In a time when New Zealand is abundant with great female vocalists, a new name is set to emerge that will make you sit up, take notice and give thanks to whatever it is that blesses Aotearoa with creative talent.
That name belongs to Lauren Anne Mitchell and 2007 sees the release of her first album Debut, a beautiful showcase of her undeniable talents in producing a distinctly New Zealand flavour of soul.
With Debut, Mitchell has uncorked a sparkling collection of seductive soul and jazz that reveals her undeniable talent as both a singersongwriter and musician. Her songs come from a place of honesty, laced with emotion as they narrate her progression as a woman and a musician.
"Nothing is impossible if you take time to work things out for yourself. The idea that there's only one way to achieve things is appalling to me," says Lauren Mitchell,
Based in Christchurch, Mitchell was born in the fertile wine region of Marlborough and has firmly established herself in the Garden City's entertainment scene, working with local talent including Flip Grater, Trillion, Matt Barus, Solaa, Harry Harrison. Performing as a member of the dukes in support for INXS, Gomez and the Dudes summer fo tlove tour.
She co-wrote and performed on New Zealand's Rare Shot Blues Debut album, and three of her tracks were playlisted on Kiwi FM. An earlier song ‘Better Than It Seems' was voted into the Top 50 Suggested Artist list for the VH1 International Song of the Year competition in 2006. Two local music compilations now include Mitchell's music; one a New Zealand Music Month release in collaboration with the Christchurch Press and CPIT Jazz School and the other the Reason for Being album through Underground Coffee.
Mitchell counts influences as diverse as Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder, Jazz legend Ella Fitzgerald and indie princess Bjork: "Her voice!" says Mitchell. "Totally free, uninhibited and passionate. It blew away all sense of the impossible and gave me a sense of what was possible with the human voice."
Mitchell studied contemporary music in 2000 before attending Christchurch Polytechnic's School of Jazz from 2002 to 2004, releasing an EP in her final year. Signs of her emerging talent came with the pseudo-release of an EP in 2004, which had industry notables knocking on her door for more. Radio New Zealand's Liz Barry said:
"Lauren is a fantastic vocalist, very impressive. Style, panache and attitude".
Marbeck's offered to distribute the EP nationally. "I declined the offer because I didn't think the production was good enough," recalls Mitchell. "It was part of my course requirements at Jazz School so I only had four hours in the studio to produce it, so it was never released,
That moment revealed to Mitchell the strength of her inner voice, her own truth and sense of honesty. She had been writing music from childhood and lyrics from her mid-teens, yet at Jazz School, perhaps a time when she would've been most galvanised to explore her creativity, she stopped writing. "I was so busy learning how to be a musician that I simply forgot to just be one," she says. "My judgements became my own worst enemy and I questioned my artistic integrity. What I have realised was that by not writing, I had cut off my best tool to cope with my struggles as both a person and an artist. I love the idea of surrendering my thoughts and emotions to a song to find clarity, and I have found that by writing all the time I can alleviate my creative doubt and keep a positive focus."
And so now the time has come for Lauren Mitchell to release her first album, Debut. Debut is an album of empowering and uplifting soul, resplendent with honesty and justice. Gentle melodies carry a sense of earnest honesty, forthright attitude and dreamy sensibilities, spearheaded by Mitchell's entreat to find ourselves within "sweet, sweet music". Mitchell has self-produced Debut.
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LA Mitchell appointed inaugural songwriter in residence at University of Auckland
Posted: Wed Jul 29, 2009 12:56 pm
L.A. MITCHELL APPOINTED INAUGURAL SONGWRITER IN RESIDENCE AT UNIVERSITY OF AUCKLAND
Soul songstress L.A. Mitchell is the inaugural Songwriter in Residence 2009 at The University of Auckland's School of Music.
Following the release of her first self-produced album, Debut, L.A Mitchell has been receiving growing critical acclaim for her original form of soul jazz. Her follow-up album, Live at the Matterhorn, featured her six-piece band, Nativa, performing live at one of Wellington’s most popular music venues, The Matterhorn. L.A. Mitchell has performed alongside the Black Seeds, Nathan Haines, Anna Coddington and Karen Hunter, and she has toured with American alt country ensemble, Last Town Chorus. She performs as a member of Dave Dobbyn’s band as well as The Dukes and she has just completed performances as part of the 2009 cast of Fly My Pretties; in late 2008 L.A. Mitchell and the Nativa Band opened for soul legend Stevie Wonder on his New Zealand tour.
As the Songwriter in Residence, L.A. will work closely with students at the School’s Popular Music programme. She will mentor around 40 young performers and songwriters this year and will be available to students to talk about songwriting and performance as well also coaching them on vocal production skills. Such mentoring will be vital for students to prepare for the inaugural Songwriter of the Year 2009 competition, to be held in September.
“It is always important to be able to hand knowledge back. I see this residency as a great privilege, with the potential to inspire not only the students but also myself, ” says L.A. Mitchell.
Stephen Matthews, coordinator of the Popular Music Programme, says L.A. Mitchell is the ideal artist to launch the Songwriter in Residence initiative.
“L.A. Mitchell brings a perfect mix of skills to the role; she is a brilliant vocalist and instrumentalist, a highly talented songwriter and an outstanding communicator,” says Mr Matthews.
The School of Music’s Popular Music major is an ideal environment for aspiring songwriters looking to develop their writing, arranging and performance skills. Students work alongside other songwriters and musicians in a fertile creative setting, where they share ideas and perform each other’s work on a regular basis.
The inaugural Songwriter of the Year competition will be held on 29 September at the Maidment Theatre. Drawn from the Popular Music programme, student competitors will be coached on vocal and performance skills by L.A. Mitchell. The six finalists will each perform three original songs and will be supported by a professional backing band. They will compete for $1500 worth of music vouchers from Musicworks. The winners will be selected by judges Don McGlashan and Daniel Wrightson (Juice TV) and will be featured on Juice TV.
The University of Auckland’s National Institute of Creative Arts and Industries comprises the School of Architecture and Planning, Elam School of Fine Arts, the Centre for New Zealand Art Research and Discovery (CNZARD), the School of Music and the Dance Studies Programme.
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