Part 1

Name: Laura Bettinson
Occupation: Producer, songwriter
Current Release: Lau.ra has contributed a track to Sasha's upcoming release LUZoSCURA.
Recommendations: The Vernon Spring - A Plane Over Woods: A blissful piano album you need in your lives.
Miranda Makaroff

if you enjoyed this interview with lau.ra aka Laura Bettinson, visit her website for a deeper look at her work. For more current activities, check out her Instagram profile.  

When did you start writing producing music? And what are who we are early passions and influences? What is it about music and or sound that drew you to it?

I started writing and producing my own songs when I was about 16. Before that, I'd always been a singer from from a very young age about five, my parents telling me I would be singing all the time. I would learn to sing through imitating other artists pop pop stars, and some of my favorite songs on the radio. That's how I kind of trained my pitch and and strengthened my voice.

But I didn't start writing my own songs until I was about 16. And that was initially on the piano. And then I moved to London when I was 18 and realized that I couldn't take a piano to any shows because stage pianos are really heavy. And I was a student and didn't have any money to pay for taxis. So I started to work with electronics and getting, again, all my gear that I needed into a suitcase. So instead I started messing around with loop stations and samplers. From that experience of going out live and playing these songs with really basic, programmed beats, I then took that into the studio context and started to teach myself how to produce and program.

What is it about music and or sound that drew you to it?

I'm not sure. I think, really, how I ended up here is because I have a very strong desire to create. And to create, I mean, it could be music, it could be video, it could be art, could be fashion, I have an interest in all those things. It just so happened that music was the one that stuck. I got some early successes through the door, which meant I kind of was hurtling down this path. So it wasn't intentional. I just wanted to make stuff. Before I moved to London as an 18 year old to study music I was doing my a levels in art. And I had the intention of going to study art in London, rather than music, but it didn't work out that way. I ended up jumping on music first. And and here I am still making music. So it wasn't a kind of predetermine decision.

For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and often emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?

Well, ironically, as I kind of mentioned that in the first question, I learned to sing through emulating other pop stars. And that's how I trained my voice. But in terms of production, I've been on quite a journey. I first started producing, kind of alternative pop music for a project that was called FEMME. And I did that for probably five years. And after graduating at Goldsmiths University in Southeast London, I was making that kind of alternative pop music, I think because having grown up in a town in the Midlands, in the UK, where not a lot was going on, I hadn't really seen a lot of women making different genres of music. ASll the women I'd seen in music were either pop stars or front people of rock bands. And I had no desire to be in a band with a load of stinking lads. So I ended up making pop music.

It really wasn't until quite late in the in my artistic development that I discovered this whole other world of electronic music and also women in technical roles, female producers, female sound engineers, female tour managers and female DJs even. It took me ages to find those people and to believe that I could maybe do that. I really enjoyed flexing my muscles more as a producer on the records that I've been releasing as Laura, in the last 12 months, because it's taken the pressure off me having to vocal everything. I love working with other artists and being able to bring them in on tracks, and then also sample their voice and treat their voices as an instrument in a way that I think if I was singing on my own record, I would probably be a bit more precious about it because I have obviously my own emotions and experiences attached to those vocal performances.

What is the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?

It's all one merged process, really. Certainly every music producer or songwriter you'll ever meet will tell you that there is a certain element of recycling previous ideas, whether they're your own or influences and inspirations from other songs. There is absolutely recycling going on, copying going on in a lot of music, because there are only so many notes in the scales, there are only so many chords that you can you can play with. So there is obviously a lot of copying, but I think I've always been a big advocate for taking those influences and recycling them and pushing things forward.

I love producers that push the envelope of whatever genre they they work in. I like to be surprised, I have no interest in electronic music that's just paint by numbers.

What were your main compositional and production challenges in the beginning? And how have they changed over time?

Well, when I first started writing and producing my own music, like I mentioned, I was making pop music. And at the time, I was really, really influenced by that Phil Spector wall of sound. When I grew up, I obviously was a child of the 90s. So it was a lot of Spice Girls, and Destiny's Child and all states and things like that. But my parents and my grandparents and also me and a lot of my friends, we would love to listen to Motown Records, old soul and then as a kind of tangent off that a lot of the 60s girl groups. So when I first started making pop music, I was very, very influenced by that sound. But obviously, when you've never really produced any records before, creating something that dense is really hard, because you have no idea how to mix anything. So that was probably my greatest challenge.

