photo by Annie Mole via Flickr
Laura Kidd is a multi-instrumentalist who performs under the moniker She Makes War. She sings and plays guitar, bass, ukulele, piano, melodica, violin, harp, and recorder. In addition to being an impressive performer, she’s a DIY producer extraordinaire, recording and promoting her own work. Her latest album, Little Battles, is available here.
I talked with her in the early Spring. And here for your reading pleasure is my article with the wonderful She Makes War!
When did you begin playing and why?
I started playing guitar aged 12 because my brother had been given a lovely acoustic by my Uncle and wasn’t using it. I picked it up and started messing about with it, then had a few lessons at school to get the basic root chords and strumming. I just used to play songs from sheet music, like “I’m Not In Love” by 10CC and “Wooden Heart” by Elvis Presley, then had an epiphany a few years later when a boyfriend told me about bar chords and I realised with them I could figure out how to play my favourite songs.
What was your first guitar, and how did you get it?
My first guitar was a very cheap black electric my parents bought for me from a little guitar shop in Bury St Edmunds called Sounds Plus. I don’t remember much more about it, I didn’t play it very much because around the same time I started playing bass in a band and that took up most of my musical time. I actually part exchanged that guitar for some pedals a couple of years later then found a gorgeous green Telecaster in Loot (a listings paper in London) which sadly got taken in a house burglary. I was heartbroken. I called that guitar Basil because it was green and because the day I bought it I attended John Cleese’s birthday breakfast.
What equipment do you prefer now? Which guitar? What amps or pedals? Why? Has this changed over time?
The guitar I gig with is a Telecaster Thinline 69 with a pedalboard consisting of Boss chorus, delay and compression/sustainer, a Sansamp GT2, Fulltone OCD and Cool Cat Tremolo. I usually play DI-ed because of logistics – I have so much to carry and usually use public transport – hence the GT2, which really improves the sound, but I have a Roland Cube I sometimes take as well. Acoustically I play a Faith Venus and I use a Luna Dolphin ukulele as well, through my Boss RC20XL loop pedal. On the new album I played all the electric stuff on my Peerless Renaissance hollow body because the Tele was super noisy. The Peerless sounded gorgeous!
I’m always interested in improving my general sound but currently have to weigh that up against cost and logistics. I would love to play through a Fender Twin every night but that’s not possible at the moment.
I know you are a multi-instrumentalist. Can you talk a little about that?
I played classical and woodwind instruments at school – violin then saxophone – but took up the guitar and bass outside of formal musical education and played in bands, mainly on bass. I love trying out new things and on the latest recordings brought in the tenor sax alongside autoharp, melodica and recorders to play with some different textures.
What is your songwriting process like?
It varies. Sometimes I will start with a vocal melody and find the chords that go with it, and other times songs start off with a riff. I’ve experimented very successfully with the Immersion Composition Society’s “20 Song Game” and written songs for both albums that way (‘NIMN’ and ‘Chicken’ off “Disarm” and ‘In This Boat’ and ‘Segue’ off “Little Battles”) and will definitely do that again in the future as I truly believe in the Picasso quote that “inspiration finds you working”. Songs rarely drop out of the sky, and when they do you have to be there to catch them!
You’re also a filmmaker. Do you consider that a part of your musicianship. or something you do on the side?
I think everything I do feeds in to the She Makes War project, it’s an outlet for all the visual, art and craft experiments I want to do. I just finished making some homemade tour photo books to send to some of my Pledgers (the new album was funded by my fans via Pledge Music last year) and that’s a good example – I’ve been wanting to try making concertina books for a while and this was a great excuse. I also feel that mixing media, whether that’s digital instruments with analogue in a musical recording or digital information with hand crafted souvenirs in the case of my Valentine’s card release of “In This Boat” last month, is important because I want the songs to resonate emotionally in various ways.
What are you working on right now?
At the moment I am focusing on getting my new album “Little Battles” in to the world – it’s out on April 9th and I am organising a big launch gig on 11th (at Herne Hill Half Moon, South London) which will involve about 8 other musicians coming on stage with me, so it’s a lot to pull together!
After that I’m off on a month long tour of the UK, and am working on setting up other musical excursions for later in the year.
I’ve already got a name for my next collection of songs and have started noodling around, I like to keep creative but there’s a lot of other fun stuff to keep me busy for the next few months.
Which artist or artists do you find inspiring? (It doesn’t have to be a musician.) Why?
I find Kristin Hersh endlessly inspiring, she’s a true pioneer both in her musical output and her involvement in CASH Music and flying the flag for the rights of musicians everywhere.