This year Laura Veirs put out what most have considered her most complete album with July Flame and followed it up with several successful tours, making her name even more recognizable in the indie-folk rock world. But that's not why people want to talk to the Portland singer-songwriter. Veirs, you see, had a baby about six-months ago and that has managed to overshadow any musical accomplishments she may have racked up this year.
Some would say that releasing an album, which several other musicians, including the Decembrist's Colin Meloy, called one of the best of 2010, in the middle of a pregnancy isn't ideal, but Veirs didn't see it that way. Rather, she toured across the country and the world all the way up to the beginning of her eighth month of pregnancy. Then, when her son, which she and producer/partner Tucker Martine, named Tennessee, was born in April, she hit the road again, taking the little guy to more than 20 states and nine countries, all in the first few months of his life.
When Veirs called in from Portland while prepping for a short West Coast tour that stops in Bend at the Tower Theatre, along with the Portland-based Weinland, on Wednesday, October 27, she's enjoying some down time... sort of.
"When you have a five-and-half-month-old baby, there's really no such thing as down time," says Veirs with a laugh.
Veirs is also writing music for her next album in between tours, which have become a taller task now that she travels with Tennessee in tow. And she's not the sort of mega rock star who travels with a nanny, a tour bus and other amenities that might make things less challenging
"We have a van and where do you put the baby when the green room has flies everywhere? We've played places that are not glamorous. But for now, it's going great, but it has been challenging," says Veirs, before knocking on wood.
Touring while pregnant or taking a baby along for the trip has given Veirs some entertaining war stories from the road. She tells of needing a nap before a show when she was a ways into her pregnancy and resorted to laying down on a table - the only clean surface she could find. Veirs, while acknowledging that there are plenty of other touring mothers in the music business, says she hopes she's an inspiration to other female musicians.
"I think it's nice for other women musicians to see me doing this so they can feel like they can do this," says Veirs, "I think a lot of people think that once they have a baby that that's it for them."
Again, in the middle of this baby-carrying and baby-having, Veirs is also experiencing another change in that she's received more attention than ever thanks to July Flame, her seventh record since a 1999 self-titled debut. Flame features some of Veirs' most richly layered songs, all of which gain extra altitude thanks to Martine's production. For the uninitiated, Veirs sound has all the lyrical whimsy of Neko Case, but is filled with more rock attitude than country flair. And on July Flame, a handful of the songs are further buoyed by backing vocals from My Morning Jacket's Jim James and other guest musicians.
Veirs, however, isn't a lifelong music junkie. Rather, she leaves the job of discovering new music to Martine. In fact, she didn't even start playing music seriously until she'd graduated from college in the Midwest and moved to Seattle. About four years ago, Veirs and Martine relocated to Portland where he built a home studio and produced albums for bands like The Decemberists' who quickly became a beloved member of the Portland music community. In turn, she has enjoyed living around so much musical talent.
"It's wonderful to get the approval of your peers, especially in Portland where, in particular, there's a really vibrant community," says Veirs.
But while she's on tour this week, there will certainly be people asking about her baby - perhaps more people than congratulate her on the album. But Veirs is totally fine with that.
"Music has been the central focus of my life, but I love him - he's a great kid and I love talking about him."
Laura Veirs, Weinland
8pm Wednesday, October 27. Tower Theatre, 835 NW Wall St. $15. All ages (minors seated in balcony).