Sean Fennell: I know you are in the midst of rehearsals, how has it been returning to these songs 10 years later?
Laura Stevenson: It has been really great. At first, I was kind of dreading some of the songs. When the cellist, the violinist and I were doing a practice with just the three of us just to iron out some of the very excruciating details without the rhythm section there, Sean, the cello player, said “okay, let’s do “Every Tense”” and we all just groaned because we thought it was just going to be so hard. Then we played it and it was immediately really good. Everything has been so smooth and wonderful, which is such a relief because I came into this with a bit of a residual cough from my daughter being perpetually sick. I was worried that if we were over-practicing without locking in, I would be using my voice so much and then lose it before the first show. That is always the dread; the over-practicing and then showing up to the actual show sounding awful. Everybody came so prepared. Today is day three of marathon practice and we are already going through the set, so it’s great.
SF: How did you go about assembling the string section and the rest of the band for this set of shows?
LS: We had Shawn Alpay, who has played on a few of my recordings, including my last self-titled record…so Shawn has been in the fold for awhile. He is super capable and truly wonderful and very conscientious. Kayleigh Goldsworthy played in my friend Anika Pyle’s band and she’s played with Kevin Devine and a bunch of other people I am friends with, so we were just rotating around each other and had never really met till we both played that show with Anika last year. So when I was thinking of who might be another string player who could also sing I thought of Kayleigh immediately. I know how incredibly talented and capable she is, so I wasn’t even worried if our voices were going to blend together. Sometimes someone has a really beautiful voice but then when you get together and sing you realize your voices don’t match. But I knew with Kayleigh that she could match and harmonize so well with anybody, so when I found out she was available it was the obvious choice.
SF: Considering that you are playing The Wheel in its entirety, I was curious how many of these songs remained in the live rotation for you in general over the years and which ones you might be playing for the first time in quite a while?
LS: Well, “Bells & Whistles” has never been played as a full band other than when we were in pre-production for the recording of The Wheel and then when we were actually in the studio doing it. After that, never, ever again. So that was one where I thought, uh oh, we might be screwed. But as soon as I was practicing with the rhythm section – Mike Campbell [bass] and Sammi Niss [drums] – we just went through it once and it was perfect. That song felt brand new to me as far as playing with a band and with these members. “L-Dopa”, “Runner,” and “Renee” have always been part of sets. Sometimes “L-Dopa” gets cycled out, but “Renee” and “Runner” have remained pretty constant. “The Move” is one that I play by myself so that doesn’t really change anything. “The Wheel” is another one I usually play by myself and I try to sing the jazzy trumpet part at the end but now we have the two string players playing the dueling horn lines which is really, really beautiful. I am so excited to debut that song at these shows because it has been really special.