As I walk into The Metro Theatre in Sydney, Laurel is onstage soundchecking “Scream Drive Faster”. The stage set-up is simple with just some production risers and herself on stage with a guitar and a microphone stand. With a giant LED screen behind her that illuminated the AI digitalised artwork for her recent single “Change”, it’s looking really dreamy which is exactly her intention. The British singer-songwriter is currently in Australia for Groovin’ The Moo festival, as well as a run of intimate headline shows. As we are escorted backstage we’re told she’s apparently just ran through the entire set. Tonight’s show marks one her first headline shows back since COVID, but she’s not nervous, she just wants to make sure she’s giving her fans a good show after waiting so long. This is also the first tour she’s done without a band, so she’s still finding the balance of energy as a solo performer on stage.  

Sitting down in her green room, LAUREL has this really calming and mystical presence. She unpacks a delivery from an Australian designer she loves and intriguingly imagines the outfit she’d pair it with. We get comfy and dive into the dreamy stylings of her new single “Change”, the meaning behind her butterfly imagery, how she’s finding touring at the moment, and reminisce on her last visit to Australia. She answers each question with this dreamy introspect that leaves you hanging off each word she says. And this is that conversation;

THOMAS BLEACH: Your dreamy new single “Change” is about the end of a relationship, and wanting to continue it but knowing that neither of you are going to change. What was the feeling and emotion in the studio session when you initially wrote this track? 

LAUREL: I actually wrote it on my own, and I thought it sucked. I wrote the chorus first, which doesn’t usually happen. It just kind of came out really quickly. I do think the best songs happen like that. It’s like they got sent to you, and they just had to come out, you know? But all the lyrics completely came out. Maybe it wasn’t really my song. It’s like you’ve been centered, telepathically. Because I mean with the concept, I’m definitely not going through that right now in my life. I mean, everyone’s been there, right? But it’s not like I have that on my mind. 

TB: I love the juxtaposition of you singing “Told you I would change, but I’m still doing the same shit. And yeah, you thought I’d go your way, but I’m still thinking the same things” – and then “And yeah, you told me you would change. You’re spinning out of my orbit”. It sees you both taking blame, and it’s so easy in life and especially in songwriting to put the full blame on someone else. So why was it important for you to write the track from both sides without a bias?

L: Honestly, it just came out that way. But I think it’s just true because in that situation where you’re telling someone you’re gonna change it very rarely is just one-sided. I think both people usually have quite a lot to improve in that moment. I think there’s never a case where it’s just one. Well, there might be, but I think the other person just isn’t owning up to their shit. 

TB: Does that feel vulnerable? Being able to say “I wasn’t ready to change and yeah, I’m probably not gonna change”?

L: No, I feel like it’s got more attitude and is less vulnerable. It’s like, “well, fuck it.” Maybe it’s not that important, and why am I trying to change that much? It’s kind of just like throwaway. It’s like, “oh well, I guess I didn’t change”.

TB: Has there ever been a time where you wrote about a situation with specific blinkers to make yourself feel good or look good in the situation?

L: Oh, probably every time I write. I’m not writing their song. They can write their own album for that. I mean, it’s all from my perspective. I think I’m less of a victim now, but I probably was. I’ve been writing songs since I was 14. Like, “he broke my heart. I’m so sad” vibes, you know? So probably a lot of that going on. And I’ve had a lot of ex-boyfriends in the audience, pretty angry *laughs*. I always tell my boyfriend now to please just write a song about me. Even if it’s horrible. Then at least I know I give you some sort of passion to write a song. 

TB: For this track you’ve been using a lot of butterfly imagery and filters with social posts. For you would you say this song is about metamorphosis and growth? 

L: I’m not sure, but butterflies do represent change. That’s why I did that. But I also just love them. They’re just really quite magical. They are the fairies of the world. So there’s that. But I guess the song is about not growth, isn’t it? I think it’s the opposite. It’s like, I’m not growing and I’m not going around and around. It also represents to me habits and other things that I keep saying I’m not gonna do. Like eating chocolate. Everything that you promise yourself and all this good intention, and it’s just kind of like; “can we really change?”. Like, I’m still doing the same shit. 

TB: Is this idea of growth, metamorphosis and evolution something that is going to be a recurring theme in this new era? Is the butterfly an easter egg?

L: The imagery for this era will definitely have a very whimsical and magical vibe as I’m naturally really interested in that sort of world. But so far things are a little bit open, like visually, and this was just kind of a really good stepping stone. But we are definitely gonna stick in that universe. I really love meshing the two worlds of nature and digital together, which is why we did this AI cover and visualiser. I wanted to represent nature, but through the modern digital lens.

