When involved in an industry as competitive as music, artists need to do two things – 1) think outside the box to have their music heard and 2) have a great sense of humor to get through the tough days. Fawn Larson has both of these traits in spades. Born in Lafayette, Louisiana and now calling Nashville, Tennessee, Larson has had her music placed in commercials and film. She’s performed with a number of bands throughout her short time on this planet. And in February, she released her debut solo album, The Sway, a compilation of alt-country, Americana, and roots music that recalls the greatness of Lucinda Williams. There is even a hint of Carla Bruni, the former model who also released a couple of critically-acclaimed albums, as Larson has written two folk songs in French – “Où Est Ton Coeur?” (translated to “Where Is Your Heart”) and “Allons à Paris” (“Let’s Go to Paris”).
But the album is so much more. It is Larson’s life story. It is her soul expounded in song. And like any account of one’s life, there are times of reflection, such as told on the title track, “I Lost Myself Today”, and “Anything at All”. There are stories of people that have she knew and said goodbye to, such as on the piano ballad “Miner’s Song”. There are tough times and low points, which are best revealed on the gritty and powerful “High Hopes” and the elegant “I’m Dying”.
For Larson, The Sway is a personal achievement. However, the album does not reveal everything about the twenty-something year-old singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. In our little chit chat, we talked about the record, her mastery of languages, Luke Perry, and Star Trek. As we continued our discussion, one surprise after enough was revealed. Get to know Fawn Larson.
(T)wo of my original songs will be used in the beloved children’s classic Black Beauty later this year. A friend of mine in Louisiana is involved in the film industry and suggested I send some songs to the producer since he knew they were looking for music. They liked my sound enough to use two songs!
Hi Fawn! Thanks for coming out. It’s a pleasure to meet you.
Hi, Ben! Great to meet you as well!
Thanks! I’m blushing already. I need to get this one question out of the way – how many languages do you fluently speak? I ask this because on The Sway you sing in English and French, and on a previous project you sang in Spanish. Which one was your first language and when did you learn to speak the others?
English is my first language, and I’m pretty fluent in that (unless you catch me too early in the morning!). I grew up in south Louisiana where Cajun French is spoken fairly commonly, so I feel very familiar with the French language. Though I am not fluent in French, I can get by enough to write songs! And I studied Spanish as my minor in college, so I’m able to get by in conversation as well as write exotic sounding songs, which will one day hopefully land me a Nespresso or luxury car commercial!
That’s really cool, although I don’t watch commercials. Besides commercials, why choose to write songs in these languages?
I think the French and Spanish languages are absolutely beautiful. A couple of my favorite artists are Carla Bruni and Lhasa de Sela. Listening to their songs has influenced me to branch out from my native tongue. Writing in another language is also a challenge in terms of phrasing and rhyming, which keeps me sharp as a songwriter!
I never thought about that. Hmmm. Anyway, I understand this is your debut solo album. Why decide to go out and record individually?
Yes, this is my first record as “Fawn Larson”- it was a long time coming! I’ve been in many great bands of all kinds, but I finally felt the pull to record my music how I wanted to. I’m constantly writing, so having enough songs to record was definitely not an issue! I was honored to have an extremely talented group of musicians perform on The Sway, and I also found an amazing band to accompany my music since I moved to Nashville. We have a lot of fun!
Is there an underlining theme or one thing that inspired you to write The Sway? And what does The Sway signify?
The album was a culmination of different stages of my life, and the songs span several years. To me, it signifies a lot of personal growth.
You played in a few bands previous to releasing The Sway. What kind of music did you play on these bands and do you still play with any of your former band mates?
My old bands ranged from Celtic to to Latin Jazz to Bluegrass/Folk. I even was offered to be part of a heavy metal band! If you were wondering, I did not pursue it. I like my vocal cords intact. I am still part of one side band called The Onlies. That is more folky Americana music, and it gives me a chance to play my fiddle!
I’m sure you would have been awesome decked out in leather and screaming at the top of your lungs. And the fiddle? You’re full of surprises! How old were you when you picked up the fiddle and do you remember what song you first learned to play?
Glad I could provide some shock value! Ha! As for the fiddle, I started playing when I was 15. My first song was a traditional Cajun waltz, which I regretfully cannot remember.
Don’t mean to stereotype about playing the fiddle, but have you played a few barn parties in your time?
I have played allll kinds of parties! And you can take that as you will! And yes, there have been a couple of barn parties in there!
I knew it! Back to your debut album. It’s a mix of roots, Americana, and folk. Was this the music you grew up with while being raised in Lafayette?
