Over the course of the years, Laura Gibson’s storytelling has become much darker and sharper due to her personal experiences and what our society is going through. On Goners, she portrays grief and loss in a beautiful way, which fits the Autumn atmosphere. We talked with Laura about what she went through while writing her new songs and about the impact of the current affairs in the US had over her.
Goners is the follow up to your amazing 2016’s album Empire Builder. At your fifth album, what do you feel has changed the most to you?
Thank you. My life was so different when I made Empire Builder. I was going through a crisis during much of it, flying back and forth between New York and Portland, recovering from a traumatic fire. Making music was my way of survival and recovery. Goners found my personal life relatively peaceful, but my country has fallen into chaos. The combination of feeling grounded but deeply upset compelled me to explore darker territory, to take time exploring the idea of loss both personally and intellectually.
You found the name for your new album in the first line you wrote in the beginning of 2017: “If we’re already goners, why wait any longer, for something to crack open.” Can you elaborate more on that?
I couldn’t have made this record at any other time. It’s hard to separate my work, and my life from the state of America. I fear for our democracy. I fear for my friends’ lives. I fear for children. Those days after the election, it seemed a veil was removed, at least within the conversations I had with those around me. It felt like real grief. In those moments of loss or trauma, whether personal or societal, people sometimes, for a moment, stop performing for each other. I wanted to observe that immediacy. I was also thinking about my own future, whether I want to have kids in this sort of world, and what it means if I don’t. So the song is a nod to a greater apocalypse, but also the more personal apocalypse that comes with making choices.
Goners has this dark and haunting side, a quite different tone comparing with your previous album, but your storytelling is much sharper and more impactful. What were the main inspirations for the creative process of this new album?
I read a lot. The world feels so chaotic right now, the art/film/books that have made the most sense to me are those that have dwelled in the surreal. I would say the matron saints of my creative life are Margaret Atwood and Ursula K. Le Guin (rest in peace). Samantha Hunt’s short story collection, The Dark Dark gave me an atmosphere I wanted to aim for. Carmen Mario Machado’s story collection, Her Body and Other Parties, was such a buoy during recording. I spent a lot of time in the nature, in Everglades National Park and Mount Hood and the Wallawa Mountains in Oregon. I tend to be fueled by learning, so I was constantly researching wildlife and history as part of my process. There are little facts woven in, about death, about wolves, about places.
The themes approached on the album are about loss, and you also approached the loss of your father as a teenager. How was it like for you as an artist to write now about such a tough moment?
I don’t know how else to make art but to explore life’s hardest moments. Losing my father as a teenager was such a formative experience. That loss has been a part of everything I’ve made. I’ve processed it at every stage of my life. I knew I wanted to write a record about grief, it looms so large in this season of my life. A lot of my friends are losing their parents. At the same time, many of my friends are having kids. I wanted to dwell in the territory between those two points.
For the recording sessions, you co-produced the songs with John Askew, whom you have also worked with on Empire Builder in his Portland, OR studio. How were the sessions this time around?
I had so much fun making this record. It is such a bleak moment in history, the joy of music-making was a buoy. John has seen me go through so much, and knows me so well at this point. He’s really good at honoring my vision, while also tossing in amazing
ideas. He is just an all around rad dude. I’m so thankful to know him.
You also had on board a number of long time collaborators, including Dave Depper, Dan Hunt, Nate Query, Kelly Pratt and Kyleen King. What did they bring to the final result of Goners?
I feel so fortunate to make music with my friends. Dave and Dan and Nate are longtime pals and I know how to communicate with them and work with them to get parts that are interesting that also serve the song. I love the meeting of our brains that happens in collaborating. It was my first time working with Kelly and Kyleen, who were both incredible. I usually record voice memos of myself singing the string parts. It was magical hearing Kyleen bring them to life. Kelly brought every type of horn and wind instrument, layering them into these beautiful worlds.