When I first started producing my own music was I had aspirations beyond my skill set in terms of a mixer. Now, 10 years into making music and producing my own records, I've gone from strength to strength and that really is just practice. I say that to a lot of young producers and an upcoming artists: You've got to put the hours in. I certainly have and I feel like in the last 18 months with the music I've been making, I've just completely made some really huge leap forwards in terms of my skill set as a mix engineer, mainly because I've found the set of sounds and the right world. For me, that makes the mixing process a lot easier. I found the right place, I found a great sonic identity for myself.

Wwhat was your first studio like? For what reasons has your setup evolved over the years, and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?

Well, my first studio, I spent a portion, if not most of my student loan, on getting myself a very basic PC laptop, a couple of monitors and a USB keyboard. And I was working on Cubase, which was the first ever software that I started to work on. I didn't last very long on Cubase, probably only a year, until I moved over to Logic. I still work in Logic now.

But my first studio was very, very basic, because I only had about 500 quid, if that, to spend on it. One of the great ironies of producing music for a living is that it takes you ages to make any money from this professionally, but it's very expensive to set yourself up. I've always professionally been working in the streaming era, which means you're not necessarily making bucket tons of cash a lot of time, or at least not at the beginning. And so I have never really had this kind of burning desire to collect more gear. In some ways, I love the restrictions of not having a lot of stuff.

The studio I have now at home is obviously a lot more elaborate than that first set up that I had. But equally I can still make banging tunes with just a set of headphones, a laptop and a tiny little USB Controller. I'm very comfortable in that world as well. So, again, I always say to aspiring producers out there, don't get hung up on the gear, because it's just stuff to help you with your creativity and really shouldn't be relied on to achieve the things that you want to achieve work within your restrictions.

About a couple of pieces of gear, we're going to get specific about what I love. I mean, I have these little Korg Minilogue synths, which are very affordable, and they're so small, they fit on my desk. I use those a lot. In a lot of my production, I also do my vocals on the Blue Bottle Rocket . I also love using Aston Mics gear, I use one of their Spirit mics a lot, it's just a handheld. I have it plugged in at all times next to me when I'm making music. So if I do hear a vocal melody or something that I want to just sketch down and remember, I will use that the Spirit mic because it has such a nice quality that usually those first initial ideas will be what ends up on the final record.

How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at? And what do machines excel at?

I bought a four track, or was it an eight track Fostex recorder when I was in my late teens, to start recording my own demos. And so I've always had technology very, very closely entwined with my production process and music making process. I've never, ever been scared of using technology to help me create music.

But I guess one thing that machines will never be able to do is to make those unexpected decisions that humans can, those happy accidents, those things were you may be making a mistake when you're playing something and it ends up being a really great tangent to go off on and inspires something else. If machines are pre programmed to do things in a certain way, you don't get those same happy accidents. So we, we have to exist together. I have no interest in AI made Spotify tunes. To me, you always have to have a human person operating those machines to be able to get the best results out of them.

Collaborations can take on many forms, what role do they play in your approach? What are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives?

I have obviously collaborated with lots of different producers and DJs in electronic music over the years, even when I was a vocalist. I've done stuff with Justin Martin, Sasha, and Christoph. Lots of people, David Lynch even over the years. And to be honest, the majority, I would say, 80% of those collaborations, have been achieved remotely. I've never met any of those people. Some of them I have, and we've become really good friends. But most of my music making is made in my studio in London, sending a file to somebody else on the other side of the world, usually, them sending it back in a couple of days. And I love working like that. I've always been somebody that loves working on my own. I feel I'm much freer to make certain decisions, correct creative decisions, when it's just me in the studio as a producer and as a vocalist. And I'm not precious at all. When I send that idea to another producer, they're free to chop it up and turn it on his head, and that really excites me.

So over the last 12 months, I've been making lots and lots of collaborative tracks with other artists, some that will come out later this year, and some that have already come out. One with Bronson at the beginning of the year called "Heart Attack", which ended up being a really really big dance hit. And then just recently, "Beat Freak" with Chris Lake and Riva Starr. We haven't ever met, but with the use of technology, just this ability to communicate with each other instantly, it's very, very easy to make music remotely with each other, and I'm very adept at doing that.

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