I was extremely lucky to grow up in such a unique part of the country, in Lafayette, Louisiana. There are all kinds of bands around Lafayette. I was surrounded by lots of Cajun music, which is partly why I’m fascinated with writing in French. There were also the Creole and Zydeco elements down there, which have a great groove.
Do you remember any particular musicians or bands that appealed to you or influenced you?
Though the music of south Louisiana is not my main influence, there are definitely many great bands down there. A few long-time favorites include Feu Follet, Steve Riley and Beau Soleil.
You’re now in Nashville, and what many people may not know is that Nashville has a very vibrant music scene – not just country music but almost all genres. How has moving to Nashville helped you grow as a musician?
I was surprised to learn just how wide the music scene is here! Though the music community in Nashville is very inclusive and supportive, it also tells it like it is! It’s not uncommon to finish a performance and have three different people come up to you with critiques. Being in Nashville keeps me on my toes – the bar is set pretty high!
Everyone is critic! (Turns away sheepishly.) Do you find yourself being more of a critic not just because of moving to Nashville but as you’ve gained more experience as a songwriter and musician?
I don’t think I’ve lived in Nashville long enough for that to happen yet! I don’t feel like I am the kind of person to be too critical of others’ work, and I hope I am never tempted to become that. Everyone is on their own journey…we are all lesser and greater than someone, so I think it’s important to maintain humility, grace and thankfulness.
The album was a culmination of different stages of my life, and the songs span several years. To me, (“The Sway”) signifies a lot of personal growth.
I hear that you will have two songs featured on the remake of Black Beauty, which stars Luke Perry of Beverley Hills 90210 fame. How did all this materialize and did you get to meet Luke Perry?
I wish I got to meet him! Maybe when they invite me to the red carpet premiere. But yes, two of my original songs will be used in the beloved children’s classic Black Beauty later this year. A friend of mine in Louisiana is involved in the film industry and suggested I send some songs to the producer since he knew they were looking for music. They liked my sound enough to use two songs!
1) What is your favorite food? I think that says a lot about a person!
2) Your hair…how do you do that??
3) Can I be your date to the Black Beauty premiere?
(Laughing) Those are awesome questions! You should take over this interview. Anyway, final question of the interview – if you could have a song on another movie or movie franchise, which one would it be?
Without a doubt- Star Trek! My life would be complete!
So you’re a Trekkie?
Do you dress up at Halloween in a Star Trek uniform and attend Trekkie conventions?
Have you been looking through my social media photos?
Ummm… (silence)…. Ok, really the final questions. Who is the best lead in a Star Trek series or movie – William Shatner, Patrick Stewart, Kate Mulgrew, Avery Brooks, or Chris Pine and why?
This is really tough for me because I love The Original Series and Shatner’s acting (i.e., facial expressions), BUT, Patrick Stewart, to me, is the most equanimous captain and, therefore, the best. Also, shout out to Chris Pine for really capturing the Kirk-Spock bromance which IS a real thing!
O.k. then. What’s your favorite Star Trek movie?
I am going to have no shame and say the 2009 reboot. It was so entertaining.
I agree. That movie was great. Who’s the best villain in the franchise?
A most excellent answer. If you could be a character, who would you be?
I’d like to experience being a Tribble for a few minutes! But I would probably be Deanna Troi – she really has life figured out. Plus, Ship’s Counselor seems like such a glamorous job!
Ok, here are the random questions you chose. First, what’s on your rider?
Nothing special right now. Maybe I should be a little more high-maintenance! I’m thinking a room full of fluffy kittens to play with pre-show.
That wouldn’t be good for your outfit or your guitar. Next question, what’s your go-to beverage – the one you drink regardless of the occasion?
Green tea…with vodka. Rockstar life, baby. Just joking…just the tea!
I might have to try that. What mystical character would you like to be? Some examples are Santa Claus, the Easter Funny, the Tooth Fairy, and He-Man.
Those are mystical characters????
They can be. Just play along.
Well…then maybe Big Foot…I would mess with people so much.
You’re already messing with me, so I don’t think you need to be that. Next, what philosophy or value do you hold most dear?
Realness…with self and others.
Says the woman who wants to be a sasquatch. And finally, finish the sentence, “If I had a million dollars…”
I’d buy my cat a diamond studded collar. And I would never buy cheap wine again!
I don’t feel like I am the kind of person to be too critical of others’ work, and I hope I am never tempted to become that. Everyone is on their own journey…we are all lesser and greater than someone, so I think it’s important to maintain humility, grace and thankfulness.
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