“Minefields” performed live on the Lightship95 music studio boat on the River Thames, November 2011.
This song appears on my 2012 album “Little Battles”, released under the name She Makes War.
At the end of 2011 I assembled a temporary band of superstars in their own right to showcase four songs from my upcoming second album “Little Battles”. We spent a whole day filming on the Lightship95 music studio inside a pink boat moored on the River Thames, and this is one of the songs we played.
What a dream – three fierce solo artists and a brilliant drummer sharing a stage. I’m so glad we captured these memories.
In 2009 I started tentatively sharing my music on the internet – and I was immediately blown away by the generosity of music fans around the world, people who were excited to sidestep the corporate music industry and directly support this independent artist.
Are you familiar with the term “patron of the arts”? It’s nothing new; artists have been funded by patrons for centuries, and it makes sense – we all have something unique to bring to our communities, offline and online, and it was a real turning point in my life when I realised that being an artist, making music and videos and podcasts and zines and whatever else – that could be my worthwhile contribution to the community.
I funded the recording, mixing, mastering and manufacturing of my first four albums through pre-orders and crowdfunding campaigns – and then, at the end of 2018, a company called Pledge Music folded, taking £6000 of my money with them.
I was furious. Not just because I needed that money to make my next album, but because the whole thing was so disrespectful to my supporters.
(I fulfilled all the pledges anyway, obviously.)
I grew up really resisting the concept of rockstars, those people we’re meant to put on a pedestal and treat as the super special ones. That never resonated with me. So, realising there was another path, a path I could make for myself where I could be a normal person – well, sort of normal – realising that I could flip all that on its head and find more ways to contribute to my community? That was huge for me.
Instead of saying “look at me, aren’t I great, shiny shiny ads, buy my music!”, I could say “here, I made this with love, I hope it helps in some way”. That’s what music does for me, whether I’m processing my thoughts and experiences through making it, or when I find music by other artists that tips my world upside down.
Music = magic.
So, at the start of 2019 I launched my Supersub Club, and in 2020 I renamed it The Correspondent’s Club. It changed my life. From juggling freelance video and social media jobs with comment moderation shifts at a national newspaper (hi trolls!), I was suddenly free to spend all my time making music and videos and podcasts and zines and whatever else. Over and above making music, I could finally spend my time encouraging others in their own creative dreams.
I went into overdrive, producing 50 episodes of my creativity podcast Attention Engineer, completing my debut Penfriend album “Exotic Monsters”, delivering quarterly art and music bundles to my dear subscribers and starting my YouTube channel in earnest.
I’ve always been a grafter, and I’ve never thought that producing 12 songs every 18 months was enough of a job for me.
There was a time around 2015-2017 when I flirted with the idea of teaming up in some way with “the music industry”, bringing my music and my community and my knowhow onto a bigger stage. All that resulted in was money wasted on PR companies who didn’t stand a chance of getting coverage for an indie upstart like me, radio pluggers who get paid whether or not they get your songs played, and time and energy wasted on a manager who didn’t seem to want to do any actual work.
Giving up on that industry mirage was empowering. No more waiting around. No more crossing fingers. No more hoping someone would come along and make everything bigger, better, easier.
I already told you, I’m not afraid of hard work.
In 2021, my first Penfriend album “Exotic Monsters” went to number 24 in the UK Official Albums chart – without the help of any of the things musicians are told are essential.
I didn’t even post on TikTok.
This momentous thing, this lifetime dream come true only happened because people who like real music about real things chose to buy my album on vinyl, CD, tape and download. And the album only exists the way it does because my Correspondent’s Club members funded it right from the start of its creation in early 2019.
It’s normal to feel disconnected from things these days, but just like your local independently run cafe continuing to stay open because you and your friends go back again and again, I get to keep making music and videos and podcasts and zines and whatever because people like you subscribe, or buy music and merch from my shop or, in the not too distant future, buy tickets to come and see me play in your town.
I do all of this all by myself, with full-time cheerleading and occasional camera holding from my husband Tim. There are no middle persons involved, no team, no manager, label, agent or anything else.
It’s a lot, but I prefer it this way – I don’t have to try to become a supermarket in the centre of town and feel like a failure when I don’t “make it”.
I’m an artisan, small batch producer of music filled with love and care and hope, that I transmit to you in whatever form you prefer, be that vinyl, CD or digital file.
An historical vlog from February 2009. See clips of “snow day” in London and enjoy my very first music video!
“Eye Spy” is a straight-up anti-war song, and listening to the lyrics again now I feel sad that they’re always relevant. The video was shot by me in Brockwell Park, Herne Hill, and was the very start of my music video directing adventures. On-screen assistance comes from actor friend Melissa Dozois, in character as her silent movie creation Molly.
All the footage in the vlog and the music video was shot on tape – yep, video editing used to be quite the faff!
In October 2021 I embarked on a solo trip to Lisbon. After retreating into my home – first during a series of lockdowns between March 2020 and January 2021 and then, voluntarily, being super careful for the rest of the year – I tested the waters with my first trip abroad since touring Europe in 2019.
I’m a huge fan of solo travel, whether that’s close to home or further afield. It’s such a great opportunity to do, see, eat and drink whatever *you* want to, as well as to think deeply, appreciate your own resilience and plan for the future without any distractions, without making all those micro-adjustments we rightly or wrongly do when we’re with our loved ones.
In this video I also share some thoughts on the immediacy and addictive nature of social media sharing, whether that’s caring or, perhaps, wearing, and share some photos from my trip.
I’m very thankful for any opportunity to travel like this, and don’t take it for granted at all.
Lisbon is a magical place, I hope you get to visit some time xo
I’m celebrating three years of making my music full-time – and the past 12 months has been the most financially stressful in my 18 years of self employment. It’s tough out there for everyone at the moment, and I’m SO thankful to do this job, but I wanted to let you know I’m feeling it too.
In the winter of 2009 I spent 17 days making my debut album “Disarm” in a small Hackney music studio. When I released the album in 2010 I created a DVD to go with it, and I’ve tightened up the “Making The Album” film for YouTube with a special never-before-shared intro:
Back to 2008 again for episode 2 of my ancient vlog, featuring:
– my great big pre-gig nerves – a guitar amp transported to my gig in a plastic bag on a bus (glamorous *and* professional) – snippets of “Getting Nowhere” and “ghostsandshadows” live – and my first EVER radio interview (conducted during my office job lunch break!!) where I talk about being an extra in “Extras” (singing with David Bowie!)
I started vlogging in 2008 – way before Casey Neistat! – but made two big mistakes:
1) calling it a vblog instead of a vlog, because I was being nitpicky about how if it was a “video blog” it should be a vblog not a vlog. Um, ok Past Laura, cool pedantry – but imagine if you’d tagged it with the word EVERYONE ELSE WAS USING…perhaps people might have watched!
2) not being consistent. I did make a decent amount of episodes, but then stopped because I was busy with other things. If I hadn’t stopped, who knows what it would have developed into. I’m especially annoyed with myself for listening to my ex-boyfriend who asked me “is this a music project or are you making a reality TV show?” I’m glad I used that as a catalyst for making my debut album, but it’s not all or nothing (and it was never a reality TV show).
ANYWAY, I’m delighted to be doing the YouTube thing now, and it’s fun to go back and appreciate some of the good things I made. It’s way too easy to write off our past endeavours as rubbish because we are better at doing those things now (and might still, often, wonder if we’re any good). I’m glad I saved these snippets and I hope you enjoy these trips down memory lane with me.