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On The Phone With: Laura Burhenn of The Mynabirds.

Written By: Jared R. West

Edited By: Danielle Kovacs.

In between bits of laughter, silence, art, and poetry talk, I managed to talk to Laura Burhann for 45 minutes. We covered all bases, from childhood to self-made post cards. I must say, she's bright and joyful lady, a hard working musician, and an all around good person. Laura started out in Georgie James, she's released several solo songs, and now, she's expanding her resume with the new project, The Mynabirds. She wrote all of the songs herself, then collaborated with several musicians, including Richard Swift and Nate Walcott. Her music is delightful, very soulful, and classic, yet refined. Make sure to get a good listen, and enjoy the interview!

How did you get into music?

I've been playing music forever. I was brought up in a church environment, I started writing songs young, I learned to play the piano at 5, played the first song I wrote at 7, and I was a serious musician by high school, planning records. I remember being 5 or 6, and thinking about being a singer, I'd plan out stage shows, music videos, my live appearance. Everything in between. My first job was reconditioning pianos. I wanted to learn it inside and out. I felt like being a musician was something I needed to do.

Who are your favorite musicians?

PJ Harvey and Neil Young; they are still my go getters. Sometimes on a quiet day I'll play an album of PJ's or Neil's, and it helps to inspire me. I've been listening to Sharon Jones a lot, lately. She's really great, and she's like a force on stage. There are a lot of people now that influence me. The first cassette I bought was Beach Boys Volume 1; I loved the harmonies, I'd repeatedly play it, getting ready for school, I'd bring my boombox in the bathroom, and play it to sing along to, while I was taking a shower.

What is it like to be signed to such an influencial label in the Indie community?

You see, it's funny to me because I knew several of the other artists on the label. When Georgie James was signed to Saddle Creek, It was exciting and comforting to be surrounded by everyone, they're all really down to earth, and just simply good people. It really feels like a family. Last spring I toured with Azure Ray, it was a lot of fun. Saddle Creek is just full of good people, looking to make great music, and be good friends.

So, what are some of your hobbies, apart from music?

As part of the packaging for the new record, we made an alternative to the normal version. It's going to include a journal, that I have stamped, wrote lyrics in, artwork and more. It makes the CD feel more honest, like you're getting a piece of something that is real. We're also doing a vinyl version of the record. I love hand-making things. Crafting is a hobby of sorts, I like to make things. I like collecting vintage clothes and scarves. I'm one of those hobbiests that go through different phases. I used to paint, I'm not that good, but I like to do it any way. In high school, I was split over art or music, but I chose music. Now, sometimes, I just do art for friends, and for self preservation. When Georgie James toured Europe, it was my first time there. I made a post card for every city , I'd collect flyers from shows, magazines, and etcetera to make collages on note cards, to look like a post card. I have about 8 of them, that I've been saving, and maybe one day I'll do something with them.

LA Rain is based on a poem by Elizabeth Bishop, poetry is a hobby. I like to write. Poetry, to me, is different from song writing.

So, tell me some about What We Lose in the Fire, We Gain in the Flood?

I wrote all of the songs last spring, as a big bunch. I had wanted to record some music with Richard Swift. He's a brilliant singer/songwriter. I got together with him, we had been in touch for a couple years, as I am a fan. I asked him if he'd like to collaborate. After Georgie James broke up, I had these songs, that he would be perfect for. I flew out to Oregon, he has a studio out there, and we made the record together, Oranda Fink (Azure Ray), Tom Hnatow (These United States), Nate Walcott (wrote the horns), AJ Mogis (guest vocals) all collaborated for the record. I didn't want to be pinned as a singer/songwriter, so I gave the project a moniker. I've been playing with these musicians in Omaha, it's nice to switch them around a bit. It keeps the project open ended, and it can be as fluid as it needs to be. All the musicians I've been playing with in town were reccomended to me by Oranda Fink. They played with her on her last record. They're lovely people, and super talented. A lot of fun to work with.

I've come to notice that Saddle Creek is kind of like a big group of family. You guys do everything together. Do you feel more secure, and confident in your music, knowing that your label is never going to be out to get you, like a lot of major labels would be?

It's great. A lot of the bands that have come through Omaha, still stay in touch. It's like a huge family, everything is down to earth. It's great.

I know you guys are coming to Chicago on June 7th, what else are you guys going to be doing, show wise. I hope you're coming back to Chicago, I'll be out of town then.

