Sydney-born, Melbourne-based songwriter Laura Jean is a powerful, singular voice in Australian music, renowned for her lush and pastoral folk albums Our Swan Song (2006) and Eden Land (2008). Now she is returning with third album A fool who’ll and a brand new sound. Laura has picked up a Gibson SG guitar, the same kind played by AC/DC’s Angus Young, and gone electric.
The new material surprises with thunderous drums and even the occasional saxophone, but there’s no foot-on-the-foldback rock posturing involved. The songs are darker, and certainly louder, but suffused with a ﬁerce beauty that is pure Laura Jean.
Born in Sydney but now Melbourne-based, Laura first came to national attention in 2006 with the release of her debut album Our Swan Song. Lush and pastoral, adorned with strings, woodwind and beautiful modal harmonies, Our Swan Song was a critical and popular favourite, gaining Triple J high rotation and introducing Laura Jean as a powerful, exotic new voice in Australian music.
Our Swan Song also made waves overseas, most notably reaching the ears of Gary Lightbody, leader of Scottish pop stars Snow Patrol, who raved about the album on the BBC and then invited Laura to join his band onstage for two successive Australian tours in 2007. Each night, Laura sang Martha Wainwright’s part of the duet Set The Fire To The Third Bar, and in doing so reached a whole new fanbase.
Laura also found herself asked to support other international acts such as M Ward, Midlake, Okkervil River, Faun Fables and Richard Buckner, as well as homegrown stars of the likes of Clare Bowditch, Sarah Blasko, New Buffalo and Darren Hanlon. This attention culminated in her releasing her second album Eden Land in 2008 with Aus/UK label Co-Operative/V2.
An unashamed concept record, Eden Land explored ideas of self-discovery, sexual awakening and loss of innocence through a suite of nine interconnected songs. It was an album of the year for many Australian critics, and scored Laura a coveted support slot for Bon Iver on his first Australian tour. Laura also made a slightly starstruck appearance on Rockwiz around this time.
In early 2009, Laura Jean was announced as one of just three APRA Professional Development Award winners in the “popular contemporary” category, alongside Gotye’s Wally DeBacker. The rest of 2009 proved to be a period of travel and dislocation for Laura, including two months traversing UK and Europe, playing shows from Ireland to Norway, and then a move from Melbourne to the Central Highlands region of Victoria on her return to Australia.
After a year spent in rural isolation, Laura came back to Melbourne in early 2010 with songs for third album A Fool Who’ll, and began to record. She also started a professional writing and editing course at RMIT, which has opened up interesting new possibilities for her songwriting. Later that year, Laura returned to touring, playing a December run of shows with rising Norwegian star Jenny Hval.
At the start of this year, Laura took part in Sydney Festival exhibition Live, which featured video footage of the likes of Jarvis Cocker, Rufus Wainwright, Feist, Juliette Lewis, with Laura playing live at the launch alongside Sarah Blasko, Gareth Lidiard and Kram.
Now with probably her best – and definitely her loudest – album A Fool Who’ll set for release on Chapter Music in September 2011, Laura is readying herself for what is sure to be a whirlwind end to the year.