The folk-pop scene in the mountainous Laurel Canyon neighborhood of Los Angeles in the late 1960s and early 1970s was the home to emerging music legends such as Frank Zappa, Joni Mitchell, Carole King and Crosby, Stills & Nash. What happened in Laurel Canyon shaped music for decades to come. Nowadays a lot has changed but new musicians still go there to find inspiration. Chicago-born musician Lauren Phillips a few years ago packed her bags and headed for Los Angeles and found herself a part of the resurgent Laurel Canyon music scene. Since then, Lauren as an emerging talent has been welcomed with open arms. In the process she has recorded and released songs with Grammy nominated producer Brian West in his Laurel Canyon studio. With her latest single Milwaukee continuing to find new listeners, it seemed like a perfect time to chat with Lauren. Here is some of what we talked about.
Lauren, I understand you are originally from Chicago and you bought a one way ticket to Los Angeles to chase your music dream. What do you like most about Los Angeles? I understand it was tough during the first year of the pandemic.
I’m a cliche but I love the weather and the people surprisingly. I’m always meeting new people that inspire me. I also love the beaches up in Malibu. Ohhh and the breakfast burritos! I once had a breakfast burrito in Nashville and it haunts me. I’ll never get a breakfast burrito outside of California ever again.
Can you tell us something about your connection to the Laurel Canyon music scene? If you ever come to Laurel Canyon go to Pace, it’s a little Italy restaurant under the general store…a little secret for your readers. My connection to Laurel Canyon would definitely be Brian West, we did my first EP up on Look Out Mountain, same street that Joni Mitchell lives on. I still cant believe it, it was such an epic moment of my life. Brian West is the nicest person.
What kind of music do you like to listen to? Does it impact on the music you consider for yourself?
I’m all over the board…at the moment, anything from KCRW has me happy. I realized I have so many artist I want to be like and I never sound like any of them haha. I swear I’ve asked every producer to make me sound like Donovan Woods or Leif Vollebek. Hasn’t happen yet!
On your latest single Milwaukee you sing “I don’t wanna be here tonight, The city can’t be this bad I’m sure.” Tell us about what you were feeling when you wrote it?
For the record, I love Milwaukee. I’ve been getting a lot of angry listener in Milwaukee but I promise that town is one of the best. The story goes, I was in Milwaukee for a job during the pandemic for 2 week, stuck in a hotel room with nothing to do, nothing was open, it was terrible. I really missed my partner and it was just a classic case of being homesick.
Is it important to have every Lauren Phillips song be a reflection of yourself?
It’s important that the music is me and not me trying to be like someone else.
I understand your forthcoming debut album’ is out in July. What can you tell us about it?
Yes, Handsome Woman. I love that title. It’s basically a diary of my life over the last 2 years.
What is it about music in general that makes you feel so passionate about it?
Music is my life, my best friend, and something that has been there for me always.
Do you have a favorite song that truly encapsulates your passion for music?
If were talking about one of my favorite song I wrote, it would be Handsome Woman. Not one of mine, Sheryl Crow, Leaving Las Vegas. I love that song!
I understand your song The Irish was co-written with Bonnie Barker. What qualities do you think makes a good songwriter?
Patience, you’re working with the most emotional humans haha. Bonnie is a gem. She was one of my first champions, always has my back and answers my phone calls. Thats special to me haha.
Lauren, I read a wonderful story about how when you bought your first electric guitar the guy at the counter said “There goes the next Sheryl Crow.” But by the time you got home and discovered who Sheryl Crow was, you decided your next guitar would be an acoustic. What happened?
I love this story.
With my 8th grade graduation money, I wanted to buy an electric guitar. My mom was awesome. I honestly wouldn’t have been a songwriter without my mom. She was the one that said it was ok that I got the guitar and took me to the guitar center to pick up one I wanted. Now that I think of it, I wish I knew the guy that was working that day that said that to me. It’s been something I’ve remembered my whole life and every time I lose confidence in my music, I think of that guy sometimes. Hope that answered the question.
Finally, how has your style evolved since that fateful day you bought your first guitar?
Well, I bought an electric guitar based off of wanting to be like Green Day haha. I realized after looking up Sheryl Crow she was more my style, then I learned about the songwriters in Laurel Canyon, then to hotel cafe etc etc etc. I’ve evolved into a songwriter. I like the story. I like telling it.