In Conversation: Le Ren

Lauren Spear, widely known as Canadian country-folk musician Le Ren, visited our Canadian office to chat about the release of her debut EP ‘Morning & Melancholia’. Le Ren’s music is reminiscent of her folk inspirations (from such performers as Karen Dalton and Elizabeth Cotten), and drives her music with her powerful vocals, with rich, mellifluous stories that steer you through emotions of life, loss and love. Read the entire interview and discover the woman behind the music.

SL: Why country music?
LR: I love country music, but I’m not sure I even identify as a country artist. I would say I am more of the folk persuasion with a bit of country influence in the cocktail. Why I’m drawn to the genre, however, is a whole different thing. I love the simplicity and accessibility of the music. I love hearing a song for the first time and being able to sing along by the time the second chorus comes around.
SL: Who are musicians that inspire you? Past and present?
LR: I have so many musical crushes it’s hard to keep track. Past inspirations are legends like Karen Dalton and Elizabeth Cotten and present ones are mostly made up of people in my own musical community in Canada. That includes Eliza Niemi, Cedric Noel and The Weather Station. The list goes on and on! I really am just pumped for anyone who is doing their thing with their whole heart.
SL: Tell us about the reception you’ve received after releasing your debut EP ‘Morning & Melancholia’.
LR: People have been kind which I am so grateful for because sharing music is such a vulnerable thing to do. My favourite responses have been from those sharing their own heartbreak stories with me. It feels very much like I’m forming a heartbreak club.
SL: In your film clip for ‘If I Had Wings’ there’s a duality of the old and the new, life and death—we can see this in both your camera choices and the tone of the song: what was your thought process behind curating the ‘If I Had Wings’ clip?
LR: We chose to use a mix of iPhone recording and 16mm film purely by chance. The director Ali Vanderkruyk and I were across the country from each other when we made the video so I guess the “choice” of these two formats comes from the limitations we had to work under. Making the most of what we had while restricted and confined during the pandemic, we created something that exists timelessly between modern and archaic technology. Because the subject matter is about death, the old film technology captures a sense of nostalgia for something that is no longer here while the digital communicates that impermanence.
SL: What song, out of your complete catalogue, was the hardest for you to write?
LR: How To Begin To Say Goodbye.
SL: What did you realize you had taken for granted pre-COVID?
LR: Human touch. I miss rolling around with my friends like dogs in a dog pile.
SL: What are you most looking forward to being able to do again?
LR: Going to a karaoke bar!
SL: If you could go back to 2019, what would you tell yourself?
LR: Renew your health card, Lauren.
SL: Has everything that’s been happening in 2020 been a source of inspiration or writers block for you?
LR: I’m one of the lucky ones and have been writing almost every day. Not full songs, but bits and pieces to form a collage sometime down the line.
SL: How do you think the movements we’ve seen globally (BLM/Me Too/Indigenous Rights/Climate Action) have been reflected in the country music scene?
LR: In terms of the BLM movement, the history of erasure of Black artists within the genre has been brought forth by legends like Rhiannon Giddens and emerging artists like Evil. Elamin Abdelmahmoud recently wrote a piece of essential reading for Rolling Stone called Rewriting Country Music’s Racist History that I have re-read a number of times, unpacking the implications of my own participation in this genre as a white artist. Country music has too long been controlled by white A-political male artists and we are starting to see that change. It’s an exciting moment to be a part of, and one I am continuously learning from.
SL: What do you hope to accomplish in 2021?
LR: I’m working on sewing a quilt. I hope to be done by the time the new year rolls around.
SL: Where/who are you most excited to visit?
LR: My grandparents in Winnipeg, Manitoba. My grandma keeps showing me the flowers in her garden over FaceTime and it’s high time I helped her tend to them in real life.