Spencer LaJoye’s new EP, Remember the Oxygen, documents the singer-songwriter’s journey into becoming themself. In taking this deeply personal and intensely creative exploration, they also discovered the artistic freedom that goes along with living that truth. Now, with the EP in the hands of listeners, they hope that the songs can, in turn, do the same for others.
I recently sat down with LaJoye to discuss the Boston music scene, unlocking the true potential of a song, and the best darn explanation of what looping is…ever.
AH: You’re Boston-based. I grew up in Massachusetts. What is the Boston music scene like in 2021 (now 2022!) and how does it impact you as an artist?
SL: I just became Boston-based two months ago, so I can’t speak with much expertise about the scene at the moment, but what I can say is that even with COVID still looming, Boston musicians still believe in this city and really want to show it off. From the moment I moved out here—actually, before I even got here—folks were reaching out to other folks who were reaching out to other venues who were reaching back to me. There’s something about this place that’s so eager to be and stay connected, and I’m excited to experience that more as I get to know this city.
AH: I listen to your new EP and I hear a singer-songwriter. That said, you’re also a loop artist. For those not familiar with the practice of looping, what is the easiest way to describe it?
SL: It’s just stacking, sound upon sound, harmony upon harmony. The first layer is the foundation, and then I just push a button to lay a harmony on top of it. Then another sound on top of that. Soon, there can be 15 of me in one big wall of sound. Doing it artfully and not aggressively is another story, but those are the logistics!
AH: How did you get into looping and when did you feel like you perfected your craft? Is there a moment where it all clicked?
SL: I got my first loop pedal in college and immediately decided I needed to write a song with it to perform in my choir’s cabaret-style showcase. That clearly could have been disastrous, but it went so well that it basically became my “brand” for the next seven years. The moment I guess I “perfected” my kind of looping was during lockdown in 2020, when I used the vocal looper as a meditation tool for myself. I’d lay down one loop and then simply improvise for a couple minutes on top of it to get out of my head and into my body and feelings. The moment the tool is working for the artist, and not the other way around…I think that’s as close to “perfection” as we can get.
AH: You are putting a lot of emotion out there in Remember The Oxygen. Is there a part of you that was hesitant about giving so much of yourself to the world?
SL: No. I mean, I always have a bit of an emotional hangover after a release or after a show. A moment of, “Oh my god, did I expose too much?” But I’ve never regretted sharing myself with anyone. Maybe I’m lucky that way. If I offer something honestly and vulnerably, I trust people to meet it with their own vulnerability. And it’s not scary if we’re both doing it.
AH: What would somebody learn about you in sitting down to listen to Remember The Oxygen front to back?
SL: (Laughter) Their first thought is probably, “Wow, this person has SO many big feelings.” Which is true. But in all honesty, that might be the point. This EP is massive. It sounds huge. Strings, guitars, organs, choirs…I hope it’s impossible for someone to listen through it without having some part of themselves break wide open. So, I hope what they learn about me is that I’m here for it. I’m showing up with nothing to lose.
AH: You have said that the songs on the EP document you becoming yourself. Do you hope that it will also inspire others to be comfortable with who they are and embrace who they hope to be?
SL: That is my biggest dream! Like I said, I hope it’s impossible for someone to listen to this EP without having some part of themselves broken open. I hope it makes people feel something or gives them permission to be louder or deeper or to cry without knowing why.
AH: Did becoming yourself also unlock your artist self? Do you feel more free creatively now than when you started your musical journey?
SL: Absolutely. I think I have a more acute awareness of what’s “true” now. Living my truth and writing a good song both require the same sensibility. When I first brought “House Fires” into the studio during pre-production, China Kent (one of the producers) told me, “This song doesn’t know what it is, yet. What are you protecting us from? What are you not saying?” And then she sent me home to fix it. That exchange stays with me whenever I sit down to write, because it’s also an exchange I have with myself every day when I decide how I’m going to show up fully in the world. What am I protecting people from? What am I not saying?
AH: What are you most proud of with this album and why?
SL: I’m so proud of the team that made this happen. I’m proud of the time we took to make four songs sound exactly as they should. I worked with friends and colleagues who made me feel warm and at home with myself. China and Seth Kent, the producers, listened to my soul and added their own into the mix. Each of the players in the string quartet—Brittany Hensley, Rhianna Fairchild, and Mary-Cathryn Zimmer (along with myself)—gave their very best in the studio. They are colleagues who can be intentional and patient, as well as downright goofy. Ben Wysocki is an entire symphony on the drums, and I trust him deeply. Kurt Henning on the bass had more dad jokes than my own father. My sister Chelsea LaJoye has the purest vocals and the purest heart. Eric Tate highlighted things in the mixing room that I’d forgotten we’d even recorded. Christopher Norman, the mastering engineer, gave everything just the right amount of shine. I could go on. I’m proud of the team.
AH: What does writing and performing music do for you that you can’t get out of being a listener alone?
SL: That’s interesting. I think being a writer and a performer makes it hard for me to ever just be a listener alone. That’s a blessing and a curse. It just means I’m always learning and grabbing tools for my toolbox. I’m rarely ever not creating, and I don’t say that to be cool or unique; I think it’s true for most songwriters I know. Listening to the world is part of the writing process.
AH: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
SL: I wouldn’t dare! I’d either be hugely disappointed and miss out on all the goodness that happens between now and then, or I’d be hugely elated…and miss out on all the goodness that happens between now and then. I don’t wanna miss anything.
Remember The Oxygen is available now. For more information on Spencer, visit www.spencerlajoye.com
Enjoy new Americana music on our playlist, here: New Americana Music playlist by Americana Highways