Area artist debuts first album
After a successful Hudson launch, St. Croix County native Laurel Hay will premiere her first album "Oh the Places I'd Go" in Minneapolis this Saturday.
Hay premiered the album at the end of December in Hudson with a full band, drawing a couple hundred of her supporters.
"It was a huge success," she said.
Her Minneapolis release will feature a stripped-down sound, with a trio performance at 8 p.m. Feb. 4, at The Warming House.
Hay's interest in music started at a young age in musical theater and show choir, and by the time she reached high school she began writing her own songs. Though Hay said some of the songs were a little immature, it was then that she knew she wanted to sing and write songs professionally.
"I've kind of always been into the performing," she said.
She took a bit of a detour though, following the practical route advocated by her parents — college. So Hay attended University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. There she studied music therapy, communications and special education, she now has a day job as a special education teacher.
After school in Colorado, work in Missouri, a divorce and a return home, Hay found herself once again free to pursue her love for music.
"Through that whole process I just decided that I was going to do what I wanted to do," Hay said. "Kind of being free of that made me feel encouraged."
To keep herself motivated, she started a summer songwriting challenge. What started as a challenge for her and her close friends has now expanded to a full group of songwriters following weekly prompts during both a summer and winter challenge. Each season has a showcase, with songwriters showing off their different styles.
"It just really kept growing," she said. "We've got some great songwriters from the cities and this area too."
The challenge helped lead Hay to her own album.
"Making that group gave me the confidence to actually record an album," she said.
It also gave her new connections. One of her fellow songwriters encouraged her to make her own album, and introduced Hay to a producer at River Rock Studios.
"It wasn't intimidating. It just felt really natural and it felt like that's where I was supposed to record it," Hay said. "It worked out really well."
After a successful fundraising campaign, Hay was able to record some of her original songs and one or two from friends with a full band for the album.
"Getting the band together was a whole different kind of thing," she said. "They're amazing. They help make me sound really good."
Throughout the recording process, Hay said her favorite part was hearing it all come together, either in the moment with the band or listening to the finished album.
"It was just like wow, I can't believe this turned into this, this whole big awesome thing," she said.
Her favorite part of being a musician as a whole, though, is the craft of songwriting.
"It really is a craft," Hay said. "You have to work at it."
Her writing process can be different every time. Sometimes Hay starts with music, and adds lyrics to fit, and sometimes it's the other way around. The best times, are when the songs flow out of her.
"It's all just right there," she said. "It's most fun when it pours out of you."
Either way Hay said she tries first and foremost to keep things personal and honest, but still fun and playful.
For the moment, Hay is still focused on this album and its release. But in the future, she said she might be encouraged to do another album, this time with her duo the Pickled Beats with Ben Tomandl. She said she'd like her next album to be more focused on her favorite genre, Americana.
"This album didn't sink into a genre," she said. "That's my favorite to listen to."
Hay admitted to having some bigger, long-term dream as well, but said she's not ready to put them into words quite yet.
Hay said at the end of the experience she is grateful for her family and friends who supported her along the way.
"I couldn't have done it without them," she said.
Hay's album is available on iTunes, Spotify and at her website www.laurelhay.com.