Photo Credit: Trent Stevens
Tangled up in the kitchen phone cord ecstatic about an album that would later be a defining moment for so many young people at the time was a scene most of us had in the ‘90s after listening to ‘Jagged Little Pill’ for the first time. That was the reality for most, including Lauren Hulbert. The once little girl who would spend hours listening to the radio is now a singer-songwriter with her own music for people to obsess over. We talked about that music, including her 2020 EP ‘Superbloom,’ the darkest time of her life, and moving forward in a year that left many stalled.
Kendra: Listening to ‘Superbloom’ I was taken back to 5th grade when I’d get ready for school with Vh1 playing Alanis, Paula Cole, and Shawn Colvin. Pure music made by true storytellers. Who were some musicians/storytellers that inspired how you craft music?
Lauren Hulbert: I love that it reminded you of that time! I feel blessed to have grown up listening to such strong, talented female musicians, and wish I still had my recorded tapes from the radio – those were like gold! Some of my favorites were Alanis, Gwen Stefani (‘Tragic Kingdom!’), Sheryl Crow, Shawn Colvin (“Sunny Came Home” was maybe my most played tune recorded on tape from the radio!), Joan Osborne, Meredith Brooks, and Natalie Imbruglia.
I remember being SO EXCITED about how good ‘Jagged Little Pill’ was, like blown away, calling my friend on the kitchen telephone to talk about it. They were all strong, independent, badasses and huge influences not just for my music, but for walking this earth as a confident woman.
Also, shout out to Radiohead’s “Karma Police.” When this came on the radio it entranced me – the most captivating song I’d ever heard as a kid.
Kendra: From the press of play, ‘Superbloom’ is just superb. I mean, that intro of “Honeydew” – I could listen to that on repeat all day. With the idea of blooming and honeydew in mind, if you had to decorate a table with an edible arrangement that best represented the feel of this EP, what fruits would you use?
Lauren Hulbert: Fun! Strawberries and green grapes come to mind first; honeydew and peaches. The EP has a very summer-time feel to it which makes me think of fruit that is extra sweet, juicy, bright, easy to eat and low maintenance. I’d also add some edible flowers to it to make it bloom – hibiscus and honeysuckle to follow the sweet, bright, summer vibe.
Kendra: It hasn’t always been superb though. You were down both physically and creatively for six months after with a severe foot injury. While physical therapy and doctors can treat your actual foot, how did you go about treating how you felt inside during that time?
Lauren Hulbert: I’ll be honest, it got dark. I’m still healing from it emotionally, with a lot of self-care. I know why it’s called depression – I felt myself sink down, like deflate, when I just could no longer try to stay up and positive about it. It was like hanging from a bar until I just got too tired and couldn’t pull myself up and had to let go and fall. A good friend told me that I was in a “deep rest” (a play on the word depressed), and it helped me accept it for what it was. The time in my life leading up to that injury had been extremely stressful and the injury forced me to rest and reset, which I needed.
Complex Regional Pain Syndrome is an injury complication of unknown cause and although my physical therapist said I would get better, we had no idea how long it would take or if I would heal completely. It was awful and scary. I slept A LOT, read books on healing, specifically about mind-body syndromes, and watched a lot of movies and TV. Then I began dealing with some deep emotions that had bubbled to the surface, which chronic pain therapy later helped me with and was the final step in my healing completely.
I’d like to say that I was all lovely and spiritual about it, but I wasn’t. It was too painful and terrifying and I had difficult encounters with friends and family. Having a serious injury or illness is so isolating because not many people can relate to how it feels, they just don’t understand and it’s really hard to have energy to try to explain it all when you feel like you’ve got no energy and they won’t understand anyways. You could say I surrendered to the darkness and just allowed myself the freedom to feel terrible and be depressed, instead of trying to fight the darkness, if that makes sense. I had to surrender to it all, be patient and ever so slowly make my way up from the depths, day by day, step by step, literally.
Kendra: Now that you’re better and back at it you’re in Los Angeles, a great place for musicians but this year has been quite different. Do you know the first song you want to play live when venues start opening back up?
Lauren Hulbert: A song I wrote but have not yet recorded. I think it’s one of the most interesting guitar parts I’ve ever written. It’s about me saying over and over again in different ways that I’m going to be strong and not cry, but ultimately I end up crying, weeping, because there’s just no way around it. It’s about releasing pain and how cleansing that is. When I get to perform on stage again I think it will feel like such a release of all the pent up energy from the pandemic, so a song about breaking down and letting it out would be fitting.
Kendra: You’re no stranger to facing hard times, but with all that has transpired this year, how do you feel 2020 has shaped your creativity and drive moving forward?
Lauren Hulbert: I’m feeling more confident in sharing my dramatic, dark, vulnerable side. After my injury I just wanted to stay safe and hide in my shell. I went through a phase where it seemed strange, almost bizarre, to go up on a stage and share intimate details of my life with strangers. But the quarantines of 2020 have highlighted the primal needs of humans to have community and connection to live healthy lives. For this reason I’m reminded that my place in society as an artist is of great importance. I feel more resolve in being vulnerable and sharing my pain and troubles for others to connect to. I also just miss performing SO much that when I get the chance again I don’t want to play it safe or scared or small.
I’m feeling a lot of gratitude as well. After experiencing lockdowns and social distancing, I’m grateful to live in a society in which I can normally freely pursue my goals and dreams, which puts a lot of my “hard times being an artist” woes in perspective. Yes, it’s hard, but I have choices, resources and opportunity.
Lastly, it’s been a lesson in patience and determination. I have something to say, to sing, to share and although life’s unexpected detours delay the creations, they will get done, however long it takes.
Kendra: Usually, this is where I ask people what they have planned in the coming months but with the world in a strange place right now, plans aren’t as concrete as they typically are. You can go ahead and let us know what you have tentatively planned but can you also share a song that never fails to get you through when the world around you feels like a mess?
Lauren Hulbert: It would be so fun to work on more creative projects, which always makes me feel alive and inspired, although it’s difficult to find motivation with the current climate. I’m hoping to make more music videos for songs on Superbloom sometime soon and I’d like to begin recording my next album in 2021. All the songs are written, although coordinating musicians and studio time will be at the mercy of Covid.
A song that never fails to get me through is “Moon / Sun” by Trevor Hall. It’s hopeful, spiritual, loving and upbeat, with a tribal, communal vibe, which always lifts my spirits.