We're working on a full US and Canadian tour, it's a matter of lining it all up. We're going to play the Northeast in early June. It might be one big tour, or a few small tours. We might head over to Europe in the fall. I miss it. I have a feeling we'll be back to Chicago again. Chicago is the closest bigger city in the Midwest. At times, it's more convenient to play there.

What is your song writing process?

I'm one of those inspired songwriters. I can't sit down and make myself write, I do it in random places, in the shower, mowing the lawn, and ect. Normally I write a melody in my head, then on the piano. After that, I will work the chords, then write the lyrics. I can't write the lyrics and then the music. Sometimes I'll work on a track using a garage band, and leave it sit for a couple months, and then come back to it, and see what needs changing. LA Rain is a good example of that process, as, it used to be a very slow and simple song. Now, it couldn't be any better than it is.

Do you like touring, or does it suck to be away from home?

It can be awesome, but it can suck. I love to tour. I have friends all over, and in Europe. It's nice to meet new people, and to catch up with my old friends. Every tour feels like an adventure, it's exciting. There are days, sometimes, when you think to yourself that it would be nice to be in my own bed. But, I kinda have this motto, it might seem cheesy but, I think to myself that I don't have to have these moments, and tours, but I want them. I try to be thankful for it, because I'm at a place some people wish they could be at.

Favorite authors, writers?

Walt Whitman, good jumping off point. Kurt Vonnegut, his writing is just so smart, concise, and funny. I read this book called "Days Between Stations." It's an incredible book. I actually have a book club. Some of my band mates and friends are in it. We have a lot of fun doing it.

Favorvite Artists?

Max Arnt is my favorite painter, he's so underappreciated. He was part of the surrealists. His artwork is all over the place. I'm also into Guerilla-style'd art. I saw an amazing exhibit in the UK. When we go to a new city, I love to see places like that. Art Museums, local places. Guerilla Art is amazing. Interactive art, you have to physically interact with it, and it changes the space around you. I'm not big into the art world, but I try to keep a breath of air into it. A lot of my friends are into art. Personally, I love architechture. I love to learn about it, and see it. It's beautiful.

What is your favorite city, for sightseeing?

It's tough, each city has a different personality. It's always good to be in New York, a lot of friends there, exciting. LA, beautiful weather, good friends, I feel that it's underrated. There's a whole underbelly. It's beautiful and amazing. Great art, great musicians. Austin TX, great place, great food, It's fun to be there on tour, time to wander, have a nice meal. I also love the Pacific Northwest, because I haven't spent much time there. It's beautiful. Every time I go, I feel jaded, because it's 75 and sunny. Beautiful weather.

Touring is way of taste-testing cities, it sucks, because you repeat it all.

I've only been to Chicago a handful of times. Last summer I drove to Chicago and spent a weekend. It was so fun. I didn't know what the city was like. I only saw a tiny piece of it, though.

Do you like music festivals?

I grew up going to Lollapalooza, as a touring festival. I've played SXSW. The older you get, and, once you play a festival, you realize how hard it actually is to be at one. I'm really hoping next summer we will get a festival, I'd love that.

Do you have a favorite venue?

Black Cat in (Washington) DC, 930 club, wonderful to the artists, good people. I love the Slowdown, Saddle Creek's venue. Comfortable when you come in. People are taking care of you, sounds are amazing. Rockwood Music Hall in New York City. It's Tiny, I played there opening weekend. It's very Intimate.

Do you read any magazines, or music publications?

I check music websites, like Pitchfork. I don't read the reviews, but, mostly just the buzz of the bands. I love finding new music, but I don't read the reviews. I like listening to the music myself, and making my own judgement.

As far as magazines go, I get the New Yorker. Don't get me wrong, I love music, I feel like I should make it, I appreciate it, But I can't let it be my life. Music reviews are no subject matter. I totally love the New Yorker. It's so dense to read. Sometimes, they pile up, and I wish I were traveling, so that I'd have the free time to read them all.

Do you have a job, or just music?

Music is my full time job, it's a matter of circumstance. I had a job, but I got laid off. So, I was like, well, I'm just going to throw myself into music. I'm hoping the fact that I got layed off, and couldn't find another job was a sign, that I need to do this.

Please make sure to visit www.TheMynabirds.com or www.MySpace.com/themynabirds for free downloads, streaming music, bios, and to pre order “What We Lose In The Fire, We Gain In The Flood.”


  1. Great interview!

  2. wow planning such things at a young age, impressive

  3. I love your interviews. They always go more in depth than just music.

  4. Numbers dont lie is a great track I cant wait for the rest of the album!


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