It has been a long while (over four years!) since I’ve shared any new music with you. My previous record feels like so many lives ago. I do believe I have some valid excuses for the gap, but in honesty, it always takes me a good while to figure out what I mean to say.
With that in mind, I am profoundly pleased (and really fucking excited) to announce my fourth LP, Empire Builder, set for release April 1 on Barsuk Records (US, preorder) and City Slang Records (UK/EU, preorder). These are my favorite songs I’ve ever made.
I will go ahead here and post a track for your listening, premiered today on NPR’s All Songs Considered….listen here.
(Feel free to skip my babbling and just listen to the track)
But in case you are curious (and can endure some sappiness ahead)…
I named the record Empire Builder for the Amtrak train route I took while in the process of moving from Oregon to New York (full disclosure: I did transfer to the “Lake Shore Limited” train in Chicago and suppose I should make a companion ep called Lake Shore Limited). The title seemed appropriate because it captures a moment right in the middle of a big personal change. The past few years I’ve been haunted by this line at the end of the Rainer Maria Rilke poem, “Archaic Torso of Apollo” which (translated) reads “You must change your life”. I wanted to explore that charge for change within myself, but also grapple honestly with the consequences of such self-change. The title Empire Builder also seemed to speak to the questions I’ve been asking myself over the past few years. How do you tell desire from selfishness? What does it mean to live for others? What does it mean to live for yourself? This record is also about solitude, connection and aloneness. It is about wanting to be a badass strong woman, but also wanting to rip myself open in order to nurture and care for people.
I was able to make Empire Builder with my dream band: Dave Depper, best of pals and walking encyclopedia of rock, played bass and electric guitar and created trippy/dreamy ambient loops; Dan Hunt, who seemed to have rummaged the kitchen and toolshed for items to add to his bag of percussion, played drum parts cooler than I could have ever imagined; and Peter Broderick, whippersnapper genius, composer-violinist built insane string sections (Side note: I met Peter over ten years ago, serving coffee at my first job in Portland. Peter worked at the pizza place across the street and we had a relationship of trading free coffee for free pizza long before we discovered we were both musicians). I shared my producer duties with the wonderful John Askew, man of patient wisdom and boundless energy, and many tricks up his sleeve. John recorded and mixed the songs.
The past year has been the craziest of my life. I came to New York, thinking I’d step away from music in order to learn some new skills (specifically, to get an MFA in Fiction Writing). At the time, moving across the country felt like the hardest thing ever. I am madly in love with my Oregon friends and family (and the herons and the bramble and the Douglas Fir trees). But New York City has been a miracle of kindness.
Many of you know what came next: my apartment and possessions burned to the ground in the East Village Explosion last March. It feels strange and dramatic to bring it up here, but it is, and will continue to be, something that shapes me for the rest of my life. I cannot separate that experience from these songs. The generosity and care I received from so many people (certainly some of you) was astonishing. I think about that compassion of friends and strangers all the time. It makes me weep. As solitary as music-making can be, it always seems like a community effort to complete something meaningful, and this time I feel that more than ever. I want every one of you who helped me to feel like this is your record as much as mine (unless you hate it – then feel no obligation to call it yours), and know that I will give you a copy if you ask for one. The family I’ve found in playing music transcends time and distance and big life-changes. I am incredibly lucky.
I wanted to make something generous and true for myself and for you. At times, making music feels like saving my own life. But I am fully aware that the things that mean so much to their makers often end up hidden under a cushion in a corner somewhere, to only be discovered by a few. I hope lots of people hear these songs (and by all means, please share the heck out of it on social media), but it also feels like such a miracle to have made it at all. So many moments I thought it would end up in a drawer, or somehow evaporate into nothing, but it didn’t. I finished it.
Because so much is left to chance, isn’t it? The building I lived in. The people I met when I first started playing music. The wind blowing one direction and not another. That guy at that show. The words and phrases that came across my vision or into my head. The friends who happened to be home when I had scheduled some days in the studio. Even the things that seem so fated (like love); or the things that are also great acts of will (like moving across the country or running marathons or writing books), or the fact you are reading these words.
