Hi Lauren, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
Hi! I’m okay, thank you. I’ve been struggling a lot during the pandemic and lockdown but I’m cautiously optimistic that I’m getting better at managing to take things day by day and therefore not getting quite so overwhelmed by it all. I hope you’re all safe and well!
Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Back To Life”?
So, ‘Back To Life’ is the fourth and penultimate single from my EP, Honest, which follows my mental health journey over a period of time. It starts in a pretty dark place and ‘Back To Life’ is the real upward turn, where things really start to look more positive. I wrote it with my friend, Scott Colcombe, who is an amazing, multi-talented songwriter and the song just flowed out, like it was really ready to be written. The initial production was done with Lauren Deakin Davies and then, when I selected it for the EP, I worked on it with Richard Marc, my long time collaborator, to make sure all the songs really fitted together sonically. It’s really positive and joyful and I hope people are able to take some of that away with them after they listen to it.
Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?
Yes, there was actually a very specific moment when it comes to this song. A few years previously, I’d been treated really badly by someone very close to me and it had left me with a lot of baggage that had affected multiple areas of my life and my mental health. It took me a long time to process the experience and work through it and then one night, driving down the motorway with music blasting (it was Taylor Swift’s Red album), I suddenly realized that I’d managed to let it go. A weight had been lifted and I felt almost euphoric with relief. I still deal with some of the issues that that experience caused and the effects it had on my mental health, but the experience itself was in the past. It was simply something that happened.
How was the filming process and experience behind the video?
It was definitely an experience! The video was completely planned out and I was just waiting for sunnier weather to film it when we went into lockdown. At that point, we didn’t know how long all of this was going to go on so there was still hope that we could go with the original plan but eventually we had to give up on it because there simply wasn’t a way to do it safely. I don’t want to give too much away as the video isn’t out yet but after a lot of thinking, I came up with a concept that still worked as a visual representation of the song and then my friend, Richard Marc (who is also a fantastic photographer and videographer) and I spent about four hours shooting footage on a beach near Brighton, socially distanced, masked (apart from when I was on camera), and generally being really careful about space and contact. It was very stressful, both because I’m still getting used to being on camera and because of my anxieties around the pandemic. It was particularly hard, for example, to act relaxed and happy when I was so anxious and tense. But it’s looking really good and I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished, particularly in current circumstances.
The single comes off your new album Honest – what’s the story behind the title?
Honesty and authenticity have always been really important values in my life but when I was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at twenty, I realized very quickly that I was either going to have to be open about it or keep it to myself, which felt a lot like lying about a big part of who I am and that felt very unhealthy. I decided that the best thing for me was to be honest about it, that the healthiest approach for me was to always be open and honest. Of course, that doesn’t mean I blurt out anything and everything but that, at my core, I am an honest person and that’s how I wanted to introduce myself to the world, as a person, a songwriter, and an artist.
How was the recording and writing process?
I wasn’t writing with a specific project in mind when I wrote the songs, to be honest; I was just trying to write the best songs I could write. But when I finished my degree (a BA in Songwriting), I wanted to put out a body of work and start establishing myself as a writer and an artist. So it became a case of deciding what I wanted my message to be and which songs fitted best with that message. My debut single, ‘Invisible,’ was about feeling unheard and unseen when it came to my mental health and I wanted to continue that conversation, which fitted really well with this theme of honesty. I think it’s probably impossible to sum up one’s experience with mental health and mental illness with just five songs so I chose a selection that showed various different moments: it’s kind of like a short story where each song is a chapter within that story. All of the songs chosen had pretty well-developed tracks already so together with Richard Marc, we filled them out, adding extra details and nuance to each song giving them an individual sound while still ensuring that they sounded like they belonged to the same project.
What aspect of honesty did you get to explore on this record?
As I’ve already mentioned, I wanted to keep talking about mental health because it’s so important to me, because it’s a cause I want to continually raise awareness for. So I wanted to be honest about my mental health, or at least my mental health over a period of time. But it’s really interesting because, as I’ve received feedback and responses to the songs and as I’ve continued to write songs, I’ve found myself even more able to open up and be honest and tell stories that I wasn’t able to previously. So this is really just the beginning.
Where else did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?
The songs are all based on moments from my life: ‘Bad Night’ is about a night when my depression felt overwhelming; ‘Clarity’ is about recognizing how dangerous but addictive my coping behavior was; ‘Sounds Like Hope’ is about trying to find hope when things get really bad. I love a good metaphor so many of my songs do contain metaphors – for example, in ‘Back To Life,’ I’m not literally rising from the dead – but I love the imagery of real, specific lyrics and I love taking them from the real situation, like little clues to what the song is about. ‘Sounds Like Hope’ was born from the lyric, ‘I can hear the trains from my window,’ which is a detail pulled from my life and the first verse of ‘Back To Life’ describes the drive where I realized that I’d finally let go of this traumatic experience.
What else is happening next in Lauren Alex Hooper’s world?
Well, there’s the final single, the title track, ‘Honest,’ still to come which I’m very excited about but I’m also going back to university soon. I’m halfway through a Master’s Degree in Songwriting, which (apart from the disruption due to the pandemic) has been an amazing and really fun experience so far. I’m learning so much and the course ends with us working on a big body of work. So maybe that will be my next release, maybe it won’t. We’ll have to wait and see. As exciting as it’s been to share this EP with everyone, I’m really looking forward to focusing solely on creating and seeing what develops.