When it comes to the CMA Songwriters Series show on the day before C2C Festival properly kicks off, most country fans actually find the songwriters show the highlight of the entire weekend. When it comes to the songwriters line up, there are often names that not everybody is familiar with unless they are a hardcore songwriter fan or know the name by being a fan of the artist they have written for/with. Laura Veltz was one of those names that a few people were unfamiliar with but with her high calibre body of work and her performance that night, all of that was about to change.
I first met Laura on the Thursday morning during breakfast. Sat next to us in the hotel restaurant and my three year old caught her attention. “Are you Laura?” I asked after we were chatting about our children which Laura has twins. “Yes” she replied, seemingly shocked that I recognised her. From the moment we started speaking I liked Laura. At this point we were just mother and mother exchanging stories of our sons (both with the same name ) and instantly she was someone I could have spoken to all day, the type of woman that I wish lived locally to me because goodness knows you need as many allies in mums than you possibly can when you’re a stay at home mum and finding ones who are so easy to talk to are quite rare.
Introducing myself, I explained I would be seeing her later for an interview and how excited I was for the songwriters show that night. I asked her what she was expecting. She wasn’t sure, but was excited. I told her how it will be an experience that she won’t forget, that the UK fans are the best, that she will laugh, she will cry, she will be overwhelmed, overjoyed and just absolutely love it!
Fast forward to the afternoon when our interview was scheduled. The interview was held backstage of the Indigo O2 where there are several dressing rooms as well as a big lounge area full of food and drink and people absolutely everywhere.
I enter a small room, the very same room where we spoke to Kip Moore the previous year and he pretty much serenaded all the Interviewers which was a moment none of us will forget haha.
Laura and I had changed outfits. We were definitely more awake and alert than we were at breakfast and she rocked her denim, flared trousers and a dark half top (crop top). She also rocks her short hair well, very well and looks rather spiritual and laid back. Laura is joined by a Big Machine representative.
“Oh look” she says to him (her rep) as I walk in “It’s my breakfast buddy”. Joining her on the couch she explains to her rep how she met my son and how she missed her kids. “Bring them along next time” I say.
Officially welcoming Laura to the UK I ask if this was her first time here?
“No” she replies with interest “I used to be married to a different man to whom I am married to now and he was being “wooed” by a company to move here and they said “ come to London and see if you like it” Interestingly enough though we landed during the Heathrow terrorists scare back in 2004 where they evacuated everyone. I needed to come back here and redeem my experience because it was so strange. The Indian food is equally as good as last time, it is crazy good here”.
“Everyone says that”, I tell her and agree that it is pretty dang good.
Telling her again that the CMA Songwriters series is the best place to start your live UK experience and that she will get to embrace our very attentive audiences that we are so well known for she responds;
“I can’t wait. I have all these songs I want to do from Maren’s new record (Girl) but I am trying to stick with the ones that have been hit songs because I want to stay respectful.”
At this point, Maren Morris’ second record Girl on which Laura co-wrote five of the songs was due to be released the next day so Laura was understandably unable to perform them. I explain to Laura that Maren herself was a part of the very same CMA Songwriters Series a couple of years back and performed one of the songs she wrote with Laura from her debut album Hero called I Could Use A Love Song. I further tell her how Maren told us that her record was done and that she was then asked if there was anything she felt was missing to which she replied “I could use a love song”. I asked Laura if she was that person who asked?
“It was not me talking but Jimmy (Robins) my co writer. It was a memorable day actually. We went drinking at 11am because everyone was kind of having a funny day and we were on drink number three and that’s when Jimmy asked Maren that question.”
How long did it take to write ? I asked.
“Oh it was a step. It was so fast. “ she replied
I said how clever the title was and how its hard to believe there isn’t a song with that title already.
” I know” She replied “we were like “how has this song not been written?”.
The song was ever so successful and Maren took it to number one. I asked Laura how did it feel to see how well the song did, especially as is a ballad which allegedly don’t do well on country radio.
“Great and it was Maren’s first number one which was the most exciting thing to be a part of with her. Watching that happen for her is amazing, she has had so many firsts that most people don’t get to have ever. Being a part of one of her first moments was really special. We are close friends and it was very emotional, very cool.”
Intrigued to which artists have been the most fun to write with, as opposed to serious writes she says;
“Oh man. I don’t know if y’all are familiar with Dave Barnes? He has written a bunch of songs for country music but he is an artist as well. He is just about the funniest person I know. There is this brit called Jon Green who we write with a lot, and those are the times when I go home and my abs are sore from laughing. It doesn’t matter if we are writing something serious or not the laughs are so outrageous.”
With all the hit songs Laura has out there in the world now, I wanted to know if she remembered when and where she was the first time she ever heard one of her songs on the radio?