So do check in April 1, for some songs, and come hang out with me at a show. Here are the first few (with a bunch more to come):
Wed, 16 March – Pittsburgh, PA * Club Café (Solo show w/ Shearwater)
Thu, 17 March – Toronto, ON * Horseshoe Tavern (Solo show w/ Shearwater)
Fri, 18 March – Ferndale, MI *The Loving Touch (Solo show w/ Shearwater)
Sat, 19 March – Chicago, IL *Schubas (Solo show w/ Shearwater)
Wed, 30 March – Asheville, NC – Grey Eagle
Thu, 31 March – Atlanta, GA – Red Light Cafe
Fri, 1 April – Raleigh, NC – Kings Barcade
Sat, 2 April – Arlington, VA – Iota Club & Cafe
Sun, 3 April – Philadelphia, PA – Johnny Brenda’s
Fri, 8 April – Providence, RI – Columbus Theatre
Sat, 9 April – New York City, NY – Joe’s Pub
Thu, Apr 14 – Portland, OR – The Old Church
Fri, Apr 15 – Seattle, WA – Fremont Abbey
Fri, 22 April – Brussels, BE – Huis 23@AB (special solo performance)
Sat, 23 April 2016 – Utrecht, NL – Tivoli Vredenburg Cloud
Mon, 25 April 2016 – Manchester, UK – Soup Kitchen
Tue, 26 April – London, UK – Hoxton Bar & Kitchen+
(+ special record-release showcase presented by Bird on a Wire)
Wed, 27 April – Paris, FR Point Ephemere (co-headline with Grant Lee Phillips)
Thu, 28 April – Amsterdam, NL Tuinzaal
Fri, 29 April – Marienburg Church, NL – Nijmegen
Sat, 30 April – Gent, BE – Trefpunt
Sun, 01 May – Lessines, BE – Roots and Roses Festival
Mon, 02 May – Berlin, DE – Kantine am Berghain
Tue, 03 May – Leipzig, DE – Werk 2
Thu, 05 May – Graz, AUT – Postgarage
Fri, 06 May – Vienna, AUT – Haus Der Musik
More shows will be announced soon!
Now back to working on my thesis (I have one more semester till graduation). Currently attempting to write a short story that takes place on the Oregon Trail.
I’ve started recording the new record! It may take some time, as I’ve also just started grad school (an MFA in Creative Writing at Hunter College), but I feel pretty confident I’ll have these songs finished up by the end of the year. Photo by John Askew
I’ll be sharing a few of the new songs at a live taping for OPB at Mississippi Studios, as part of their OPB’s new Stagepass series. They are offering a limited number of (super cheap!) tickets to the public here:
I’ll be spending much of my time in New York this Fall for school. As much as I’ll miss Portland, I’m excited to explore the East Coast and get to know folks here. Also I am learning that the Atlantic sunsets can be just as pretty as the Pacific ones, even though the sun is behind you:
More News coming soon! Enjoy the transition to Fall! It’s my favorite time of year.
I am happy to announce that I’ll be doing a Living Room Tour in June. I won’t be touring much this year, other than this, and I’m excited to share some of the things I’ve been working on. These will be super special, intimate shows in people’s homes. There will be snacks, bonfires, stories, new friends. I hope you all can come!
Tickets are here: http://www.undertowtickets.com/artist/laura-gibson
June 17 – Jacksonville, OR
June 18 – Berkely, CA
June 19 – San Francisco, CA
June 20 – Santa Cruz, CA
June 21 – Los Angeles (La Cañada), CA
June 22 – Joshua Tree (Morongo Valley), CA
June 23 – Phoenix, AZ
June 25 – Colorado Springs, CO
June 26 – Denver, CO
June 27 – Fort Collins, CO
June 28 – Pinedale Wyoming (Outdoor Festival)
June 29 – Salt Lake City, UT
June 30 – Boise, ID
July 2 – Bellingham (Ferndale), WA
July 3 – Seattle (Snohomish), WA
July 11 – Portland (Sauvie Island), OR
July 12 – Portland, OR
July 13 – Oregon City, OR
I’ll also be making an appearance at the Soundcheck Festival in beautiful Pinedale, Wyoming. Check it out:
I am at the Emily Dickinson Museum this week, studying here thanks to a generous grant from the Regional Arts and Culture Council. Learning so much!
Also, I have been commissioned by the amazing PHAME Academy to write music for an original theater production, in collaboration with playwright Debbie Lamedman. I am writing specifically for performers with developmental disabilities, working within their strengths and limitations. The show will debut at Portland Center Stage, summer of 2015.
I’ll post a longer update soon, but just wanted to share a link to listen to a new song. Last month I was lucky enough to be a part of SEED Words + Music. I wrote a song based on a piece of writing by author/wonder-woman Cheryl Strayed, while Cheryl wrote a piece based on one of my songs. It was a good challenge and a really fun night. OPB’s great new arts program State of Wonder has a recording of the show.
I am back in Portland after an amazing trip to Brazil. I spent two weeks soaking up as much music and beauty as possible, participated in Samba jams, and sat down with musicians in Rio and Paraty, met warm people and ate rich food. I loved it. Here are a few pictures:
I am taking a break from singing my songs, and focusing on writing, but I am playing a special show Father’s Day Weekend at the House on the Metolius in Central Oregon. The Metolius River might be the most magical place in Oregon, and certainly worth a visit. I believe House on the Metolius is offering special lodging deals for June. There are also several cabins and places to camp nearby.
