Lauren Alex Hooper
Hey guys! I have exciting news!
As of today, I have started a blog where I will be writing about my experiences with Autism Spectrum Disorder, as well as a number of other mental health issues. Writing helps me process this stuff and I know that it would've really helped me to see that other people were going through the same thing as me. So I'm going to have a go and see what happens. I would love it if you guys would check it out!
I know I've been very quiet on here over the last few months, but I promise it's for a good reason. I'm halfway through my last year of university so the pressure is on to get all the work done, to finish with a good grade. I'm also working hard on my first EP so that hopefully, it will be out soon. I haven't sat down to look properly at this year but when I know, you'll know.
I hope you've all have a wonderful, restful holiday with the people you love, and I hope this coming year treats you well.
Talk to you soon.
This week I got the chance to do something very exciting. I got to go to see The Shires at HMV on Oxford Street and get my copy of their new album, My Universe, signed. Those of you who know me know that I love country music, that I love The Shires and have seen them quite a few times now.
So, obviously, I was very excited about the release of their new album. I've been listening to it a lot since it came out; my favourites are Drive (such a good chorus), Daddy's Little Girl (I swear, this is one of the best country songs I've ever heard), A Thousand Hallelujahs (I love the rise into the chorus - I can't help but get excited every time it comes around), Other People's Things (the details are just beautiful), and Stay (from the deluxe version). The others are growing on me too. There's something very different about it, compared to the first album, although I'm not sure what it is. I really like both.
So I headed to Oxford Street from university and queued up in the cold, waiting for the doors to open. Something I love about country music audiences is how nice and friendly everyone is. Crowds of people I don't know tend to cause me a lot of anxiety but I'm never worried in a country crowd. Everyone wants to chat, share stories, share favourite songs and singers. I love it. So I didn't mind waiting.
Then things got exciting.
After the photos were taken, Ben and Crissie went into HMV and we were back to queuing. Fortunately we didn't have to wait long before we were shown into a little performance area at the back of HMV. When everyone was in, the show began.
As always, they were great. So great. They played a short set of Beats to Your Rhythm, My Universe, Other People's Things, Friday Night from Brave, their cover of Angels by Robbie Williams, Desperate, and Drive. I was very happy that some of my favourites made it onto the list and it was really cool to hear the others, songs that weren't necessarily my favourites to begin with but are special now because of the experience.
After the performance, there was more queuing and more chatting, but I didn't mind. Everybody's so nice. And from when I've met Ben and Crissie before, I've always appreciated it not feeling rushed, so I can't complain about other people getting the same.
Meeting them again was so, so nice. They are such lovely people and I'm so touched that they take the time to meet everybody and have a real conversation. After a really, really tough week, it raised my spirits so much to see them play again and talk to them. Thank you Ben and Crissie for a wonderful evening, one I'll always remember, and your kind words. Wishing you all the best, always. I can't wait to see you guys again when you're on tour!
Autumn has rolled around and so has the new academic year. This is my third and final year at university, studying songwriting, which is very strange. I can't believe that I'm nearly done, that next summer will be the end of this three year adventure. So I'm not looking forward to it being over but I'm very excited about this year. This year the focus is on us, on ourselves as songwriters, so I'm very eager to buckle down and get to work on writing more songs, expanding my repertoire, and developing my language as a writer. This has been the year I've been looking forward to. To get me wrong, I enjoyed and learned a lot from the last two years, but the focus was on learning skills so there was a lot of work in areas that didn't necessarily thrill me, but this, this year, is all about personal growth and I'm very excited about that. I learned a lot about myself this summer, about moving on, about letting go of difficult things, so I'm ready to push forward and work even harder than I have over the last few years. I'm invigorated by it, not scared. So I'm looking forward to it, although I'm not looking forward to commuting. But oh well. It's a small price to pay.
The early part of the summer was focussed on the three gorgeous kittens my cat had at the end of April. They were the cutest things ever and it was pretty amazing to be part of these little creatures' lives, watching them grow and loving them as much as possible. It was one of the best experiences I've ever had.
Once they'd gone off to their new homes, I did some travelling with my friends and family, around England and over to the Netherlands. That was a great experience and it was such a good way to clear my head, blow away the cobwebs, and ready it to fill up with new ideas.
And I've been gigging a lot. That has been so much fun. There is nothing like showing people something that you've created that you're so proud of. Performing these songs is so much fun, even the sad ones. I love it. I love performing so much.
I've also been in the studio a bit, recording and arranging some of these songs. That has been the best thing ever. I can't explain the feeling of hearing a song I wrote come to life, sounding so much bigger and bolder than I'd ever imagined, but it's magical. Being in the studio is my favourite thing ever and I can't wait to do more.
So that's been my summer. Talk to you guys soon!
This is just a short post but I really wanted to acknowledge all the tragedy that's happened in the last couple of weeks. I don't really know what to write; I don't know how to respond to such horrible acts of violence and hatred. I'm speechless. But I wanted to post about it because it's important, because keeping these people and their loved ones in our hearts and minds is important even if we don't have any words.
Summer is here! For me, at least. I'm thinking of all of you who still have months to go. I finished university on the 9th May and it was officially over on the 18th when I did my only exam of the semester. So, I'm free. And I'm very happy about it. I feel incredibly lucky to enjoy uni (or the majority of it) as much as I do, but like everyone, I really need breaks from it. I love having to write three songs a week but it's hard work and taking a break from that allows me to clear my brain and get some fresh ideas.
But the end of the academic year held a very great moment. Frank Turner came to our monthly songwriters' circle and gave a masterclass before playing some of his songs. I learnt so much and it was one of the most inspiring things I've ever seen. I really admired his sincerity and passion for music.
