With 'Bewitched,' Laufey hopes listeners can escape
Laufey has a simple mission — to build a bridge to jazz and classical music for her generation. It's the music the 24-year-old artist grew up on. Her mother is a classical violinist.
"I like to say I was sitting on stage at the symphony, even in my mother's womb," she said.
At the age of four, Laufey (pronounced "LAY-vay") started to study piano. Then came cello. Her father's record collection introduced her to jazz.
As a student at Berklee College of Music, she put out her first single. She found her voice in what she knew.
"I didn't have singing lessons growing up, but I had lots and lots of cello lessons. So I think when I started singing, I approached singing like I approached cello," she said.
Her second album, Bewitched, comes out Friday. With rich arrangements and Laufey's lustrous voice, these are torch songs tuned to the modern ear.
Laufey spoke to NPR's Morning Edition about the new project.
The below has been edited and condensed. You can hear this conversation using the audio player at the top of the page.
Jazz and news have the same challenge. We're trying to grab young ears while not alienating our core, older audience. So how are you doing that with jazz?
I always feel like I'm balancing the two worlds. I always honor the legends, you know? I'm not trying to recreate what they did. Go listen to Miles Davis and Chet Baker and Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. Like, go listen to those incredible recordings that I draw inspiration from. My hope is that an older audience finds a sound in my music that reminds them of when they were younger. And my hope for a younger audience is that it's introducing something new, but then also something that can just bring audiences together.
Do you think jazz needs saving?
I do think jazz needs saving, personally, just because I'm such a big jazz fan. And the thing that I do is I take inspiration from old jazz traditions and I make something new out of them, you know, write songs with the same forms, but with modern lyrics, stuff like that. But then on each of my albums, I have at least one jazz standard. You know, the history of music in general is that it does always move forward. I think as long as you honor the roots and know where it's coming from, that's the important part.
You and I are like a quarter century apart in age. If you could have a message to someone who's 24, and then someone who's around 50, who is listening to this new album, what's the message you would send to each one?
For someone that's my age, I hope we get an escape. Kids that were my age missed years of high school and college. I graduated online. We really value finding something that doesn't remind us of a certain time. Something that is a little bit timeless or reminds us of just being in a movie scene or something. For an older generation, I hope it brings them an escape too, but maybe to a younger time. The lyrics are very directly my experiences, a lot with young love and heartbreak and stuff. I hope it can remind them of their youth.
Your twin sister Junia plays violin on this record. Are you the same side of a coin, or are you different sides of a coin?
I think we're different sides of a coin, but it's the same coin, right? I just don't think I could do anything without her. It's really such a blessing. She's always been my best friend and we've always supported each other. But especially in these past two or three years of having this really exciting but somewhat odd career, having somebody like that nearby is just so important. She really keeps me grounded. It's less of a burden to take on these big challenges when I feel like it's dispersed among two people. She comes on tour with me. She's also my creative director, so she builds up the visual world of Laufey. All the album artwork and music videos and press shoots and everything, it's like her brainchild. And also she helps to make musical decisions, too, because she's a musician.
You wrote a letter to your 13-year-old self. What did you say in that letter?
I did. I was just thinking about what I've been doing this year, or in the past two years, and how I'm doing exactly what I dreamed of doing, but never, ever, ever thought I could do when I was 13. I just wish I could go back and give myself a squeeze and be like, "Hey, look at what we've done now." I'm writing about myself as a little girl, and how I'm getting picked last, and how all these girls are sharing their, like, first kiss stories. And I hadn't had mine. And people would make fun of my name. Then in the last verse, I say, "one day you'll be up on stage, and little girls will scream your name." Maybe some of the younger girls who listen will find comfort in that song.
One last thing for you, because your name in Norse mythology is the mother of Loki, the Marvel supervillain. If you ever have a child, would you consider naming them Loki?
Oh, I've thought about this so much. I've realized it's depending on my level of fame, right? Because I think if you ever get to a point where you're very, very famous, you kind of buy yourself a right to name your children funny names. Lord knows if I'll ever get there. But I figure, maybe I'll get a dog and name him Loki.
Audio story produced by Milton Guevara and edited by Taylor Haney.
Digital story edited by Treye Green.
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