INTERVIEW: Laurence Made Me Cry

INTERVIEW: Laurence Made Me Cry

Laurence Made Me Cry is the umbrella under which artist and multi-instrumentalist Jo Whitby works. Originally from Bristol she’s been a Cardiff resident and active part of the local music and artistic scenes for some time now. I saw Jo play with just a guitar around the time of the release of her debut EP back in 2011, her affecting vocals and bittersweet songs really struck a chord , since then she’s been working on a fan funded debut album ‘The Diary of Me’ which came out recently. It is a real step up, a joyfully intricate yet personal and philisophical piece of work that jigsaw pieces together collaborations from diverse artists from around the world; yet is firmly rooted in the songs she wrote in her bedroom at home. Some have tagged Laurence Made Me Cry’s sound as ‘folktronica’ but I find this term a little ill-fitting because it doesn’t quite describe her sound: the bubbling synths, bleeps and beats that undulate under certain tracks accentuate her rootsy sound, but are anchored by Jo’s expressive playing and her achingly rich vocal tone, that resonates with the wisdom of experience at one moment and the next with hopeful imagination and urge to escape. I caught up with Jo to leaf through a little further into her diary….

GIITTV: Hi Jo how are you?

LMMC: I am well and good thank you.

GIITTV: You played Chapter last night how was it?!

LMMC: It was really great! I had my viola player Cathy with me who also doubled as a glock player, shaker and backing singer. She played viola on some tracks that didn’t have any originally which was fantastic. The crowd were very attentive and lovely. A great gig.

GIITTV: Where does the moniker Laurence Made Me Cry come from I heard it’s something to do with the TV show Changing rooms in a roundabout way?!

LMMC: It does indeed have something to do with Changing Rooms! I saw a newspaper headline in a tabloid one lunch time in the staff room of a record shop I used to work at. The headline was ‘LAURENCE MADE ME CRY’ and basically Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen had destroyed a poor woman’s room as part of the show and it made her cry. It’s quite daft really.

GIITTV: Why do you prefer to work under a moniker? Does it give you more creative freedom and the chance to collaborate more, than just using your own name?

LMMC: Yes, I feel having a moniker allows me to distance myself a little. Some of my music is really personal so releasing and performing it under a name that isn’t my own helps me detach my feelings if that makes sense? It also does give more more freedom to collaborate and not necessarily stick to one particular type of music too.

GIITTV: When did you start writing songs?

LMMC: I was always writing silly songs growing up but I guess I started writing proper songs (as in songs that had a verse, chorus, bridge etc that were not about Christmas trees or criminals terrifying our world to the tune of Iggy Pop’s ‘The Passenger’) when I was 13 or 14. As soon as I had a few decent songs under my belt my parents bought me a 4 track tape recorder. It was the best thing ever and I’ve still got all my recordings from it. I sound so high pitched.

GIITTV: When did the Laurence Made Me Cry proper songs first emerge? You released an EP on your own first didn’t you?

LMMC: The first LMMC songs were actually written and recorded back in 2006 and I was initially performing them under my own name. I didn’t feel comfortable or ready back then so decided to shelve the tracks until 2011 when I thought I should really do something with them. That was when I brought out the name LMMC and put all those tracks into an EP called ‘The Rain Song EP’. They were very stark folk songs, really raw.

GIITTV: Can you tell us a bit about your experiences using fan funding for the album?

LMMC: I’d seen a few friends using crowd-funding as a way to get the cash needed to record an album and thought I’d try my hand it. I’d built up a modest little following through social media so knew there would be a few people interested in backing me. It took a lot of planning and I had to make sure I knew the cost of everything I wanted to do. In the end I didn’t quite reach my goal but what I did raise was enough to get the album recorded and manufactured which was all I wanted. I am eternally grateful to all the backers that made it possible.

GIITTV: Also I heard you got some funding from another source recently?

LMMC: Yes! I applied for some financial support from the Musicians Benevolent Fund to help with a promotional tour of the UK this coming Autumn. I was very lucky to make it through and receive the award. I’m so pleased as I’ve never been on tour before. I’ve also never been to Scotland and I’ve booked 2 dates there so far with a house gig too. Very excited.

GIITTV: When did the songs on ‘The Diary of Me’ first start to emerge?

LMMC: Some of the songs I had a year or so before getting down to recording the album but the majority came during the recording process. It’s the first time I’ve actually allocated a set amount of time to write songs. I’d already started my crowd-funding and had set a strict deadline to meet. I found it a really productive experience.

GIITTV: How did you choose the collaborators to work with on ‘The Diary Of Me’ or did it work more the other way around, the songs emerged through working with different people?

