Music

Interview: Lawrence, the Brother-Sister Musical Phenomenon You Need to Hear

At the young ages of 24 and 21, Clyde Lawrence and Gracie Lawrence already hold impressive artistic resumes: Clyde was admitted as the youngest member to the Songwriters Guild of America when he was six years old and has composed music for a multitude of films. Gracie has performed on Broadway in Brighton Beach Memoirs (2009), has been an actress in diverse productions, and will appear this year in One Dollar, an upcoming CBS All-Access show.

Both siblings form the soul-pop band Lawrence, along with six other musicians. The group had already encountered considerable success following their first LP Breakfast (2016), which notably peaked as #6 on iTunes’ R&B/Soul charts. This year Lawrence will release their new album, Living Room and I had the pleasure of interviewing them on the eve of the release:

Photo Credit: Ray Lego

Your upcoming album, Living Room, is set to come out on September 14th. How did you come up with the name for it?

Clyde: Our last album was one that we wrote while we were in separate places; I was in college and Gracie was in high school. For this album, we were really excited to be able to come together and write most of these songs in our living room. So much of our music is about home and the feeling of home, and Living Room is such an important part of that.

Do you have any favourite tracks from the album?

Gracie: It’s really hard to pick at the moment but I’m really excited about “Make a Move”. It’s basically about the thought process in a girl’s mind when she wants to ask a guy out – which sort of subverts the social norms – and the frustration that she feels (and when I say she, I mean me (laughter)). I’m really excited about that song and we’re gonna come out with a music video shortly.

Clyde: “Make a Move” is definitely a favourite right now, especially since we’ve been editing the video for it. I will give a shout-out to “Too Easy”, which is the simplest song arrangement-wise on the album; it’s just a piano and some vocals. I’m really proud of it, it’s very meaningful to me. I think in the midst of other songs that have tons of instruments on them, it was really fun to take one and just focus on keeping it super simple with the arrangements.

Is it ever challenging to share such personal experiences with the world?

Clyde: That’s a good question! I think that because I’ve been writing songs since I was so, so young, and before having any real life experiences to share, a lot of them weren’t actually about anything real… There’d be love songs but the lyrics were all sort-of drawn from other songs and artists that I liked. I wasn’t actually writing anything that was true to me. It was kind of a difficult shift when I was in high school and early college, where I realised that I needed to write songs about things that were my actual life experiences. It was a bit of an adjustment, but it made the songs sound way better. Now, I’m actually excited about the fact that when you listen to our music, hopefully you are getting a true sense of our personalities – Clyde and Gracie – through the music.

Is it easier for you to write about stuff that’s happened to you or is it easier to write the way you did when you were younger?

Gracie: I think that it’s easier to write about something specific that doesn’t have to have happened to you. It can be something you imagined happened to you or to another person. I think it’s just about finding something specific and honest that doesn’t have to literally be like “oh, this is the story of when I…”. In my opinion, the songs that have worked the best have been when I just had a specific feeling or gut reaction to something, such as a weird taste in my mouth. You have these small nuggets of ideas or feelings that can explode into a song.

Clyde: I think as long as you’re able to tap into something specific, it can be something that really happened to you or not. Obviously, it’s easier to flush that moment out when it’s happened to you. I actually have done quite often an interesting thing, which is write about a version of myself that isn’t the present. It’s almost sort of a therapy to me. When I was still in high school, I wrote two songs from the perspective of me being in college as a sort of exercise because I was probably nervous to go to college. So two of our songs, Homesick and Hall-Crossed Lovers are about being in college but I wrote them while still being in high school. If I’m in a relationship that’s just started, sometimes I’ll write a song about me from the perspective of that relationship being much further in the future, or broken up just to explore my imagination and place myself in different scenarios.

Personally, I was heavily reminded of broadway and musicals as I was listening to Living Room, maybe because it was really energetic compared to a lot of music that’s being released today. I’m curious as to what kind of sound you guys were aiming towards while producing the album?

Clyde: There’s definitely an element of broadway in a lot of our music because I think that there are two things that bring it about. One of them is that we’re super focused on the dynamics. It’s super important to us for there to be a lot of peaks and values in the music, hits and moments where everything drops out. It’s really important for us to tell a story in the music. Unfortunately this doesn’t happen a lot in pop music that is more built on a consistent loop; we want each song to be a real story with a beginning, middle, and end. The other thing is the chords and chord changes we’re using that are drawn from another era of songwriting/music. There is more classic and gospel harmony. I think that modern pop music isn’t drawn from those kinds of chords as much, but a lot of broadway music is. So, it doesn’t surprise me at all that you could see that connection.

