(Photo Credit: Shervin Lainez)
The first time I came across the music of Aly Spaltro, better known under the stage name Lady Lamb, was with her first studio album Ripely Pine 2013. There was such an openness that Spaltro has in her music; nothing is lost behind any artsy noise. And with her new album After, Spaltro continues to show that she has an honest relationship with the songs she crafts; with each line, melody and breakdown given the respect that it deserves to connect to her listeners.
Recently, I was able to chat with Lady Lamb while she was traveling to San Diego on her current tour. Even though we were having a constant battle with cell phone reception as she drifting through mountainous regions, we were able to talk about the new album and things that challenge her as an artist.
Instead of painting pictures with your music, it's like it's coming from a different angle where the picture is already there and you're just telling us about it. Talk about how you write your songs.
I usually start with lyrics and I generally write them in phrases, then I'll compile the phrases later on into a cohesive piece. It's generally narrative and pretty visual I would say lyrically, then the music comes second and I usually try to have the music follow the mood of the lyrics.
Throughout the album, there's a sense of clarity with everything; the vocals, the melodies, the breakdowns. Everything has its own room to breathe. Talk about the sound of the album.
One of my favorite things to do musically is to subtract. Lot of times when I write a song I'll build it up pretty big, then I'll spend a lot of time taking parts out of it and figure out the arrangement that way.
It still has a real full feeling to it.
I treated each song on it's own. I tend to think about each individually and focus on perfecting it and knowing that they are all coming from the same time period usually. I know they'll work together in someway even if the textures are different. I just wanted to give each song what I felt it wanted. I knew I wanted to make a record that was a bit brighter than my last one; brighter mix, brighter vocals, a little bit more fuzz, but still keep in line with my guitar tones, my usual reverb and that kind of thing.
With each song, you are very direct with your narrative, like pages out of a novel. Speak about the narrative of the album.
Thematically, it's about a lot of different things and a lot of times I'll piece together different phrases together from different days; things I think about or things I saw or things I remembered. There's a visual component to the songs. The lyrics are descriptive enough to paint a picture.
What has music given you in your life?
It's given me a place to express myself to others being a very introverted person. I've just learned about myself that I feel a really strong connection through performing and sharing music and helping people get through things they are dealing with. It's given me a connection to people, which is really important to me.
Through making those connections, what have been your biggest lessons thus far?
Speaking on that note, we all have very universal problems and that music really does bridge the gap between strangers and has healing powers. It has had for me in the past listening to other musicians and I've seen over time that it helps people. So having experience that myself, it means a lot to me to find out that people are moved by song.
Outside of music, what has been your biggest personal challenge?
That's a tough question. I've been doing music exclusively for so long and focusing on that, entirely for the last eight years. I would say if I had any challenges it's the business side of things, traveling a lot, and being away from family. Still, I wouldn't trade it.
Big picture, what are you trying to say in your music?
I don't have a goal ultimately for what I'm trying to say, but initially writing songs was a cathartic, personal thing that I try to consciously write in a way that I feel, but not alienating to others and will be something that people can connect with. A lot of that is a natural way of writing music where I'm only doing it for the right reasons with earnestness. I know that if I write from that standpoint then most likely connect to it because it was truthful to me at the time. The ultimate goal is to connect, but not with any sort of formula or strategy really.
What sort of a kid were you growing up?
I was a really weird kid. I was pretty much a loner. My closest friends growing up were all a little older than me. I had trouble connecting with kids my age. I really loved to read. I was obsessed with The Beatles. I would listen to The Beatles in my headphones, read and draw. I was a pretty artistic little kid, but I was kind of weird. I spent a lot of time thinking about where we were in the universe, if that sounds weird, pondering what we were doing here and what I am and what I was. I was always an inquisitive type.
Do you find that you are still a bit of a loner?
I wouldn't use loner anymore. I guess I would just say introverted. I'm a one-on-one type. I have a small group of friends that I'm really close to, but I don't love big groups. I really enjoy being with one or two really good friends at a time. I also really like being alone. I wouldn't say loner though. I'm the type that likes to go see a movie by myself. I find that really nice to do. It doesn't bother me to be alone.
What's the most difficult part about being an artist?
I think one of hard parts is not compromising for anyone and not letting what you think people want you to do get in the way of what you're doing. Its important to not, especially going into the studio, make songs based on what I think people want me to make. I don't think that works. It's a struggle. You don't want to alienate your fans and you want to please everyone, but you can't. You have to keep your integrity and be honest with what you are doing, and the people who are meant to connect to it will. Trying not to be insecure.
What is your biggest fear as an artist?
I suppose one of my fears as a musician is making decisions in my career that all promote longevity because the last think you want to have happen when you are doing what you love is to have the fortune run out. Make decisions along the way that are going to help you stay in the career. I really prefer a nice slow burn. I'm not interested in being buzzy or having people all jump on the train for the summer because I want to keep doing this and make a living at it so I can continue to do it.
Looking back to the time when you were just making bedroom recordings and where you are at now, how do you feel about that progression?
It's been really natural. I made my first studio record and the second with the right timing and with the right people. It took me a long time to stop making bedroom recordings, but I try to just be patient throughout those years and realize the time would come when it made sense for me to go into the studio and bring the music to a more professional sounding place. It's been a long time. This summer it will be eight years I've been doing this. Only three years or little less that I've made studio albums. It was a handful of years to get this place and I feel it's been a very comfortable, natural pace for me.
Lady Lamb will be performing at The Loving Touch in Ferndale, Michigan on Friday, May 8th. For more information on Lady Lamb, visit ladylambjams.com.