Here’s the info:
and finally, I had the pleasure of playing a visit to Live Wire this past weekend, and sang a song with the brilliant and hilarious Kristen Schaal (30 Rock, Flight of the Concords, Bob’s Burgers). It should be available in a few weeks for streaming online.
Much love to you as the days are growing longer,
I am writing to you from a little A-Frame in the mountains of Central Oregon, a place called Caldera that has been my home for the month. It’s an amazing gift to sit and watch the snow fall or the fire burn without feeling the need to go on to the next thing. I’ve taken to exploring the land around me, finding lakes hidden in the pine trees, getting lost, learning to feel comfortable not knowing where I’m going, taking time to follow a snowflake to the ground, pressing the pinecones, like rough fists into my cheeks. So often this time of year I am just waiting for spring to come, and so often in life, I’m focused on the next season, the next record, the next tour. It has been wonderful to lean hard into the winter here, to be still.
My Cabin at Caldera
Caldera is an amazing organization and I strongly encourage you to check them out and find ways to support them.
Caldera was started by Dan Wieden of the Portland advertising firm Wieden Kennedy. Each summer they bring underserved youth from Portland and Central Oregon and give them access to, encouragement and training in the arts, and continue that training and those relationships throughout the year. They transform so many kids’ lives by showing them the power of their own creativity. During the winters, Caldera hosts a handful of artists to come for a month of residency. Hundreds apply, and I was lucky enough to be awarded a spot. It has been an incredible gift to be here.
In search of Dark Lake (which I’d only seen on the map)
The past few Thursdays I’ve been going into Sisters, Oregon to teach songwriting to high school and middle school kids. Every time I’ve talked to teenagers about the creative life, I end up finding out something I’ve been needing to teach to myself, some truth that’s been stuck in my throat. The kids in Sisters were incredibly engaged and fun and I learned so much from them.
Upon my return to Portland March 1st, I’ll be playing a very special solo show at Mississippi Studios to celebrate my time out here, to share the things I’ve been working on, and to tell stories. Dan Hunt whose played drums with me a bit over the past couple years (he also played in the wonderful band Ages and Ages) will be playing a set of his compositions. I saw Dan play his own music at the Revival Drum Fair a while back and have been pestering him to play ever since. Nick Jaina, one of my oldest songwriting friends in Portland will be playing a set, and also joining me on a few duets. I’ll also have a few special songwriters about town joining me on duets throughout the night.
I spent so much of last year touring with the full band, and I’ve been so thankful for their help in presenting the La Grande to the world. It has been a blast to rock out. I am looking forward to experiencing the vulnerability of playing a solo show, and I can’t think of a better time than upon my return from the solitude I’ve had at Caldera.
It will be a really special night and I hope you can come.
Later in March I will be heading to the Southern Washington Coast for a special show at the Sou’Wester Lodge, an amazing hotel, vintage trailer park and hideaway. Portland and Seattle folks looking for a weekend getaway will not be disappointed.
Check out the Sou’Wester here and come March 23rd: http://souwesterlodge.com/
I hope you are enjoying moments of stillness, however you find them. I hope you are leaning hard into the the season.
Last week Pitchfork premiered our video for the Deschutes River Conservancy. Through the good folks at Deschutes Brewery and North Inc, I gathered a group of my best musical friends, and had the opportunity and challenge of turning Oregon’s Smith Rock into a recording studio for the day to make an inspired version of the old American spiritual Down by the Riverside. We embraced the limitations and the advantages of the space, and I think, came up with something pretty special. You can watch the video here:
We leave on a Western US tour Friday with good Portland buddies Typhoon and Lost Lander! Lost Lander (an amazing band that you will love) will be acting as my backing band for this tour, and I’m super excited for the set we are putting together.
Here are the dates. I encourage you to buy tickets in advance.
11.02 – The Shakedown – Bellingham, WA #
11.04 – Rickshaw Theater – Vancouver, BC #
11.05 – Nyne – Spokane, WA
11.06 – Top Hat – Missoula, MT #
11.07 – Visual Arts Collective – Garden City, ID #
11.08 – In The Venue – Salt Lake City, UT #
11.09 – Larimer Lounge – Denver, CO #
11.10 – The Carter Payne – Colorado Springs, CO #
11.11 – Low Spirits – Albuquerque, NM #
11.13 – Solar Culture – Tucson, AZ #
11.14 – Sail Inn – Tempe, AZ #
11.15 – Soda Bar – San Diego, CA
11.16 – The Echo – Los Angeles, CA #
11.17 – Great American Music Hall – San Francisco, CA #
11.18 – G Street Wunderbar – Davis, CA #
11.20 – Wow Hall – Eugene, OR #
11.23 – Crystal Ballroom – Portland, OR #
Well, it’s been a bit of time since my last update. I enjoyed some rest from touring in August, had a great time at Pickathon, did some camping, taught at Pendleton Rock Camp, and recorded a song for the Dechutes River Conservancy.
