Choosing to pursue your passion for songwriting and music can take you places you never imagined. For S.A.C. Member Laine Henderson, this has meant leaving the Vancouver North Shore where she was born and raised, studying alongside the very best at the Berkley College of Music in Boston, making a go of it in New York City, performing and songwriting in Dublin, then touring the world with the world-famous Riverdance show. Each part of her adventure has added to the fabric of her music as well as the story of her life. While we all might aspire to perfection and glory as our destination, Laine’s story is living proof that the journey has great value unto itself. She recently released her album, “Occasional Rain.” We look forward to hearing where these new songs will take her.
1. Please tell us about your experiences training at the Berklee College of Music and how you came to discover your gift for writing songs. I first attended Berklee on a vocal jazz scholarship. I wanted to study jazz music and sing jazz music. It was music all day, all night and weekends too. Every evening the classrooms would be filled with jam sessions and the studios would be busy splicing together projects. I received a few late night panicked phone calls to help finish a jingle project. It was overwhelming and inspiring. Songwriting came the following term as I scanned the school syllabus for classes. It had never occurred to me until that moment that people WROTE the songs we sing and I could do it too. I was very fortunate to have my first writing class with jingle writing legend, Jon Aldrich. He was wonderfully inspiring and made it sound so effortless. So, I jumped in pen first and began writing and trying to express my self poetically and tell my stories. Luckily they sounded fairly catchy and held together with just piano or guitar. When I hit Pat Pattison’s lyric writing class the following semester I was in for a shock…cut 50% of my lyrics and music? Do that again? My writing was never the same.
2. You have lived for periods in New York and Dublin. What was the environment like for making music in these places and what brought you back to Canada? Moving to New York was a natural progression from Boston. Most of the people I went to school with were trying to make it there. There were open mics Mon-Thurs and then gigs to go to on the weekends. The week was packed with music, just like at Berklee and just as intense but without the safety factor of college. I would write in the mornings before catching the subway to whichever record label at which I was temping, then come home and write more before going out. I wrote a lot and with so many open mics was able to see what worked and what didn’t pretty quickly. It was all very exciting.
A few years later, Dublin became my new home. After the fast paced lifestyle of NYC, it was a complete shift. I quickly found myself among a good company of writers in Dublin via a few open mics. My first real gig was alongside Luka Bloom at the Ruby Sessions, which was amazing. My style of writing became more simplified and the goal was to tell a good story.
I brought my family back to B.C. more for personal reasons that musical ones, but it has been a very rewarding return. Not being centered in Vancouver, I thought I would bring the Vancouver scene to me at a writers round I hosted in White Rock. I met so many great writers every week and certainly feel apart of it now. Great support from writers like Ivan Boudreau and Jon Pippus have made me feel part of the writers scene and S.A.C. I am writing better now than ever.
3. How have your travels affected the songs you write, as well as your record-making process? My travels have always had to do with changes in my life so I think my writing has changed with each country or city. When I first started I was very jazz influenced and complex with a lot of turmoil. Life was fast paced and I rushed through my first album trying to cram in lots of texture and sound. Then, I wanted my life to be simpler and as a result so was my music. My recordings, nothing was pressed, became more acoustic which is where I was at for a long time. Now, I am pretty happy most of the time, so I am writing pretty happy songs, which I love. Luckily the producer of my album, Matt Rogers, sensed that because he made everything have a good feeling even if it was a slower song. We built everything up from the bottom and I had no idea where it was going, but Matt did and I trusted him completely. It was a long time between albums but definitely worth the wait.
4. What has been the biggest obstacle you’ve encountered and how did you overcome it? I have in the past liked to do things the hard way, but I think the biggest challenge for me was starting anew in a new country with only 2 friends in the same city. With no job, little money and few friends, I did what any writer would do….write…and get a job in a coffee shop. Getting out to those open mics made all the difference and bit by bit everything else came together. As it happened, I met the musical director for Riverdance in that coffee shop.
5. You toured for two years as the lead vocalist with the Riverdance show. How did those years grow you as a songwriter and how did they limit you? The touring was great, fun, surreal and tiring and I wouldn’t have missed it. Singing Bill Whelan’s music every night was amazing and an honor, but while on tour I pretty much stopped writing. I dragged my guitar on every plane and to every city but when I went to write it just didn’t happen. Maybe it was the unfamiliar hotel rooms or changes in altitude, but I was blocked. As time went on, I wanted to be singing my own words and return to real life and get back to playing my own music. I became more committed as a writer than I had been before.
6. What achievement in your musical journey has meant the most to you? Riverdance was a pretty big deal, but, as a singer/songwriter, finishing this latest album has been the highlight so far. Working with Matt was amazing and having a finished product I am truly proud of was something I wasn’t sure would ever happen.
7. What are your goals for the coming year with the release of your new album, “Occasional Rain”? One of my goals was to play Bluebird North hosted by Shari Ulrich. I have been to a few shows and always enjoyed them but felt I was capable of being up there, but not until I had something to hand out. I am happy to say Shari has invited me to play April 10, 2012, so that’s one less thing to do next year. Other than that, I want to get my music out to the world and write my next album. Hopefully, a couple of music videos will be showing up on Youtube and a few TV/movie/commercial placements will happen as well. If you know how I can get a song pitched to Michael Buble, let me know, I have a great one for him.