Lady Lamb The Beekeeper Emerges From Behind The Counter

Feb 28, 2013
Originally published on April 16, 2013 1:31 pm

When Aly Spaltro began writing music, she was literally the girl next door. After recording 12 solo songs with her 8-track, she left a stack of free CDs on the counter of the local record store next to the DVD rental shop where she worked in Brunswick, Maine. Nervous about the public's reaction to her music, she chose to remain anonymous and only put her email address on the label.

"These songs were written when I was 18, 19," Spaltro tells NPR's Audie Cornish. "But they really are from a place of being young and heartbroken, or in love or nostalgic for an unrequited love. And so, in that, they're very pulpy. They're very much about being young and being full of feelings and just very emotional."

Five years later, at 23, Spaltro has grown into an artist known for her powerful live performances. She's taken on a band moniker, Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, and recorded a full-length studio debut titled Ripely Pine. Recorded in a professional studio, the album features full-band arrangements of some of her solo work.

"[The song 'Aubergine' is] a little over the top, which is actually why this particular arrangement is a little poppier and maybe more accessible than the song is on my own," Spaltro says. "I really wanted to take some of the whining out of what I did with the song solo, and open it up to be maybe a little danceable, even. I wanted to make something that people could really enjoy listening to and not feel like it was too brooding or too depressing."

Spaltro continues to experiment with the juxtaposition between lyrical content and musical accompaniment as she embarks on a tour in support of Ripely Pine.

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Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Lots of singers air their dirty laundry in song. Aly Spaltro may be the only singer who has recorded songs while actually doing her laundry.

ALY SPALTRO: So it's about 2:00 in the morning, and I'm sitting in the corner of my very dark and very freezing basement, in my coat and scarf, might I add, waiting for my clothes to dry.

CORNISH: As a teenager, Spaltro gained a following in Portland, Maine, with her simply sung tunes. That those songs were home recordings only added to their charm.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "REGARDING ASCENDING THE STAIRS")

CORNISH: As the washer-dryer whirls in the background, Spaltro pulls out her banjo and starts to sing.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "REGARDING ASCENDING THE STAIRS")

SPALTRO: (Singing) I cannot think of that song with this music on, and I never want to go back to Arkansas.

CORNISH: From the laundry room to the recording studio, Aly Spaltro is now out with her debut album. She records under the name Lady Lamb the Beekeeper. It's a name that came to her in a dream at a time when she would wake up in the middle of the night to write down her dreams.

SPALTRO: And that was written in my notebook when I woke up one day and saw it all scribbled in my cursive in a big lump. It was exactly at the time that I wanted a moniker for the 12 songs that I had recorded so that I can share them at the local record store without giving away who I was. And that's why I put that on the album, and it just stuck, and it's been a good five and a half years now.

CORNISH: So these home recordings you actually kind of packaged them yourself and kind of brought them to the record store from the trunk of your car?

SPALTRO: Yes. Because I worked right next door to the record store. I worked for four years at an independent DVD rental store. And my town was small enough that everyone knew me by name, and I was so nervous about this new endeavor of making music. I wasn't sure how it would be received at all. So I wanted a way to share it while remaining mysterious. So I put 12 copies at the counter for free at the record store.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "REGARDING ASCENDING THE STAIRS")

CORNISH: When Aly Spaltro joined me in the studio, we talked about one song off of her album, one that shows off the big sound she's achieved away from the washer-dryer. It's called "Aubergine."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AUBERGINE")

SPALTRO: (Singing) Aubergine sheets on my bed now, oh, no, and your blue eyes lie just like an atlas in those sockets. Yeah, your blue eyes cry.

CORNISH: Is the song about someone in particular?

SPALTRO: It is, yeah.

CORNISH: How much can I get out of you?

(LAUGHTER)

SPALTRO: Probably not too much.

CORNISH: It does feel a little bit like a breakup song.

SPALTRO: Yeah.

CORNISH: And I don't know if you could talk a little bit just maybe about that part of your life when you were writing it.

SPALTRO: Oh, sure. I mean, these songs were - I'm 23 now. These songs were written when I was 18, 19, most of them. But they really are from a place of being young and heartbroken or in love or nostalgic for an unrequited love. And so in that, they're very pulpy. You know, they're very much about being young and being full of feelings and just very emotional.

CORNISH: This line in particular.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AUBERGINE")

SPALTRO: (Singing) I was unborn when I was younger. I was unborn when I was younger, but I was rebuilt when you spoke. I awoke when you spoke. You said...

So dramatic.

(LAUGHTER)

SPALTRO: So young and dramatic.

(LAUGHTER)

CORNISH: That's true at 18 or 19 to talk about being unborn.

SPALTRO: Yeah. Very - a little over the top, which is actually why this particular arrangement is a little poppier and maybe more accessible than the song is on my own. I really wanted to take some of the whining out of what I did with the song solo and open it up to be maybe a little danceable, even. You know, a little...

CORNISH: Did you say whining?

SPALTRO: A little whining, yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

SPALTRO: You know, I wanted to sort of weaken the whininess a little bit that comes out in the solo performance and make it more - just make it more fun, really.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AUBERGINE")

SPALTRO: (Singing) You said there's always a reason for leaving. There's always a reason to stay. I know exactly why I'm leaving.

You know, I wanted to make something that people could really enjoy listening to and not feel like it was too brooding or too depressing, you know?

CORNISH: Do you feel like you're getting that rap a little as you're starting off in your career?

SPALTRO: I - honestly, I didn't feel like I was getting the rap. I think that was just sort of a pressure I put on myself sort of like, oh, you know, I'm so brooding all the time.

CORNISH: Like I'm a woman with the guitar in a coffee shop and...

SPALTRO: Yeah, yeah. And, you know, I enjoy music that I can dance to that might have maybe introspective or dramatic lyrics but don't take it too far that you're just depressed about it, you know?

CORNISH: It's the most joyful song about heartbreak that I've heard in a while.

(LAUGHTER)

SPALTRO: Right. Yeah. And, yeah, it reminds me a little of this - of Cher, "Believe," you know?

(Singing) Do you believe in life after love?

That song is so, so sad. But the beat, you know, it makes it sound so happy. And I actually covered that song and slowed it down. I kind of made it as sad as the lyrics are, and that made me really realize that I can do something like this to "Aubergine" where I could take something that was sad and make it a bit happier musically.

CORNISH: Well, Aly Spaltro, it was a really fun song, and thank you for walking through it with us, getting us kind of the story behind it.

SPALTRO: My pleasure. Thank you so much.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AUBERGINE")

SPALTRO: (Singing) And you risked your wrist to save my life, and I...

CORNISH: The song is called "Aubergine." It's from Aly Spaltro's debut album, "Ripely Pine." She records under the name Lady Lamb the Beekeeper.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AUBERGINE")

SPALTRO: (Singing) But it ain't right. And absence...

CORNISH: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.