LMMC: A lot of my collaborators were online so for all the tracks there had to be at least a skeleton of a track from me. The songs then grew from that. I’d built relationships with musicians I liked on Twitter and asked them if they’d like to collaborate. Thankfully they all said yes which was amazing. I worked with Cardiff based musicians Alone and Dementio13 as well as Pulco, Salwa Azar, Freddie Nunez, Diane Marie Kloba with word contributions from Astrid (who makes awesome videos as Sillysparrowness), Celine Lux and Megan Brophy. Let’s not forget Cathy too who provided violin and viola for me. It was wonderful to work with so many people.

GIITTV: Do you find writing and singing therapeutic or difficult sometimes?Or maybe both?!

LMMC: A bit of both I think! Song writing isn’t always the easiest thing and can sometimes be frustrating especially when the lyrics are just not happening. I do find it can also be quite cathartic too.

GIITTV: A song like ‘Between Destinations’ has a strong journal like lyrical style, what journeys were the inspiration for it?

LMMC: The inspiration was quite specific for this track. I was on a train journey into the Welsh valleys and the cloud formations in the surrounding scenery was really quite something. The cumulus clouds were absolutely huge and seemed to be so close you could reach out and touch them. I was in awe at how amazing nature could be and was sad to see that nobody else on the train was paying attention to the beauty outside. I remember one lady was more interested in buying some shoes over the phone.

GIITTV: Songs like ‘Houses’ and ‘The Cunning Folk’ have a wonderfully reflective quality did you have to work hard to tap into certain emotions when writing these, or did the words just tumble out?

LMMC: These are actually two songs that I had set ideas for in regard to the story I wanted to tell. I focused on getting the story right rather than working on what emotions I wanted to portray. ‘Houses’ is about a childhood memory of going on holiday but almost instantly wanting to be home in case something came for me in the post which was silly because I hardly ever received mail but I seemed to latch onto that as a kid. I think the lyrics can be applied to adults too, not being able to switch off on holiday but knowing you need the break.

‘The Cunning Folk’ is inspired by a conversation I had with a friend on Twitter. We were talking about witches and I had a flash of inspiration regarding a guitar piece I’d just come up with. It’s one of the rare songs that isn’t about me or from my point of view. The words came quite quickly for this song.

GIITTV: ‘Paper Chains’ and ‘Intelligent Mister Toad’ have electronic under currents. Were you looking for different sounds when you invited the likes of Alone and Dementio13 to become involved?

LMMC: Very much so yes. I love what both Alone and Dementio13 create musically and felt the album needed some electronic elements. Also the fact that I love electronic music too, I used to make electro-pop before becoming LMMC so it made sense to incorporate it. Alone is like a mad scientist chopping up sounds and creating magic with modified games consoles whereas Dementio13 creates more refined and epic sounding music that can be quite abstract and yet also dancey.

GIITTV: Some have tagged your sound as ‘Folktronica’ how do you feel about that? I find it a rather ill fitting pigeonhole?

LMMC: If it helps people describe my music simply then I don’t have a problem with it. It’s better than twee.

GIITTV: I have read some criticisms of music that uses electronic instrumentation as synthetic, but you manage to imbue it with a real heart and warmth. What would you say to those people?

LMMC: I would sit them down and play Bjork at them until they understood how wrong they were. I’d also check to see if they had any 80s synth power ballad records in their collection and hit them with it.

GIITTV: What kind of records and artists are sources of inspiration for your work?

LMMC: One of my all time favourite albums is ‘The Sensual World’ by Kate Bush and I’ve been told you can hear the influence of that record in my album which is awesome. I listen to a heck of a lot of new music and am shamefully a ‘shuffler’ these days so don’t tend to focus on artists as much as I used to. During the making of the album I was listening to a lot of Atari Teenage Riot, Jewellers, Rachel Sermanni, Command V, Jo Mango, Lazy Habits, PJ Harvey, RM Hubbert and Shakey Graves as well as loads of Kate Bush of course.

GIITTV: What dates have you got lined up for the rest of the year?

LMMC: I’ll be heading out on tour in September. Confirmed dates so far are 23rd Sep – Morden Tower, Newcastle, 24th Sep – Cellar 35, Aberdeen, 26th Sep – Velocity Cafe, Inverness and 30th Sep – Heath Street Church, London. Lots more dates still to be confirmed as well as more local gigs in the near future too. Best to check is my website:

GIITTV: What is your plan to follow up ‘The Diary of Me’ have you already started writing it?

LMMC: I’ve got a few new tracks I’m working on as well as helping a few friends with collaborations. I’ve also been asked to sing at a wedding which is amazing! The next release will be an EP I expect but I need to tour ‘The Diary Of Me’ more before I get too lost in working on a new record.

Laurence Made Me Cry’s debut album ‘The Diary Of Me’ is out NOW! Available from Bandcamp (digital ‘name your price’): Noisetrade (name your price): iTunes: Amazon:

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.