Little Orange Room Sessions is a one-take, one-shot, “living-room”-style performance video series recorded in Eugene, Oregon. Each two-song session is recorded in the 125 square feet that I use for mixing, producing, and sometimes even recording entire albums. Little Orange Room Sessions grew out of my crazy love of music and mixing, a growing curiosity about film and cameras, and a deep-seated passion for performance and the art of song.
*photo: Sally Sheldon
Session #5: Halie Loren
Halie Loren is an international, award-winning jazz singer/songwriter though her newest album From the Wild Sky (2018) spans multiple genres and showcases elements of pop, ballads, jazz, and rock. She’s released ten albums to-date, garnering several national and international awards as well as significant critical and chart success along the way, with her albums consistently charting at #1 in Billboard/Japan Jazz Charts, iTunes (Canada and Japan) and Amazon Music. Loren recently took the time to answer some questions via email.
LORS: From the Wild Sky really does transcend genre. For someone who is known as jazz singer, I would not classify this as a jazz album. Was that a conscious approach going in to making the album? Was the idea of doing something not super jazz-centric building for a while?
HL: You’re absolutely right — this album was never intended to be a jazz album, though that hasn’t kept it from being categorized as such by some based on the fact that many of my previous albums have been more jazz in style. With “From the Wild Sky”, my intention wasn’t so much to make a non-jazz album as it was to make something entirely new for me, something that allowed my songwriter-self to come out of its supporting role and into the spotlight for an entire project. I’ve been writing songs for 22 years, and that part of my artistic identity was really calling out for me to give it more focus for the past several years, like a slow-burning subconscious ache. I’m glad to have been able to finally drum up the courage to go there with this album, and to have collaborated with a producer (Troy Miller) and an array of incredibly expressive musicians who cared to really understand and honor the personality and emotional layers of each song. As for the overall style shift from previous projects, the genre definition for this album was never my focus — I wanted the songs to express as they had been written, regardless of how they might be categorized individually or as a whole. These songs felt like they belonged together, like individual fruits from the same tree, and that was enough for me.
LORS: This album is described on your website as “the culmination of years making music.” This is your first collection of original songs since your 2006 debut album Full Circle. Is From the Wild Sky the beginning of what might be considered a more singer/songwriter focused approach to your career?
HL: I needed all the years of experience, both musically and life-wise, to make “From the Wild Sky” the kind of project it was. I couldn’t have written most of the songs on the album without the gifts brought by the passing of years: hardship, unexpected blessings, false-starts, new beginnings, huge losses, and little wins — all serving to crystallize my understanding of who I am and what I really need to say as an artist. I’m still on that path, of course. But I do know that making this album changed me — and by “changed me”, I mean in that I feel I’ve returned to embracing an essential part of who I am, and I’d like to keep doing that, regardless of the shape or genre of future albums. I do know this won’t be my last project of predominantly original songs that I’ll release. All of my past albums, both jazz and otherwise, have included at least some original material, and will continue to do so for the projects still to come.
LORS: You and your husband, Daniel Gallo, perform together as well as share the songwriting responsibility (the two songs from the session: “Evergreen” written by Daniel and “Yellow Bird” written by Halie). How collaborative a process is songwriting for you? I know you have spent some time in Nashville too which is such a collective, “co-write” kind of environment. I know writers who are super private and have to write in solitude and writer’s who thrive in company with a “no idea is a bad idea” type of mindset.
HL: I did quite a bit of co-writing while I was living in Nashville in my late teens, and some of those songs are now featured on my albums — I still really like the songs that I co-wrote while living there, and those that came out of the occasional co-write pursuits I’ve been part of since then. I never quite got used to the feeling of emotional exposure in that setting, even with close friends — it was definitely an exercise in stepping way out of my comfort zone, each and every time. I’m a really private person, so spitballing ideas for lyrics in particular felt a little bit like letting another person skim through my journal. That feeling of exposure was challenging, but it was really good for me, I think, and I learned so much by vicariously experiencing other writers’ processes. Plus, a lot of songs I’m very proud of came from those efforts. Songwriting is seldom a collaborative process for me these days — Daniel and I have written some songs together (which are very special songs for me), but overall, I’m by default a very solitary creature when it comes to creating from the ground up, whether it’s a song or something else.
LORS: Guy Clark sings, “Some days you write the song / some days the song writes you.” Which line best describes you?
HL: I almost always feel like it’s the latter. I often don’t even quite know what a song fully means to me until long after I’ve written it and lived in it for awhile. I love the way songs reveal themselves to me… they are their own worlds. I just get to walk around in them.
LORS: Any music you’re listening to (old or new) that I should put in my ear holes? Or any good books you’re currently reading or just finished?
HL: Well, since we’re coming up on the holiday season, I have to say that I’ve been unable to stop listening to “A Cradle in Bethlehem” by Nat King Cole. I get WAY into holiday music from now through, oh, January… so that’s where my mind is at this moment! Hah! As for books, I just finished reading a couple of books: “City of Thieves” by David Benioff and “The Colour of Our Sky” by Amita Trasi, both set in very different parts of the world (Russia during WWII and modern-day India, respectively) and both quite engrossing. I spent several nights staying up into the wee hours of the morning reading them. I highly recommend both. Books and music both have such power to transport us into entirely different planes of existence — the magic of a good story, whether with words or with melody, can bring so much more depth to one’s experience of the day-to-day. I am perpetually grateful for and amazed by the gifts of human expression.