“I was in the house that I lived in when I first moved to Nashville. It was the first time that I had heard Drunk Last Night (Eli Young Band) on the radio. It was one of those moments when we knew they were going to play it. It was being revealed on a radio station. I was in my house and there it was, it was a really magical moment that you don’t forget when that happens for the first time.”
A lot of the number one songs from the male artists are written by women, Laura is one of them with songs that Eli Young Band and Dan + Shay for example took to the top spot so does it baffle her to why there is such a divide on country radio?
“I don’t even know how to answer that” she says with a laugh but with also clear annoyance with the lack of equality. So I ask that when she writes a song, is it necessarily for a particular artist at this point and does she have in her mind if it is for a woman or a man artist? Does she purposefully write from a males perspective?
“Not typically now but just from an artists perspective. When I first got to town I primarily wrote for men because that’s how you made money. They were automatically written from a males perspective. When I first started getting familiar for writing for country music, it was like, if I wanna make any money out of doing this I better learn how to wrote for a man.”
I continue with saying that that’s the funny thing – they (radio) moan that no one wants to hear women on the radio yet most of the top songs are written by women.
“Oh 100 per cent. There is a reason why and that’s because we are softer and more emotional people. The idea of songwriting not involving women is inconceivable to me. Songwriting itself needs women because we know how to explain how we feel typically.”
Laura used to be part of a band with her family, asking her about this she says;
“I was in a band with my parents and my brother and sister and it was never really my thing. It’s a long story but I think I just did it because I knew that everybody else wanted to do it and I didn’t have the courage to let go of it until I was 28 and I said “You don’t want to do this anymore” I learned a lot and I don’t regret a thing. It was a special time in my life but it was also a very perfect stark difference between happiness and unhappiness. As soon as I moved to Nashville I figured out how to be happy and I knew that this (So gwriting) was what I was supposed to do.”
Curious to know if it Is performing in general she isn’t keen on and if she prefers to just be behind the songs, writing them and so on…
“Definitely! I love being a part of the creative process but the sales of being an artist and having to sell is not really something I feel like I am good at and I get a bit protective and nervous when I think of someone judging an entire package of me. One of the reasons I moved to Nashville to write songs is because I wanted to make sure I had room to have a family and be a sane person and not be out of town all the time, it’s a perfect fit.”
I asked how long did it take her to get her first big break?
“Well they call it a ten year town. I feel like I was happily prepared to wait that long. I was lucky in the beginning when I found the right team like Warner: and Big Machine were wonderful comrades in town. I was at the right place at the right time. I bartended for four years and I put in my time but when someone says “do you want to do this (songwriting) for any kind of salary” I think I was pinching myself. I couldn’t believe anyone would pay me to do this. I was pretty grateful it happened so soon. My first day with Eli Young Band, that happened quickly. It takes so long to catch up because you have to build a repertoire, you have to build a catalogue and so now it feels like I am starting to have the catalogue to back up what is happening.”
I have always wondered about songs that are on hold: do they (Songwriters) ever have some on for so long that you think it will never be recorded?
“I have had those long holds. It’s funny, songwriting is so interesting, you can get really discouraged really quickly if you are looking at it like a song is going to be a think that makes you happy if it is successful but if you think about it in the sense of just songwriting makes you happy, it’s a little easier to be happy all the time. I get excited and I get disappointed. I get pissed for like twenty seconds and then I am like ok, so what am I going to write tomorrow? The fact I get to write songs is really quite enough for me. I am having daily pinch me moments all the time.
We end the interview there, after goodbyes of course and a final chat about our children. I of course encourage Laura to come back to the UK, we would love to have her. Perhaps next year at C2C she can be part of the Bluebird Café sessions because not only has she written some of the best songs in modern country but as we learned during the Songwriters show later that night, she has such an infectious stage presence, a real natural ability to perform and hilarious banter to her fascinating stories behind the songs she wrote. Rich, by Maren Morris being one of them and explaining it was originally called Rich Bitch and how it is her vocal on the “Kerching Kerching” part of the song. They never expected that song to do so well, but it did. Another fun fact was how Carrie Underwood had Live Forever on hold for ages but it eventually went to Kane Brown.
I have to wonder, does Carrie regret not recording it? I guess that’s a question for Carrie.
Laura also said that night of Speechless (cut by Dan + Shay) “This is my safety song. If it all ends tomorrow I know I can live off that song, maybe play it at weddings.”
I saw Laura again the following morning at breakfast again. She instantly got up and came over, took her headphones out and said “I am listening to Maren’s new album for the first time the whole way through. I have five songs on it and it is great to hear them all the way through on the album”
I shared my love for it too and explained how I had it a couple of weeks ago and realised that sounded like boasting and quickly moved on haha. To Hell and Back is a favourite I told her to which she was grateful. Speaking of her Songwriters show last night she said “You were so right, it was amazing, I have never felt that way before. There were so many people and the audience were so engaging”
I told her she will have to come back. I really hope she does.