Musicians lead many lives throughout their career, music calling them to take on different personas along the way. As a former member of Balthrop, Alabama, the Bandana Splits, and the solo project Dear Georgiana, Lauren Balthrop explored collaboration, genre, and characters. It’s only now, performing under her given name, that her unique voice shines in the spotlight.
“Don’t Ever Forget” is the dreamy first single from Balthrop’s debut album This Time Around. The song’s official video is a collage of found footage Balthrop compiled herself. “The song is about living in nostalgia and rose colored memories. I loved this old footage of lovers and dancing to serve as imagery for beautiful faded memories of perfect days and passed love,” she explains.
“Look to the sinking sun / as we go ’round this carousel again / we’re laughing and we’re having fun / I know that I’ll never be the same,” Balthrop croons, her delicate voice fluttering against reverberating ahhhs. The song perfectly captures the bittersweet sensation of a person, a moment, a time in your life disappearing; it brings to mind a last kiss with a high school sweetheart, your hometown fading away as you drive to a new city.
We spoke with Lauren about why she went solo, what Nashville’s music scene is like, and what advice she has for a young musician right out of the gate.
Listen to “Don’t Ever Forget” below:
AF: You’re originally from Alabama. What artists did you grow up listening to?
LB: With my parents, there was a lot of Everly Brothers, the Andrews Sisters, and Van Morrison. With my siblings, I got R.E.M., The Doors, Nirvana, Elliott Smith and Neil Young but also fun rock like Steve Miller Band. I also loved classic country voices like Patsy Cline and Dolly Parton. I also grew up doing musical theatre so there was a lot of musical soundtracks like Cabaret and West Side Story and Sondheim etc.
AF: You’ve just settled into Nashville now, after spending some years in NYC. What is the music scene there like?
LB: Most of my friends are in the Americana, folk and bluegrass scene which is a departure for me. I’m kind of falling in love with that music though and the culture surrounding it. The love is big for that stuff. I don’t feel as much of that jaded, cynical NY vibe here in Nashville, though everyone is still hustling their music here! I’m still building relationships with venues and radio stations and trying to get my name out here so we’ll see what comes!
AF: For the last few years, you’ve served as a backing vocalist for the likes of Bob Weir, Kevin Morby, Benjamin Booker and Elizabeth & The Catapult. What is like working with a big artist like Bob Weir?
LB: He was really sweet, though I actually only got to meet him briefly while singing back up at his 69th Birthday show at the Capitol Theatre just out of NYC a couple a years ago. Josh Kaufman, my dear pal who produced my record, has been playing with Bob Weir and produced his solo album Blue Mountain. He asked my girl group, The Bandana Splits, to sing on the album. We contributed our vocals to 5 or 6 songs after the record was mostly done so I actually didn’t meet Bob until that show!
AF: Why was it important for you to break out and record under your own name after playing with two bands and releasing solo work as Dear Georgina?
LB: This was a decision that took a long time to make. Georgiana was the young dreamer persona that I played in the band Balthrop, Alabama. We all had these characters that we developed over the years as a band and the names came from towns in Alabama. I was Georgiana Starlingon and when I wrote the first batch of solo songs – they sort of fit that persona. This record feels way more personal, more my own story, and Josh persuaded me to put it out under my own name, so here we go!
AF: Tell us about the themes on this record. You’ve said that much of it speaks to this turbulent time we’re all living in.
LB: The first track started off as a protest song in the wake of Trump’s inauguration and the Women’s March on DC and morphed into a sort of broken love song with America starring as the lost love. From there, it’s sort of these themes about feeling like you’re spinning out of orbit and losing control. It’s about broken hopes and dreams; the culture that I grew up in learning about the “American Dream” and then losing some of that idealism as your reality shifts and things don’t work out quite as you’d dreamed. Even the song about the maple tree on the record has themes of pollution, over fantasizing and over idealizing. “Don’t Ever Forget” is a song about living in nostalgia and faded memories and realizing there’s still so much more to come. And then the closing track is about finally sort of being ready for what’s to come and just being open!
AF: I’m so glad it ends on such a positive note! It’s easy to get bogged down with everything and forget to move forward, make change.
LB: Right?! It’s funny. When you meet me, I’m sort of this antics fun-time instigator but I can write some sad songs!
AF: Can you give us an inside look into your writing process? Let’s take your new single “Don’t Ever Forget” – did that start with a melody or an opening lyric?
LB: It started out as a clunky, plodding piano song with the melody in place and some placeholder lyrics. I took it to my producer Josh and he helped come up with a groove and we worked on the lyrics together. But songs a lot of times start out when I’m walking along and I’ll just sing a lyric or melody into my phone.
AF: The video for “Don’t Ever Forget” is a series of sweet, somewhat surreal scenes from old films. Where did the inspiration for this come from and how did you find the right content?
LB: Because the song is about nostalgia and days that you can’t forget, I wanted to use vintage footage of lovers dancing and happy memories. I loved all the footage I found and one video is even from an old toothpaste commercial.
AF: But seriously: how did you find a clip from an old toothpaste commercial?
LB: I used this site archive.org and this amazing archive called the Prelinger Archives that have all these amazing public domain videos.
AF: What current artists do you have on rotation?
LB: I’m loving Elizabeth & the Catapult‘s new album and Caroline Rose was on rotation for a while. My good friends The Stray Birds have a new record coming out that I’m really excited for as well as does my friend Dawn Landes and funny enough they’re both coming out on Yep Roc.
AF: If you could have any (living) artist sing backup for you on a record, who would it be?
LB: Probably the TRIO: Dolly Parden, Emmylou Harris and Linda Rondstadt!
AF: What advice would you give a young musician just picking up their first instrument?
LB: Learn the things that excite you and that draw you to the instrument! In time, you’ll devote more to all the mechanical technique based stuff. Learn the songs you love!
Lauren’s debut album, This Time Around, is set to release Sept 21.