Laura Burhenn: Postal Service, Mynabirds & SA ‘Songbird’ tour

[* UPDATE: After ‘Songbird’ Laura Burhenn does ‘Mynabirds (solo)’ at Cape Town World Music Festival. *] Laura Burhenn, American singer-songwriter for The Mynabirds, live tour-member for the Postal Service, and co-founder of the “New Revolutionists” portrait project – tours South Africa with Inge Beckmann (Lark, Beast), Eve Rakow (The Frown), Shotgun ToriFaye Oakes (Faye & Wren), Lucy Kruger, including a mentorship programme with Lana Crowster (graduate of the Africa Voices Trust).

This interview by Evan Milton first appeared in the Cape Argus “Good Weekend” on 2014-06-22.

Laura Burhenn

Laura Burhenn

“I find it exciting and deeply beautiful that I will be touring from the States to South Africa before I get to tour in Europe or the United Kingdom,” says Laura Burhenn from her home in Omaha, Nebraska. “I know this trip is going to change my life. We’re working on the third Mynabirds record, and I know visiting your country will influence that, but it’s more than that. Sometimes in life, you have to keep pushing yourself to take the next step – especially as an artist, and especially when you’ve done something that is successful. I keep thinking of that William Faulkner quote, ‘You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore’. When South Africa came up as an opportunity, I just thought, ‘You know what? Take me. I can’t predict what it will be, but I like that’.”

“Sometimes as a musician, you can get lost in your own head, thinking about this inspiration or that issue… “You need to stop and say, ‘Am I doing something that is meaningful for anyone other than me?’

– Laura Burhenn

Burhenn is co-founder of independent country-soul band The Mynabirds, billed as “open-hearted, politically engaged, feminist pop that, miraculously, never veers into schmaltz” and with two critically acclaimed albums, “What We Lose in the Fire We Gain in the Flood” (2010) and “Generals” (2012). In 2013, she joined the farewell tour for American rock “supergroup” The Postal Service, the acclaimed side project by Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie) and Jimmy Tamborello (Dntel / Headset). She’s played on all the major American late night shows: “The Colbert Report”, David Letterman, Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien and founded “The New Revolutionists”, a photo-portrait project showcasing “truly revolutionary American women making their marks in their communities” that saw her featured in “The Huffington Post” an invited to deliver a talk at the prestigious TEDx series.

Laura Burhenn channeling the "wolf mother" (photo Bliss Katherine)

Laura Burhenn channeling the “wolf mother” (photo Bliss Katherine)

Burhenn is a warm mix of a musician inspired by multiple genres, a community-minded positive agitator driven by issues of social justice, and an eager world-traveller in the making. She’s a woman with one foot rooted in the worlds of art and philosophy and the other stomping merrily on massive rock ’n roll stages like the Coachella Festival in California and Primavera Sound in Barcelona. She’s also a singer-songwriter who was delighted at the suggestion of local promoters who suggested that she combine her first South African foray with a mentorship component, in conjunction with One Fine Day Is Here and the Africa Voices Trust. Furthermore, Burhenn’s concerts here also mark the first-ever international artist brought to our shores courtesy of a crowd-funding, facilitated by the innovative CitySoirée.co.za model.

“I know this trip is going to change my life… I keep thinking of that William Faulkner quote, ‘You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore’. When South Africa came up as an opportunity, I just thought, ‘You know what? Take me. I can’t predict what it will be, but I like that’.”

– Laura Burhenn about her “Songbird South Africa 2014” tour

“Sometimes as a musician, you can get lost in your own head, thinking about this inspiration or that issue or, ‘Oh, how my heart was broken and how do I put that in a song’,” Burhenn says. “You need to stop and say, ‘Am I doing something that is meaningful for anyone other than me?’ When we were first talking about putting the tour together, the costs of getting the whole Mynabirds band out there is huge, so we looked at a stripped-down version, with maybe just one of my musicians. Then I thought, ‘This is why I do music; to pass it on to other people’, and we worked out the mentorship part of the tour. But it’s not about me and what I do: I have my arrangements and the notes that I give, but I said, ‘These are just my guidelines; you need to please put your voices into this’. It’s one small part that I can play to help empower, and that’s always a good thing.”

Laura Burhenn interviewed by Evan Milton in the Cape Argus "Good Weekend" 2014-06-22

Laura Burhenn interviewed by Evan Milton in the Cape Argus “Good Weekend” 2014-06-22

Established female singers will join Burhenn on stage at each of her shows. Cape Town gets the mighty hard-rock-meets-opera throat of Inge Beckmann (co-founder of both Lark and Beast); Eve Rakow from avant-electro outfit The Frown for Johannesburg; Lucy Kruger (2013 Standard Bank Ovation Award winner) and Shotgun Tori for Grahamstown; and Faye Oakes (Faye & Wren) for the “Secret Soiree” gig in Durban. The “Songbird Tour” mentorship component will see two debut singers – selected through One Fine Day Is Here and Africa Voices Trust – receiving a month of intensive tutelage and workshops with Africa Voices graduate Lana Crowster, and then the experience of learning stagecraft and tour skills performing alongside Burhenn across South Africa.

Laura Burhenn

Laura Burhenn

About the songs themselves, Burhenn says, “People keep asking about it so, yes, I have planned at least one cover of a Postal Service song. I’ll be doing mostly Mynabirds songs, and we’re working on our third record, so it will be great to play some of those songs in this way. Playing solo, without the band, it exposes the lyrics and exposes the message. With a song like ‘Generals’, off the first album, there’s a lot of it that is me singing about things that I think are wrong in America, or with the world – the fun part of the song is in the drums and the percussion and our guitar riffs. So, how do we present that with vocals, and still make it good to listen to? Then I’m also thinking about how beautiful it’s going to be to have some of the organ lines and the trumpet lines vocalised by the South African female voices – in some ways, a voice is more powerful than an instrument; stronger than an amplified guitar. It’s like a a quiet power. I’m getting the chills just thinking about it.”

This interview by Evan Milton first appeared in the Cape Argus “Good Weekend” on 2014-06-22.

Laura Burhenn plays:

UPDATE: After ‘Songbird’, Laura Burhenn does ‘Mynabirds (solo)’ at Cape Town World Music Festival (18/19 July; book  here.)

  • Cape Town , Thursday 3 July, with special guest Inge Beckmann (Lark, BEAST);  (Welgemeend Estate, 2 Welgemeend St, Gardens, 8pm)
  • Knysna , 8 July, with artists from Howard Butcher‘s Peace of Eden JAMDTSA students (Joint Artists and Musicians Development Trust of South Africa)
  • Grahamstown, 11 July, with  Lucy Kruger and 12 July with Shotgun Tori (National Arts Festival, Rhodes Chapel, Rhodes University, Grahamstown, 9.30pm, R95)
  • Durban, 15 July, with Faye Oakes (Faye & Wren) at Secret Soirée in Durban (venue to be announced on the day for pledgers).
  • Johannesburg, 17 July, with Eve Rakow (The Frown, Stolen Pony) (POPART Theatre and Performing Arts Centre, 286 Fox Street, Main Street Life, Maboneng Precinct, 8pm)
  • Outreach charity show: Amapondo Children’s Project in Port St Johns for Eluxolweni Boy’s Orphanage.

More on TheMynabirds.com.

Tour details and mentorship notes at OneFineDayIsHere.com.

Tickets from CitySoiree.co.za.

Laura Burhenn (photo by Bliss Katherine)

Laura Burhenn (photo by Bliss Katherine)

 

Laura Burrhen, Songbird South Africa tour

Laura Burrhen, Songbird South Africa tour

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s