I also got to play some really fun gigs, debuting a new song called 'Still' that I wrote with the help of Caylan Hays. It's one of my very favourites and it's taken a long time to write. So playing it live for the first time, and the second time, and the third time was a very special experience.
But another very inspiring thing that happened during this month was my discovering of Cecilia Knapp and her poetry. She's an amazing poet, seriously. If you love words, you should check out her stuff. I've been so inspired by her and what she does.
I'm very late in updating this but I've been so busy with university and going to Nashville. I've also been gigging madly, playing as many open mics in London and Brighton as my uni work allows. With summer ahead, I can't wait to do more.
As those of you who follow me on social media will know, I went to Nashville at the beginning of April this year on a university songwriting trip and I can say without doubt that it was the most amazing experience of my life. I could write pages and pages about this trip (I kid you not, I filled two notebooks with all the details of the trip) but here, I'll just give you an outline of what happened.
We filled the days with exciting stuff, including visiting the NSAI, exploring as much as the city as we could, and cowriting with as many people as possible. I've never been anywhere where the people were so nice! My social anxiety was almost non-existent for the majority of the trip (except when the occasional thing didn't go as planned but that's pretty normal) which was amazing. We were so busy that we didn't have as much time as I would've liked to see the city but I did get to go to the Country Music Hall of Fame which was really cool. And while food tends to be difficult for me, I swear I could spend my entire life in Pancake Pantry.
Cowriting wise, I'm not sure I've ever written with such talented people. The bar in Nashville is above the clouds; the level of talent and dedication is just off the charts. Major shout outs to Caylan Hays and Damian Malnar for their time and the songs we wrote together (some with Fingerpaint, who was on the trip with me); I'm very proud of the songs I wrote and had a hand in writing out there. It reminded me why I love songwriting and it's never been so much fun.
But the main reason we were there was to go to Tin Pan South, the songwriting festival. That was amazing. I never wanted it to end. We went to two shows a night and listened to the most amazing songwriters sing songs they'd written and talk about their process and inspiration. I came out of every show feeling so alive and so inspired. I couldn't possibly list everyone but some of my favourites were Scott Stepakoff, Kelsea Ballerini, Krysta Nick, Kalie Shorr, Lena Stone, Natalie Hemby, Kristian Bush, Travis Meadows, Sonia Leigh, and Liz Rose. But really, every show was incredible. I don't think I've ever been happier.
While I truly mean that every show was incredible, I do have a favourite. On the penultimate night of the festival, we went to The Country to see Liz Rose, Kim McLean, Alyssa Micaela, and Emily Shakelton. Other than the fact that all four of them are amazing and performed some amazing songs, it was my favourite because Liz Rose invited us up on stage to sing 'You Belong With Me', which she wrote with Taylor Swift. That was possibly the most fun I've ever had and I'll never forget it. I'm so grateful for the experience.
In the last few days of the trip, I managed to pack in some more writing, sightseeing, even managed to do two open mic shows, one at The Bluebird and one at Douglas Corner Cafe. Both of those were amazing experiences and I feel so, so lucky to have them.
Saying goodbye to Nashville was really, really hard. I desperately didn't want to leave such an amazing city where I'd had the time of my time. But I know, without a doubt, that I'll be back. And I can't wait.
"The ten days I spent in #Nashville were life changing. When I left home, I was really struggling but something changed as we left the airport and drove into the city. Being completely surrounded by music was amazing: writing it, listening to it, performing it. I've never felt so at home in a place I'd never been to before. I had so many experiences that I'll never forget and that have inspired me so much. I can't put into words how important this adventure has been, what an impact it has had on my life, and although coming back to normal life has been difficult, I know Nashville is waiting for me, as soon as I can get back there. Thank you to all my wonderful friends, those who came with me and those I made out there. Thank you to ICMP for giving me the opportunity to go. Thank you to my Mum for making it possible. And thank you to Nashville for making me braver than I was before."
The last few months have been very hectic. University has kept me very busy but there have been a few exciting things going on.
Most of February was taken up with February Album Writing Month, or FAWM. For those of you who don't know it, it's a challenge to write fourteen songs in the month of February. I've been attempting it for several years but this was the first time I actually managed to complete it! It was hard work but I've written some songs I'm really proud of.
I was also lucky enough to see Halsey! She was totally awesome. I was so, so impressed by everything: the music, the songs, the performance, the vocals, the stage. It was amazing. The energy was electric and I loved every second of it. But I think my favourite part was how she took the time between songs to talk to us as a crowd. The things she said were so sincere and personal and it really felt like we were all sharing a very special experience. I didn't want the night to end.
Just on the off chance, I waited outside the stage door after the show finished. I had to wait several hours in the freezing cold but it was worth it. Despite an injury during the show, Halsey insisted on meeting all of us who'd waited, even though it was only for a moment. She was so sweet and hugged everyone. I wish I'd been able to say more, to tell her how grateful I am for her music, but I was so starstruck that all I was able to say was 'thank you'.
March was full of working hard and getting through but one particular highlight was getting to see Adele in concert. She was amazing. I was very intrigued to see how, with so many slow songs, she'd put on a show but she had the whole arena under her spell from the first song. The whole show was fantastic but what really struck me was how intimate the show felt. She engaged with the audience so sincerely that it was easy to forget that she's this mega superstar. I definitely learned a lot.
I've also been busy doing open mics in Brighton which has been super fun. It's been really good to get some feedback on my new songs and with every performance, I'm learning more about myself as a performer.
And my final piece of exciting news is that I'M GOING TO NASHVILLE! In a few days, I will be on a plane to Music City, ready to write and sing and listen. I'm super excited...