Paul W. Hullah talks to Carol Laula,i
a singer that no one will be able to ignore for very much longer.
One musical phenomenon which coloured the pre-recessive 80s was the rise of the female singer-songwriter. The arty but moribund Suzanne Vega. the stylish but frumpy Tanita Tikaram and the angst-bound but pleasing Tracy Chapman all rode on the crest of this wave. as did Julia Fordham. Michelle Shocked. Toni Childs. Phranc and Melissa Etheridge. In hopeful continuation of this strong line. the ‘)()s. so far. has spawned the sub-Billy Joelisms of Beverley Craven and the horrendous pretensions of Tori Amos. Not exactly promising and. as the decade yawns on. we have yet to witness the emergence of a substantial solo female talent. Paisley‘s folk-influenced songstress Carol Laula might just be a shrewd bet to fill the vacant post.
While Vega and company were gravitating towards the limelight. Laula was fronting pub-circuit Glasgow bands. Touch and later This Perfect Heart. ‘I was using the bands. basically. as a vehicle for presenting my own material.‘ she remembers. huskily (it‘s her birthday today so she‘s ‘had a few‘ and is feeling ‘a bit tired‘). ‘Eventually. I just thought I might as well go it totally alone. I needed to oversee everything myselfback then. needed to have confidence in my ability to present myself on my own terms.‘
Carol‘s first break came when she won a Tennents Live! talent contest. which resulted in some of her material appearing on an ensuing album release. The press were not slow to trumpet the diminutive. waif-like minstrel‘s obvious charisma. and much was made of the (trivial) fact that. in true Sandie Shaw tradition. she wore no footwear whilst on stage. On record. Laula‘s inﬂuences are laid as bare as her feet (Joni Mitchell — ‘absolutely brilliant‘; Rickie Lee Jones— ‘very good too‘; Melanie — ‘erm . . .‘) but some idiosyncratic vocal phrasing and genuinely affecting lyrical observations elevate Laula‘s art beyond the realms of pastiche. In 1989. with her new set of solo acoustic numbers and a growing reputation as an enigmatic. deeply emotional live performer. Carol (I‘ve never had a job. apart from music‘) secured herself a grant from the Prince‘s Trust. She used the money to record a single. ‘Gypsy‘ (neither the Suzanne Vega. nor the Stevie Nicks song. but her own composition). which was released independently to warm critical response. Melody Maker called her ‘the best female singer from Glasgow‘. A year later. her integrity and growing reputation were acknowledged when she was asked to write and record the official Glasgow City Of Culture anthem. the plangent. rousing ‘Standing Proud‘.
which was also released independently (on Burn One records). The year I991 brought ‘absolutely nothing‘ on the musical front but. instead. some acting. as Carol played a cocaine addict in a mixed-abilities casted Strathclyde Orchestral Productions tour of Johnny 8 Happy. a musical comedy with score by Micheal Marra. And since then?
‘l‘ve been working in Ca Va studios. finishing my album (titled Still) which we‘ll release in March 1992. and I‘ve been rehearsing for the Christmas dates. I‘d like to do some more acting. I found that a real challenge. When I‘m singing. I know exactly the feelings that I‘m trying to communicate. When you‘re playing a character. you have to make this big shift inside you. to try to summon up feelings that aren‘t your own. It‘s strange. and very educational. Musically. I wish someone would give me £2().(l()(). but no one seems to want to do it at the moment. and I don‘t think the Prince‘s Trust would bail me out to that extent. But you have to keep going. In a strange. perverse way I‘m glad I wasn‘t signed at the end of the 80s. when it kind of looked on the cards. Maybe the recession did me a favour. At least. this way. I‘ve retained total control over what I‘m doing. which has always been impOrtant.‘
For the forthcoming 'I‘ron Theatre dates. Carol is supported by Edinburgh‘s Van
Morrison-influenced troubador. Nick Robertson. or. depending on the particular evening. the 70s TV star and Gaelic chanteuse Anne Lorne Gillies. For her own set. Carol will unveil a new band she‘s put together. featuring ex-members of Hue And Cry. Horse. and Love And Money. ‘Aye. we‘re going to rock out a little. I‘m still in control. I just want to make some areas of what I‘m doing a bit louder. I‘ve written some new. faster songs and rearranged some old stuff. It‘s a vaguely new avenue. although there‘ll still be the slower. quieter songs in there.‘
Basically. still the barefoot. windswept romantic of yore. then‘.’
‘Oh yes. That‘s me. I‘m a boring old fart. It‘s certainly not my 21st birthday today. I can tell you. I don‘t like to go out and boogie all night long. Like it or not. I‘m a hippie. I‘m happy because I‘m doing what I always wanted to do. I spent last summer busking in Paris. making my own way. Next summer. if nothing else presents itself. I‘m going across to Texas to do the same. Just me and my guitar. The prospect excites me. It widens your horizons. offers you new experiences. helps you to grow.
(‘arol l.aula plays the 'I‘ron Theatre. Glasgow on Sat 2/. 310122. .S'atJ8, $10129 Dec, Sat 4 and Sun 5 Jan.
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The List 20 December 1—9—91 — leanuary 1992 37