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TC in Conversation with Lauren Jenkins prior to her SOLD OUT show in London

There is always an air of excitement around new artists coming over the pond to play shows in Europe and this is always heightened by the success of a unique, creative and heartfelt debut like Lauren Jenkins achieved with the absolutely stunning ‘No Saint’ which has been acclaimed by fans and critics on both sides of the Atlantic. With a different vocal sound than what may be expected of a “country” artist where you hear familiarity more to the likes of Stevie Nicks or Lana Del Rey who incorporates an open and honest style of songwriting true to her roots that compliments this perfectly.

This was Lauren’s second visit to Europe in 2019 with her first being back in March for Country 2 Country and we were really excited to get to talk to her for a second time (Amy had the honours earlier this year which you can check out HERE as an introduction to Lauren and her music) when I got to hang out with her before her SOLD OUT show at The Grace in Islington (many of you may be more familiar hearing this venue talked about as Thousand Island or the venue above The Garage but regardless it looks and feels absolutely superb since the most recent refurbishment) which we can be pretty confident won’t be her last sold out show over here!

‘No Saint’ was released just after she had played her debut show in Europe and despite what artists and songwriters from Nashville may have heard prior to coming over, the more artists you speak to the more you begin to appreciate how mind blowing it is for people when they first see that fans on the other side of the world, some of whom don’t even speak English as their mother tongue not just know of their music but genuinely appreciate it.

First night in Berlin back in March I was shocked that people were singing and I’ll never forget that moment of people singing ‘Running Out Of Road’ back to me in an arena and the album wasn’t even out in the States, I was completely blown away.

At each of these shows on this tour, whatever song I pick off that album or even a couple of songs that aren’t even on that record but on YouTube somewhere there are people singing it which is just incredible and I think I’ve cried at every single show this tour for multiple reasons.

Her headline show in London was the 4th place I had seen Lauren play in just over 6 months after her acoustic sets at C2C back in March followed by full band shows at The Long Road Festival earlier this month and an absolutely stellar performance on the Broadway stage outside the Bridgestone Arena during CMA Fest back in June. Her set during CMA Fest along with many of the other girls we saw like Caylee Hammack, Lauren Alaina, Kassi Ashton, Kalie Shorr, Rachel Wammack and Lindsay Ell to name just a few reiterated this baffling idea that people don’t want to listen to female artists and especially newer artists is an absolute myth that must exist purely in the offices of radio executives and nowhere else! What is special about watching Lauren in particular is she manages to deliver such a natural performance that showcases her voice, songwriting and her personality whether it be on her own or kicking ass being backed by a live band.

It’s just different. When I play solo it’s all in my control which is comforting but if shit goes wrong it’s completely my fault and I have to own that. Sometimes with a band it feels like you don’t have as much time to talk with the audience because there’s people waiting on stage to start the next song but other times there’s a magical thing that happens when you play with a band you really connect with and the energy can be completely different so I love both of them!

Her set at The Long Road featured her being backed by some musicians from the UK and those guys did an awesome job considering some limited rehearsal time, however when we caught her in the States her and her band genuinely obliterate any negative views towards female musicians. Ellen Angelico is absolutely one of the best guitarists I have seen PERIOD and seems to appear regularly as the absolute go to girl in Nashville when you need a badass guitarist (just seeing the Delta Rae Instagram story from last night absolutely confirmed this) then you compliment this with the Queen of the pots and pans who apart from being part of the female super squad Side Piece (who are an absolute must to catch when they are playing on Broadway) is the absolute proof that big curly hair looks amazing and doesn’t have to look like the absolute mess that I constantly battle with on my own head

I love playing with those girls because they are immensely talented and good humans and we’ve got something locked in so there’s a special energy there plus they’re both just badass!

From both the UK shows that I saw from Lauren on this tour, there were a couple of highly magical moments with one of them being a cover of an absolutely timeless song by a man who we are both absolutely huge fans of. As a Springsteen fan I am always wary of hearing people cover him because predominantly you do hear a version of ‘I’m on Fire’ and that song is so difficult to do justice to, particularly if it doesn’t suit their vocal style. I had seen some videos of her doing her version of the song (which you can see below) and her voice was made to sing it and personally after seeing her perform it live is one the, if not the most special acoustic covers you will ever hear!

I think I must have done it on a whim, I don’t think I planned it as I don’t usually have a setlist when I play unless it’s with a band and even then I could play one of these 5 songs at this point, so be ready! I always try and feed off the audience so at times I’m thinking OK, they may not know my music so let me play something that everyone knows! There’s other Springsteen songs that I love like ‘Stolen Car’ but I dunno everyone’s gonna know that, so I just try and give something that people could join in on that I also love!

You quickly realize how free spirited this girl is, then how independent and spontaneous she is which I think is reflected by how she doesn’t have a rigid setlist which also shows her willingness to adapt and it is just that rather than just going with a blank canvas to Europe like many other artists refer to.

Sometimes having a plan and sticking to it is safer but I’ve been trying in the last several months to be really present and not sticking with a plan. This is a little bit scarier as you have to figure out the moment and what you are getting from the audience but that’s also kind of an adrenaline rush and it feels like some days or some audiences or some shows then plan you had is not necessarily the best route so you can detour, play something different and not be locked in!

The Springsteen connection was something I was keen to explore as I knew she was a big fan and it is really nice to talk to artists on a level playing field where you get to spend a large portion of the interview just sharing views on something you are both passionate about.

