Lauren on Her EP, Melanie Safka, and Her Cat, Diane Kitten

Lauren Marcus discusses her debut EP Never Really Done With You and solo show at Joe’s Pub | Stage Door | By Samantha S.

Lauren Marcus can best be described as a musical chameleon. As someone who fits perfectly in any role she is in, Marcus is a powerful force who should not be underestimated.

Not only has Marcus appeared in both off-Broadway and regional theatre productions, but is an accomplished singer/songwriter who plays a wide array of classical and modern instruments. As someone who describes her music as “indie-folk-pop-rock-with-a-touch-of-the-country,” one can understand just how unique her music is.

Marcus will be able to include another accomplishment to her already impressive resume as of today. She will debut her new EP, Never Really Done With You, tonight, July 11, at Joe’s Pub, and introduce a whole new audience to her remarkable singing and songwriting skills. For Marcus, this concert has been a long time in the making.

Marcus’ concert will feature all six of her songs off her new EP, and some songs she has sung throughout her theatre career. As someone whose passion for theatre and songwriting is extremely palpable, Marcus’ performance is sure to be an exciting mix of the two.

Even in the midst of preparing for her album release, Marcus took time out of her busy schedule to talk to Stage Door Dish about her new EP, her love for her pet cat, and the influence theatre has had on her life.

Tell me the process of creating your debut EP.

Where to start? It’s probably been about six years since I started performing my music live. It’s taken me a long time, to be honest. I didn’t feel ready until this year. This is the year when I was like, ‘This has to happen. This is stupid [to wait any longer].’  I really love performing live, but I haven’t done it with my own material. The idea of preserving something forever freaks me out. I kind of have to get that out of my mind. I reached out to my friend, Lorenzo Wolff. I’d been to his studio a couple months ago to record something for my friend Rob Rokicki’s album, and it felt like home in that studio. The second Lorenzo and I met up, I thought, ‘This is so correct’ and we’ve been working on it since May. There are six songs on it. Some of the songs are newer, from the last couple years. I have a band that I play with a lot, and all of them are on this album. I brought in some new musicians that I haven’t worked with before. It upped the arrangement factor because I usually only play with four or five people. What’s really exciting to me about this EP is that I’ve always heard a horn section, and I’ve never had that happen or heard it in reality until now.

Are they all songs you’ve written? Can you talk about them a little bit?

Yeah. I have a song called, ‘(I Got) The One That Got Away (Back)’. That is my favorite song. It feels rude to say that to the other songs on the album, but I just love that song. I’m walking down the street, listening to it and loving it, and it takes a lot for me to love my stuff.

What do you love about it?

I love the title. I came up with the hook four or five years ago, and I never knew how to fit it into a song. I started to write around it, and I had a bit of the chorus, and it was good but I couldn’t think of anything verse-wise. Last winter, I went to Vermont to do a workshop of a show, and the bus ride took hours because we were stuck in traffic. I was playing with words in my head, and the verse started to pop out. I thought, ‘Oh, this is interesting,’ and out of nowhere, the hook came back and it fit together so beautifully. It was one of those songwriting times where I was so glad I didn’t force the song out and waited for the correct thing to match up with it. It pays off. It took five years to finally be written, but it feels like a party. I’m really proud of the writing and how damn fun it sounds.

Who or what would you say are your musical influences?

I love love love country music. My songs are probably less country than they used to be. I’m trying to steer away from that a little bit. Right now, I’ve been listening to a lot of Margo Price and Natalie Prass. Growing up, it was oldies and folk music, like Joni Mitchell. I listening only to the oldies station until I was about 12. It was really weird. Doo wop, Linda Ronstadt – that shit is my favorite. You’ll probably hear it when you hear the album. I loved Linda Ronstadt. She’s one of my favorites. There’s a singer, Melanie Safka, she’s known for the song ‘Brand New Key’. She’s pretty incredible. I did a concert recently, and a writer threw her name out in reference to my voice, and I almost died. No one’s ever said that, and it’s a secret dream of mine.

What does it mean to you to have this album out after so many years?

