Wednesday, November 13

Tea Tunes: Laura Savage strums past boundaries with raw, honest melodies

Laura Savage, a fourth-year sociology student, finds solace in singing and writing indie music on her acoustic guitar. The Spring Sing 2016 winner has songs featuring informal structures and soulful lyrics. (Anisha Joshi/Daily Bruin)

Laura Savage, a fourth-year sociology student, finds solace in singing and writing indie music on her acoustic guitar. The Spring Sing 2016 winner has songs featuring informal structures and soulful lyrics. (Anisha Joshi/Daily Bruin)

Music inspires the soul and allows listeners to feel joyful and free, and behind every piece of inspirational music lies a songwriter and a story. Throughout spring quarter, columnist Kaitlyn Peterson will sit down over tea with UCLA singer-songwriters to explore their musical goals, personal inspirations and what makes their songs so special.

I immediately felt welcome when first entering the apartment of indie singer-songwriter Laura Savage.

Now that I think about it, maybe it was because of the delicious pumpkin cookies she offered me from her “stress baking” that day. The cookies were perfectly complemented by the peach tea we brewed together in her kitchen.

Either way, what was supposed to be a short interview turned into a long, memorable conversation about her originality and passion for music.

[Related: Laura Savage captures top honors at Spring Sing 2016]

At the beginning, we discussed our music tastes. The fourth-year sociology student asked me who I listened to, so I responded with my favorite singer – Lucy Rose, who, like many singers in the indie genre, few are familiar with. Surprisingly, Savage smiled and said she knew her from exploring artists on Spotify.

I had to control my excitement, since I had yet to find someone else who knew of Rose. Having a similar – and, in my opinion, a great – music taste let Savage and me start the meeting off on common ground.

Savage and I then talked about her angst-filled days in her seventh-grade rock band “I ❤?.” She described her project as a means of releasing those adolescent feelings of anger and confusion that so many of us know all too well.

The band only performed at Sweet 16 parties, singing lyrics such as “Ricky, do you like me” to love-stricken middle schoolers.

Savage sipped her tea and told me about her trip to Ireland in 2010, when the beautiful scenery eased her feelings of angst and compelled her to start writing poetry. After she returned home to Los Angeles, she released “Thornbird” in December 2013, singing under the stage name The Old Empire.

Although she doesn’t consider The Old Empire’s songs to be among her best, I listened to them online after our conversation and fell in love with the poetic lyrics. I especially liked the language in her single “The Bloom,” which included her singing, “Oh, how the morning cries for the ship that sailed too soon.”

After realizing that her songs weren’t fully reflecting her emotions, Savage started to write songs that contained fewer metaphors about nature and more confessions of her feelings. Among these songs is “Illustrator,” which tells the story of a person losing someone in their life and having an illustrator redraw the lost soul.

One of the most unusual aspects of Savage’s music is the structure. There are no choruses, no lyric repetitions and hence no formal structure. I have to admit, I had never heard of this format and was thus a little skeptical. But as soon as she sang some of her songs to me, I was hooked.

Savage’s fingers smoothly glided along her guitar’s strings, the soft melody reminiscent of my favorite acoustic songs. The lyrics were so hypnotizing that at many moments I wanted to close my eyes and get lost in the lyrics.

In “Monster,” she sang, “That house that blew down the street was where we settled down, according to the blueprints of my daydreams.”

[Related: Laura Savage talks Spring Sing inspiration]

Savage’s music breaks songwriting boundaries in one of the most beautiful ways I’ve heard. She never strums full chords on her guitar, contrary to the loud, full chords in many pop songs. The gentle picking melodies paired with her soothing vocals create a raw, honest sound.

Savage smiled when she admitted music is the only fulfilling thing for her. I noticed her guitar sat on the living room couch – something told me it was a common home for the instrument.

Her passion shines through her songs, which rebel against the flow of our culture by being completely raw. The melodies go back to the heart of songwriting by expressing the tender thoughts and feelings we all try to hide.

Her songs are strong, intellectual and meaningful: a breath of fresh air compared to modern pop music.

As a singer-songwriter myself, I believe that is what real music is – songs that make you feel at home. They’re the ones that make you smile, the ones that comfort you at midnight, the ones that make you cry even if you don’t want to.

Listen to some of Laura Savage’s favorite songs:


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