Photo Credit: Ray Lego

Could you describe some of your writing processes?

Grace: Generally, it starts with one of us having a small idea (a feeling, a small lyric, a melody…) and then we usually bring it to each other in the living room and build out that idea from there. If we have a melody, for example, we think: “what’s the idea that surrounds that?”. It’s a good process to start with something that you know works and you know that makes you feel something and build out from there. We’ve started songs in multitudes of ways but I would say that’s the most common way our songwriting process goes. Sometimes we’ll just be sitting together at the piano, and just messing around before coming up with something.

What are your favourite aspects of touring?

Gracie: Interesting question… Touring is really, really tiring and exhausting, but within it there are tons of exciting moments. It’s kind of like this extended marathon because you really are performing – especially on this upcoming tour – basically every night. I think the most fun parts of touring are, and I know this might sound like a silly oversimplified answer, the actual performances. You can be so tired and be on the road for weeks/months on end and still have the energy to get through that show. The reason for that is because once the music starts it’s just so fun and exciting. Each night really does feel different. People always ask if I ever get sick of playing the same songs over and over again. I’ve never had that feeling because every night that we go to a different city and play in a different venue… The audience is never the same, there are different challenges and moments that are super easy and it just changes from night to night. Also, for this upcoming tour, the thing I’m most excited about is that a lot of people haven’t heard these songs. They’re all brand new songs and we’ve never played the full album because it hasn’t come out yet! I’m just so excited to see people’s different receptions to different songs as we play them live. That’s a really exciting way to get feedback on your music.

Are there any cities you’d like to play in the future?

Clyde: I’m really excited that in November we’ll be playing in Europe for the first time. A lot of the cities that we have never gotten to play that are dream cities of ours, we’re able to cross out the list on that tour. There are still international cities that would be so cool to play, from Tokyo to Sydney, all over South America… There are many cool places we have yet to go. I’m sure that after the full tour of Europe this fall we’ll be that much more excited to explore all the other continents that we haven’t even touched.

What’s it like working as siblings? Is there a familial chemistry that makes it easier?

Clyde: You know, it’s funny you asked the question that way because people phrase the question asking “how is it working with your sibling? Is it really terrible? Is there a lot of sibling drama?” and that’s what they assume. We always kind of have to correct them and say that there’s actually a familial chemistry that makes it easier to work together. We don’t have that much problem with working together and are actually able to share a type of sixth sense, where whether it’s in the studio, a meeting, or in the middle of a show, we’re able to give each other a certain look, and know that we’re saying “hmm, maybe don’t bring this up in the meeting” or “I feel good enough to go for the higher harmony”…

Gracie: And we never say that out loud, we just give each other a look or something.

Clyde: What’s cool is that even the other members of the band who aren’t related to us by blood have started developing a similar kind of connection with us. During shows, I can start to give a look directing the band. You know, there’s eight of us so someone will probably do the wrong thing, but most people tend to know what I’m talking about (laughter).

Having a lifetime experience of making music, do you have any advice for aspiring artists out there?

Gracie: It’s hard to give advice because I feel like we’re so young and probably need the advice too. But, I think that the thing I noted from an industry perspective is to work people you love and who love you. Those are the best working relationships. From a musical perspective, I think that starting out, it’s really hard to maybe find your sound – a lot of people give you a lot of different input on what they think your sound is. I think that it’s really a matter of time and thought. It’s important to have a strong identity in your music, but that can be difficult when so many people give you their perspective on what they like in your music, what song they like the best that might not fit in with your other ones… It’s your journey to hone in on what advice works and what doesn’t. Just trust the process and eventually you will find your sound.

Last question: are there any future projects you’d like to alert your fans of?

Clyde: Just the fact that we’ve got some music videos for the songs Living Room coming out. The project we’re focusing on is this album that’s coming out in a couple of weeks.

Gracie: I’m also an actress in a TV show that’s coming out on August 30th on CBS All-Access. It’s called One Dollar. The album is coming out right after this TV show does, so there’s a lot of things that I’m doing, and if people are interested in me and the band they can tune in to that show as well.

You can pre-order Living Room here.

Photo via Sacks & Co.

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