up a lot of stuff on their own. The loops were mostly Don and Brandon’s handiwork.
J: It’s good to have them around - it came out very well.
L: Yeah, they are good, very good. I love loops and I’ve grown more fond of them, and I think all of us in the band have grown fond of them, too.
J: Was it a slow evolution - did you once dislike loops?
L: I always liked them, but I think they grew on different members of the band. I think we’ve all been growing in our diversity, though. I probably didn’t used to like them as much as I do now.
J: How was recording solo different from recording with Waterdeep?
L: In some ways it was fun because I got to do everything - I love to play and be creative on different instruments. However, in some ways it was hard to tell if anything I was doing came out right because there was no one to bounce it off of. Don and I got a schedule where I would get up in the morning and record for a few hours, then he would come in, edit, and mix. I would always walk out of the room and say, “Well, I don’t know if there is anything there you can use.” A lot of the time I would be frustrated and at the end of the day he would say, “Well, I used a lot of it.” It was alternately lonely and exciting. It also made me appreciate working with the band; I think I had taken them for granted. I learned a ton.
J: Do you plan to do other solo albums?
L: I’d like to, I really would. I don’t know where Don and I are headed musically. He is probably going to do another solo album or two. I imagine we will always do some stuff together, and some stuff independently.
J: How will touring work with Miles?
L: Before we got pregnant, we were headed towards not touring much, and Miles was the exclamation point to that decision. I’m pretty much settled in and I would love to stay home. Maybe we will do some short outings around town, play in bars, and get more into the local scene. We really love our Church and the people in our neighborhood, so it’s hard to leave. We did it for seven years and it was really draining. The older you get you realize the more it attacks your body. It’s been hard for us to exercise over the last seven years and we’re starting to get back into that groove - it is nice.
J: I noticed that you painted all of the watercolors in the CD artwork. Do you paint regularly?
L: That was a total fluke. About five years ago I went through a season when I got out the watercolors and decided I wanted to paint. I dragged those pieces out half a year ago and decided I wanted to use them for the CD. I’m not really a painter.
J: I love the one on the cover especially.
L: Oh, thanks! I call it very much folk art; I’m no artiste. It shows you that anybody can do it.
J: Folk art has its place, you know - it’s the art of the people.
L: That’s right!
J: Ok, this can be a difficult question, but what is your required listening?
L: Recently I pulled out Linda Ronstadt who I realized was a huge influence. She was the first singer that I listened to because my mom had one of her records. And I would say, gosh it’s hard to say what is required - everyone has such different taste! I really like Bjork. I don’t listen to her a lot, but she is one of the most creative artists out there right now. I love Coldplay. I also go way back to Free and Lynyrd Skynyrd - some people would be so ashamed, but I love my Southern rock roots. And there’s also the classics like Stevie Wonder, U2, Jimi Hendrix, and all the considered greats. And, David freakin’ Bowie - he is a big influence on me. I hate his lyrics - I can’t ever figure out what he’s trying to say, but I love his music. Oh, and Nikka Costa who is really great. When I heard her, it was like a kick in the butt: “Oh, you can do that!”
J: Do you have required reading?
L: The Book of the Dun Cow and The Book of Sorrows by Walter Wangerin, Jr. are a great couple of books; I recently discovered them and they were very important for me to read. Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger is required reading for every artist - must be, must be. I’m reading a really good one called Turning Points about the ten most important points in Christianity. It includes Orthodoxy and Catholicism so it doesn’t just stick to the Protestant vein, and it’s been really insightful into the legitimacy of other Christian faiths. Oh, and The Little Prince - I love that book.
J: I know with a new baby you have plenty to keep you busy, but do you have anything else planned for the near future?
L: Before I was pregnant, we talked about doing some shows around town in April or May, but now I don’t know. So, we’re just playing it by ear. We don’t have many plans. I’m not a very good multi-tasker, so until I learn to do that better I will have to be a one-task lady.
J: I bet caring for Miles will teach you that - congratulations again.
L: Thanks! Miles is fun and very cute. I know all parents say that, but Miles really is cute.
~ The end ~
Posted by jenni at 10:33 PM