Experience typically precedes songwriting, but for Lauren Calve, the songs on her new album, Shift, signal changes she had yet to go through.
“It was as much a shift in sound as it was a personal shift,” says Calve. “Everything started to sound more like me, like my authentic voice was coming forward.”
The new record’s title track, “Shift,” illustrates inevitable life changes in tectonic, cataclysmic terms, but during the writing process, Calve was only beginning to realize the changes she wanted to make. “I was still very much shifting while writing these songs,” she recalls. “I hadn’t made that leap yet to make tangible changes in my life.”
Following a lengthy recording process, Calve saw the end of a long relationship, kicked old habits, and took the time to reflect on her songs as an internal — even subliminal — pep talk to finally take action. “It was only afterwards when the record was finished and I was listening to the songs, it was like hearing yourself in the future telling you what life could be like,” she says. “It compelled me to finally make the changes that I’d been wanting to make for years.”
Written during quarantine, Shift also exhibits a change in Calve’s musical style. The upbeat Americana of previous efforts like 2020’s Wildfire gives way to roomier, reflective reverberations, and confident struts slow to meditative strolls.
“As I was writing these songs, I noticed that I was singing and playing differently than the songs in my last EPs,” says Calve. “I was deviating from the explicit roots music like blues rock and alt country, moving into a more subtle territory.”
Calve recorded Shift in Nashville in three sessions, calling on the expertise of producer Dex Green of 3Sirens Music Group to help her bring her songs to life. In the first session, she recorded two songs that would have fit perfectly with the old roots style of the Wildfire EP, but these tracks didn’t make it on the album. However, they still served a purpose in the changes Calve was going through.
“They were the bridge over to Shift,” she says. “It was a way to play with the old sound but with a new production style. Dex Green’s production style naturally worked really well with what I was going for.”
The 10-track album was a long time coming, as the pandemic’s safety concerns prompted Calve to spread out the recording process over 14 months. Calve chose to make the most of these gaps, which allowed her to steep in the ideas and feelings behind each song.
“In between each session, I was able to dig deep and think about the words and imagery,” she says. “It gave me the space to explore that shift in sound and to explore the shift that was coming in my own life. The extended time was necessary for all of that to play out.”
On record, the songs benefit from faintly fuzzy guitars and subtle twang, as well as percussion that serves every scene from sparse and contemplative moments to cathartic crescendos. “Dex put together an all-star band,” says Calve.
These new songs were born and honed at home and in the studio without ever being aired out for a live audience. Now that the record’s complete and Calve is back on tour, she finally has the opportunity to take these songs on the road with her.
Calve has been touring for Shift since September, and now that she’s played these songs live, it’s clear that they’re still evolving. Each track was recorded with a full complement of musicians, but Calve has had to adapt the songs for a solo set as she tours without a band at her back.
“It’s similar to the writing process because you can get really involved in the nuances,” she says, “and things have occurred to me playing solo that I don’t think I would have noticed with a full band. I already feel myself singing and playing things differently again.”
As the tour has brought Calve to stages across the country, she’s found new confidence in herself and the songs themselves. “It’s helped to play these songs solo,” she says. “That’s the true test of the quality of a song, especially in my world of singer/songwriters where all the merits are in the lyrics and arrangement. I feel like they’re coming across well.”
In addition to the songs from Shift, you can expect to hear a few of Calve’s earlier works at The Nick. “It adds to the story,” she says. As she moves between old and new, listen out for changes in attitude, perspective, and even musical influences.
While she’s in the middle of a tour to support her latest album, Calve’s experience with Shift has built momentum that she hopes to carry over into her next songwriting endeavor. “It was a shift in sound toward something that was more authentic and genuine for me,” she says. “I feel like I cracked a door open, and now I want to open it wider and explore further.”
As she contemplates ideas for her next effort, Calve also anticipates a return to Dex Green’s studio for future collaboration. “I love what we did together and what he did in his role as producer, and how he shepherded me through this shift and honored it,” she says. “I think there’s another record to be made with him.”
Lauren Calve will play at The Nick on Friday, October 27 at 10 p.m. She’ll be joined by Cat Ridgeway. Tickets are $10 in advance, or $15 on the day of the show. The Nick is located at 2514 10th Avenue S, Birmingham, Alabama 35205. Shift is available now.
Images courtesy of 37-Media. Photo by Sarah Danelli. Album art by Lauren Calve.