TB: You’re currently in Australia for Groovin The Moo and some sideshows, and you’ve already touted this as your favourite tour yet. What has been one of the most memorable things so far you’ve seen when you’ve looked out into the crowd? 

L: So when we hit Canberra it was genuinely such a great show and everybody was doing this wave and it was so cool. I know it’s really simple, but it’s just amazing to see that many people doing one thing to your music.

TB: From the videos I’ve seen of the show, your confidence on stage looks so radiating. Compared to previous tours, are you feeling more comfortable on stage and like you’ve found yourself as a performer?

L: Honestly, no. I haven’t done a lot of these shows yet, and I don’t really feel “show fit’. We’re definitely still working out a lot of kinks and are still rehearsing and changing things. But I can see myself being quite radiant on stage at times, which is lovely. And looking at the video’s back  I definitely feel like that. But I think as an artist you’ll always be nitpicking and you’re always your worst critic. But you know, it’s not always a bad thing. I watch back videos of people posting and I’m like, “hey, if you crouch down like that, it doesn’t look good” *laughs*. 

TB: I remember reading about your last tour here and about the emotional history you had with Melbourne when you played that show. Is there a bit of a fear with that show lingering, or are you able to look at it and realise how important it was for you to be that vulnerable that night for yourself?

L: I’m not worried about playing in Melbourne, but to be honest ever since that happened I get more nervous about shows in general. I absolutely had no control over what was going on, and I was completely well rehearsed. I think that shocked me a bit because I realised that my head couldn’t take control and I wouldn’t always be able to predict what was gonna happen on stage. So now I always try to be well rehearsed. I try to create cues to help myself out in case I do panic. 

My mom’s always like, “remember to have fun”, and every time she says it I’m like, “oh fuck”, like I forgot about having fun. I haven’t had fun for a week. I’m like, okay, if I’m going out, then I’m not having fun. Like what’s the point? That’s the only point of life, isn’t it? 

TB: From releasing your two-part EP series “Limbo Cherry” and “Petrol Bloom” – what was something you learnt about your artistry that has impacted the way you approach this new chapter?

L: I think I’ve learned that the more indie and self-indulgent I go, the more people like it, which is definitely the better end of the sticks. I’ve tried to write more poppy stuff, and I like pop music, but I think what comes out the most natural to me is actually what people want to hear. So that’s what I think I learned from the EP cycle. I also think my intuition is key, and I need to listen to that. 

TB: Let’s chat about my favourite track – “When You’re Walking Away”. It gives me a bit of MSMR and Foxes vibes. Do you remember if you had any reference tracks for it? 

L: I sat in the studio with Jeremy while he made this riff. It just didn’t make any sense to me, and I told him that. He was like; “it does make sense. Just take it away” and I was like “fine”. I just didn’t really get it. It was weird. The melodies, the chords, and the way it was, was very  different from what I’d done previously with “DOGVIOLET”. I wasn’t naturally understanding the music. But then I had some time alone with it, and I found the song again afterwards, and it was a bit of a lesson. It’s now one of my favorite songs I’ve written. And I think that was a lesson actually, to be open minded. 

TB: “Scream Drive Faster” is a song that has had a whole life of its own for you – what is a fun fact about this track and/or the creative process that people don’t know?

L: Some people might know this, but we wrote it purely by accident. I was lost in New York while on holiday. My maps weren’t working, I kept walking the wrong way, and I had no signal. I was really frustrated as I kept walking around in circles, no idea where I was. And then Jeremy called my name from the other side of the street and he was like, “what are you doing here?”. He came over and he’s pushing his bike as he had a bike puncture, and we figured out that he wasn’t meant to be there either. He then invited me to the studio with him as by then I had already missed my coffee meet-up as I was so late. 

We sat down in the studio, played some music, and then we wrote “Scream Drive Faster” and “Best I Ever Had”. We never thought we would work together as we had very different music tastes, but I think the universe decided to force us together that day. 

TB: You collaborated with Australian royalty Flume on “I Can’t Tell”, and you’ve been popping up and performing it with him. Is there anything from doing these big production shows that you’ve taken on board for your own live shows?

L: They are such a slick team. They have years of touring experience so there was a lot of learning on that tour. Even just very technical things I’ve taken on board. I learned to perform a lot better than I have been, through needing to dominate a bigger stage.

TB: It’s been five years since you released “DOGVIOLET”. If you could play “Change” and some of the other new songs to that version of LAUREL, how do you think she would react to how far you’ve come sonically, lyrically and artistically? 

L: I don’t think she’d be too surprised. I feel like my songs are still so similar through the lyrics and the meanings, as they are still so “Laurel”. I think the songs are the same as they were on “DOGVIOLET”, they’ve just been produced differently. I might be surprised that I was working with another producer though, because for a while I didn’t wanna do that. I just wanted to work on my own.

“Change” is out now!