It means a lot, because it’s been a long time that I’ve been performing with my stuff in public. It truly was a long time before I felt totally ready to do this. I’m surrounded by so many incredible writers and musicians all the time, and it’s inspiring and also intimidating. I’m always in my head about my own stuff, even though I know I like it. This is the first time I’m not trying to psych myself up to be proud and excited about what I’m putting out in the world, I’m just hugely proud and excited about it. It’s hard. I’m one of those people who gets in their head, and it’s hard to get out of there. I’m not so in my head about this, which marks a huge departure from my normal behavior. Huge.

It does require you to put yourself out there in a big way.

It’s insane. I also think, for an actor, it took me four years before I would even say I was a songwriter. Even playing gigs and doing my own stuff, I wouldn’t say it for a long time. It’s a switch in how you see yourself. To add another label, especially one that might be new in comparison to someone who’s been playing with their band or writing songs since they were 16, it’s insane. Also, the process of getting the album out is a nightmare.

Where did the album title come from?

Never Really Done With You is the title of one of the songs. Up until the last few years, I didn’t write a lot of relationship songs. That wasn’t something that I focused on. I had a lot of weird songs about sweatshirts and birds and things like that. I found myself in a wonderful relationship that I’m obsessed with, and all of a sudden, all these relationship songs started pouring out of me. I was like, ‘Where is this coming from?’ I’m happy, and they were unhappy relationship songs for the most part. There’s one song called ‘Down My Back,’ that is very much about my relationship with theatre and acting. I had the realization that most of what I was writing was about that relationship, because it’s hard. It’s a difficult path to take in your life, and the last couple years, I’ve been dealing with that in a huge way. Ultimately, it’s not something I’m ever giving up. It’s kind of an homage to my acting career. I was writing about that, as opposed to my real life relationship.

It makes sense. Everyone has a relationship with their career and their passions.

Yeah. I was just like, ‘Where are these feelings coming from, being so in love with something and feeling so burned and upset? Ohhh, got it.’ In spite of that, I’m never really done with it.

A lot of people in theatre could say that.

It’s like a long, abusive relationship you enter into. Sometimes it’s amazing and sometimes you want to kill yourself a little bit.

You’re debuting your album at Joe’s Pub. What can you tell me about the event?

Musical Theatre Factory is incredible, and they produced a children’s show I did last year called The Meanest Birthday Girl. I wrote the book and lyrics for it. They asked me to do one of their showcase nights there. Heath Saunders did one, Shakina [Nayfack] did her shows there, Michael R. Jackson is doing one in the fall. Several months ago, they asked me to take one of the nights. I’ve always thought about playing Joe’s Pub, but it terrified me. I’ve done lots of other people’s shows there, but I’ve never done my own, because I’m terrified about selling it out. When they asked me, I thought, ‘I want to make this EP, I’ve always wanted to play at Joe’s Pub. What if we just do it?’ I have the support of these people and Shakina, who are going to have my back and help me put it on. At first I was worried because I’m not doing a ton of musical theatre stuff, but they were super cool about it. I’m hoping to do a song or two from shows I’m working on now, but we’ll see. I’m excited. I’ve never done my own stuff there, and I’ve never had a band this big play with me, so this is going to be new.

You tweeted about working with Charlie Rosen on this.

Charlie Rosen did the horn arrangements for this album. He’s absolutely incredible. That was the day I first cried in the studio because I had just been hearing it in my head for however long I was writing the songs. To hear these arrangements killed me. I thought, ‘This is happening.’

What do you hope people take away from listening to your album?

A few things. Mainly, I want people to listen, have some fun, and maybe dance a little bit. Personally, I have so many wonderful friends who are so supportive and know that I’ve been doing this for a while. There are a lot of people who don’t know I write these songs myself, and I want to show people that this is very much a part of me. I don’t need people sitting there and saying, ‘This is her relationship with theatre.’ I don’t need over-analysis. I just want people to have a good time. It’s fun music. Musical theatre writers write differently than pop writers. I’m so influenced by musical theatre writing. I used to be more theatre-y, and I’ve gone away from that in the last few years, but there’s still a hugely theatrical element that I’m excited to share with people who are not musical theatre people. I’m excited for anyone to put their own story on the song.

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