I became a fan of him probably like when I was 10 or 11. Just a fan of his storytelling and the way he creates characters. I really respect him as an artist and how he’s self-made as my whole path has been figuring out how to make it happen and he is someone I definitely aspire to be like!

Her connection is much stronger than mine as simply aspiring to be more like him, her passion and links run much deeper which included a guest presenter spot on E Street Radio. The fact that the first thing I noticed when I walked in to talk to her was a ‘Western Stars’ (Bruce’s most recent release) t-shirt just reaffirmed her admiration and connection.

When I was 15 or so I started going to New York to see a vocal coach who also happened to be friends with Dave Marsh. That vocal coach sent some of the music I was writing at the time to Dave and we have always kind of stayed in contact a little bit.

Then more recently in the last year or so as I was putting music out, I was talking with Dave and Jim Rotolo who is also on E Street who were like come in and do an interview. So I was like really? So they had me in, did an interview, played a couple of songs then they said “You’ve gotta come back and do the guest dj spot” which I’m like “Fuck Yeah! Absolutely! Are you ok with all dark, depressing songs?”

They have been really kind, then also with Springsteen’s new record and my record there’s certain parallels. Mine came out first so I like to pretend he was almost like copying me, I don’t really think he was but with the bandana, the vinyl and western landscape it felt like parallel roads which I love.

European tours spending time away from your friends and loved ones is something that people often forget about and the world doesn’t stand still whilst they are over here and there are times when life is a test and things can really affect you. As well as being a proud Texan, Lauren has developed a really strong bond with the Bahamas and particularly Hope Town which was absolutely devastated by the effects of Hurricane Dorian, which the way she spoke about the effects and the level of emotion just conveyed how much this had affected her as it was clear to see how special this place was to her.

Hope Town was the first real songwriter retreat I got invited to and it was a really big deal because there’s people like Wyatt Durrette who wrote a ton of Zac Brown songs and Patrick Davies who’s like written for Jimmy Buffet. It’s this magical island in the middle of the Bahamas where I was a complete outsider with all of the songwriters and all of the Bahamian people, everyone was so kind and so welcoming. I’ve been every year for 4 years maybe? So when that happens you get relationships, that’s relationships with the bartenders, their families and the people of the Bahamas. You get relationships with the kids because we do things with the mute kids and the music school there, you write a song with these kids and they are all some of the kindest, friendliest people and I’ve been able to spend 10 days there and I’ve gone there also on my own time to go and see them.

Right now they’re going through hell! I know so many of the people there because it’s just this tiny island is just disconnected and they need a lot of help. I was not able to be part of the Ryman show that they did because I had a show in Amsterdam but we’re trying to raise money for them but realistically just clearing out all of the debris is gonna take a long time!

Then a matter of days later this level of heartbreak escalated to a heart shattering! The tragic passing of fellow Texan artist Kylie Rae Harris who sadly lost her life at 30 years old in a car accident and left behind her 6 year daughter Corbie was devastating news for so many people and even over here as only last year had she played in London herself. Lauren opened up her set in both London and at the festival in Lutterworth with a brave, powerful and beautiful rendition of Kylie’s final single “Twenty Years from Now” which she did a much better job at holding back the tears after her rendition than anyone else that I spoke to that knew more about the song.

Kylie Rae, who I actually met in Hope Town at that event, her passing away was also really heavy especially her having a 6 year old daughter and we’re both from Texas and the first night I met her she became a really dear friend and every time she came to Nashville to work and to write, she stayed at my house and I had Kylie’s room. It’s been really heavy but I’ve been playing Kylie’s songs at these shows because she’s been on my mind every day and instead of trying to push it down I have just put it in the spotlight, try to honour her and everyone has been really kind at all of the shows and super supportive. There’s beauty in all the destruction too!

You are always drawn to ask about UK audiences whether you want to or not but her answer and perception really grabbed me as being something accurate, honest and unprepared which I really appreciated as a truly accurate reflection of what we are:

You show up! You show up physically, you show up mentally and emotionally!

It’s not easy to come over here but knowing now, this being my second time and I had a show in Glasgow where I’ve never played before, people still showed up! That makes it where I will be here because I know that people will show up 100% and you don’t get that in the States. There are some shows where you play and people might be there but they might not actually be in and for whatever reason I know every time I step on stage over here that the majority or all of you are already in and I don’t know how to repay how that feels. It’s an incredible feeling!

This really was a special chat that I got into more than I have done for a long time! I walked in, she poured me a Makers, we talked about the Cowboys and then fangirled over Bruce! I have sat down with a lot of people now and yes she is a Dallas fan who fed me whiskey so she gets mega mega kudos but ‘No Saint’ is a special record that I think tells stories like so few can do! If you can spend some time or have anything spare you can give for Hope Town or Corbie with the links above please do, seriously she is one of the most incredible people I have spoken with, her dedication and passion to support both of these is beautiful! Lauren Jenkins debut album ‘No Saint’ is available HERE

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Annette Gibbons
Hi, I’m Annette, I have been a huge country music fan since the early 90s those were the days we were lucky enough to have CMT in the UK. I enjoy nothing more than listening to country music whilst having a cold beer (or a moonshine) with friends. I try to as many gigs as I can here in the UK and in the USA; I think of Nashville as my second home and I am lucky to have made some amazing friends in Tennessee. Think Country is something I am very proud of, I just want to share my love and passion of all things country music related with you all.
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