This article is reprinted from the Rooster’s Wife. And I’m happy to share it here, as well as a few details about an upcoming project, “Connecting Crossroads.”
Over the years, you’ve seen Laurelyn Dossett sing about many things: pirates, Christmas, amendments, preachers, and drunkards.
Sunday, it will be rebels.
“I’ve had various projects,” Laurelyn said earlier this week about her past Rooster’s Wife performances. The Spot shows often coincide with a new project or collaboration debut—from the theater’s Triad Stage in Greensboro to the North Carolina Symphony. And the Spot is a favorite place to try out new material, Laurelyn says.
“It’s a nurturing environment to try things. People listen, they’re supportive,” she says. “They don’t pigeon hole me; they’re ready to hear whatever I’m working on.”
Sunday, Laurelyn and Scott Manring will debut another new tune, Rebel, a product of a new collaboration between Laurelyn and Boston-based musician Daniel Bernard Roumain.
Tentatively titled “Connecting Crossroads,” Laurelyn and DBR recently spent 10 days traveling to schools across North Carolina. The trip started at Davidson College and ended in Wilmington with stops at Appalachian University in Boone, NC State in Raleigh, ECU and UNC Wilmington.
“Daniel’s music: He’ll take a string symphony into a bar, and a rock band into a concert hall. So our collaboration is an example of that,” Laurelyn says about the project.
Laurelyn and DBR will record the songs they’ve co-written for the project in July at Echo Mountain in Asheville, NC and host a series of concerts across the state. The concerts will incorporate students and musicians from the community to bring together a variety of musicians and styles, such as Old Time musicians, and African American Moravian choirs, with a live music performance by DBR and Laurelyn.
So what songwriting tricks does Laurelyn use to collaborate with such a wide variety of musicians on such a wide variety of stages? Grab a piece of paper.
Be self aware—with a pen handy
[Songwriter] Diana Jones says it’s our job to “stay awake and write it down.” There are times when I know I’m in a creative phase, no matter what I’m doing — washing windows or driving — and I always have pencil and paper around to jot down some ideas.
Choose your form—silk or cotton
Once the song starts taking shape and it has a form that I like, I’m going to stick to it. It’s kind of like a dress pattern. If you’re making a cocktail dress, you don’t make it out of muslin, and you don’t make an apron out of silk. The job is, at the end of the day, to have a good song, not blurt out whatever I’m feeling emotionally.
The melody and the chords need to inform the story. Both work together.
Watch for a connection
I know when [a song] done. That said, I like to test the song to see how people respond to it. There’s not just one way to respond to [a song]. I’m mostly watching to see if I’ve evoked an emotion and a connection for people in some way.