A few summer highlights:
The best sunset over Oaks Park, Portland, Oregon
The Painted Hills, John Day Fossil Beds, Oregon
The band and I are thrilled to be playing around Europe for the next two weeks with the amazing Calexico. They have been heroes of mine for a while, and touring with them makes me want to be both a better musician and a better human. Following Calexico, I’ll play a few special solo shows in Germany, then will visit Israel for the first time, performing in both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
If you find yourself in any of these cities, please come say hello:
Sep 14, 2012 DE Cologne, Germany – Ewerk
Sep 15, 2012 NL Groningen, NL -Take Root Festival
Sep 16, 2012 FR Paris, France – Le Trianon
Sep 18, 2012 GB London, UK – Forum
Sep 19, 2012 BE Brussels, Belgium – Ancienne Belgique
Sep 20, 2012 DE Darmstadt , Germany -Centralstation
Sep 21, 2012 CH Zürich, Switzerland – Volkshaus
Sep 22, 2012 AT Vienna, Austria – Konzerthaus
Sep 23, 2012 DE Berlin, Germany – Huxley’s
Sep 25, 2012 DE Hamburg, Germany – Große Freiheit
Sep 26, 2012 DK Copenhagen, Denmark – Vega
Sep 27, 2012 NO Oslo, Norway- Rockefeller
Sep 28, 2012 SE Stockholm, Sweden – Berns
Sep 29, 2012 SE Gothenborg, Sweden- Pustervik
Sep 30, 2012 SE Malmo, Sweden – KB
October 4 – Cologne (solo) – King Georg
October 6 – Regensburg (solo) – Alte Malzerei
October 9 – Tel Aviv – Osen Bar
October 10 – Jerusalem – Uganda
I am also excited to announce I will join forces in November with Portland buddies Typhoon for the Basin and Range (Western US) tour. I’m imagining I’ll somehow incorporate all of Typhoon’s 11 band members into my set every night. I think these shows will be magical. Here are the dates:
Fri 11/02/12 Bellingham WA | Shakedown
Sun 11/04/12 Vancouver BC | Rickshaw Theatre
Mon 11/05/12 Spokane WA | nYne Bar & Bistro
Tue 11/06/12 Missoula MT | Top Hat
Wed 11/07/12 Boise ID | Visual Arts Collective
Thu 11/08/12 Salt Lake City UT | Kilby Court
Fri 11/09/12 Denver CO | Larimer Lounge
Sat 11/10/12 Colorado Springs CO | The Carter Payne
Sun 11/11/12 Albuquerque NM | Low Spirits
Tue 11/13/12 Tucson AZ | Solar Culture
Wed 11/14/12 Phoenix AZ | Sail Inn
Thr 11/15/12 San Diego CA | Soda Bar
Fri 11/16/12 Los Angeles CA | The Echo
Sat 11/17/12 San Francisco CA | Great American Music Hall
Sun 11/18/12 Davis CA | G Street Wunderbar
Tue 11/20/12 Eugene OR | Wow Hall
Fri 11/23/12 Portland OR | Crystal Ballroom
And finally, I’ll be visiting South Africa in December for two special shows in Capetown and Johannesburg! I’m so excited – more news on that soon.
December 13 -Capetown – Tafelberg Tavern
December 15 – Johannesburg – Wits Theatre
Looking forward to crossing paths with old friends and new.
Welcome to summer. Today is the Longest Day of 2012. Eight years ago I wrote one of my very first songs on the longest day of the year. It was perhaps the first song I wrote that made me believe in this crazy idea of being a songwriter for a living. Every year on this day I think about that tiny seed of belief, and am so thankful to be doing what I’m doing.
A long overdue thank you note to everyone who helped make our spring Europe trip so special. We faced multiple van breakdowns, thieves, and illnesses, but still came home inspired and in love with the world. Here are a few photo highlights:
After the Europe tour we were lucky enough to do a week of shows in Alaska, and had an amazing time! Thanks you to our hosts at the Universities in Fairbanks and Anchorage, and to the amazing people in Denali. We had a day off in the park, and hiked over the spongey tundra, saw moose, caribou, and beaver, but never could spot the tallest mountain through the clouds.
Here’s the view from Savage River Trail:
I’ll be posting new shows in coming days. We’ll be on the West Coast with our buddies Blind Pilot in July, and will be touring with Calexico in September. Portlanders, we’re playing a free all-ages outdoor show July 12th for the Ecotrust Sundown series.