Making a Scene Presents an Interview with Laura Repo
Toronto songwriter, singer and guitarist Laura Repo’s folk-pop fourth album, This Is My Room, stakes a claim to space devoted to creativity. Following a long wait after 2011’s critically acclaimed Get Yourself Home – which was produced by the Foggy Hogtown Boys’ Andrew Collins and nominated for a Juno for best cover art – This Is My Room sees Repo exploring new musical avenues with producer Tino Zolfo (Hawksley Workman), who she met at their local coffee shop, The Common, and recorded demos with back in 2009. Little did either of them know that those demos would lead to a full-length album almost 10 years later.
The release of Get Yourself Home coincided with some hard times for Repo: her father died suddenly in 2012, followed four years later by her son Sami’s father, Paul, who passed away from cancer. “During that time I got to know something about grief and how it can take your voice away,” Repo says. “The sensation of not wanting to open my mouth to make a sound and the strangeness of not being moved by music was new for me.”
Gradually, joy came back to her. “I discovered something new about music in the quiet time,” Repo says. “That singing is about finding a thread attached to hope, something like singing for the spirit of music itself, filling that well, wherever it exists.” The album title, This Is My Room, is a nod to that journey, and to Virginia Woolf’s A Room Of One’s Own, as well as Write On Mama, Repo’s writing group for mothers.
In the summer of 2017, Repo and Zolfo began recording This Is My Room in Toronto, along with drummer Lyle Molzan, who Zolfo encouraged to follow Repo’s “broken wheel” guitar playing, which became the basis for the groove. Zolfo filled in the bass, and encouraged Repo to play bass on a few tracks for the first time (she plays on “Johnny Finn” and “Wednesday”). Repo says the vocals, which are lower, more cool and conversational, weren’t about perfection. They were about feel and serving the song. “Many of my vocals were recorded in one take, as if the songs had a mind of their own,” Repo says.
The result is Repo’s most upbeat, poppy, eclectic album to date, with big funky horns, arranged by Zolfo, and played by Rebecca Hennessy (trumpet and flugelhorn) and Tom Richards (trombone) on songs like gorgeously breezy instant classic “Just A Friend” and rhythmic, sparsely bombastic “Power Of The Night.” Elsewhere, the new album is bassy and psychedelic, as on opener “Country Girl,” which is an homage to Everdale Place, where Repo went to school from the age of four to seven (her father taught there and was one of the school’s founders); visits a zydeco party for “Too Soon To Miss You” with Tania Gill on accordion, reimagines girl group songs on “Johnny Finn,” in which Repo urges an ex to “let your love in,” visits Montreal on down-tempo “Wednesday,” and arranges feelings while sorting out the house on “Perspective,” a brilliant song.
Repo and Zolfo left two songs from the 2009 demo sessions intact on the new album: title track “This Is My Room,” a bluesy slow jam that dissolves into lo-fi gospel and the original folkier “Too Soon To Miss You,” as a bonus track.
Repo has toured Canada and Finland (her mom’s homeland), played the Winnipeg Folk Festival, Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival, Finland’s Kaustinen Folk Music Festival and Harbourfront’s Concert Stage. She has opened for Beth Orton, Kelly Willis, Oh Susanna, John Borra and Jerry Leger and collaborated with John Switzer (Jane Siberry) and The Woodshed Orchestra. In 2014 Repo assembled A Band Of Mothers – Marnie Niemi Hood (Roses In The Snow), Kristin Cavoukian (Houndstooth), D’Arcy Good (The Good Family) and Repo – for a special Mother’s Day show at Hugh’s Room.