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by Donn Swaby of Melt Magazine
Lauren Monroe is a spiritual healer, teacher, and singer/songwriter who has just released her first CD, Lauren Monroe, The Freedom Sessions. Produced by her husband, Rick Allen, drummer for the legendary rock band, Def Leppard, the CD includes a collection of acoustic songs that artfully blend the genres of rock, blues, country, and pop. In addition to performing the songs with a band in the Los Angeles area while trying out new material for an upcoming second CD, the musical couple also host communal and musical events via their outreach organization, Raven Drum Foundation, where they help create a space for emotional and psychological healing through the transcendent power of music. Lauren and Rick took time out of their busy schedules to talk to Melt:
Melt: How does your work as healer find its way in your music?
Lauren Monroe: Music is a very spiritual experience. It's about coming from a place of inspiration and connecting with the invisible, with the unseen, and then manifesting it in a way that it becomes palpable for people. Hopefully then the music will inspire people and give them hope.
Melt: In what ways do you keep those channels of inspiration open?
LM: I don't even bring writer's block into my world. I've found that if you push, it doesn't flow. I'm lucky in that when I sit with a co-writer, I am able to create the space needed to let go and become a channel for true inspiration.
Melt: How did the songs for this CD evolve? What was the inspiration for their birth?
LM: Going to New Orleans was an inspiration in writing Wildest Dreams, the last track on the record.
Rick Allen: We were seeing all these people with incredible need, not just for basic material comfort, but also for spiritual sustenance.
LM: We held an empowerment workshop with locals who stayed behind to give care and also led a community drum circle event for kids and adults to help bring hope and spirit back into the community. The drums opened everyone up.. it was very moving.
I heard about a local Veteran who just got back from Iraq after Katrina and was helping others. My heart was filled with all that I had heard and experienced. My thoughts went to all of the families broken in Katrina and those who were separated from one another by the war. The images were threaded through the song with a prayer of hope attached. I realized after writing the song it really was a song about everyone, all of us and returning to a place of unity. That's why I ended the CD with it...with Hope.
Melt: Rick, how does the experience of producing Freedom Sessions compare to that of a Def Leppard record?
RA: Well this was the first time I produced something on my own. I really wanted to get it right. In the band, I have four other guys to bounce ideas off of including our producer Mutt Lange. However, I think a lot of Mutt's producing knowledge has rubbed off on me. For me, a lot of it was just getting out of the way and letting the songs tell us what they should sound like.
Also, with Def Leppard, we were inspired by the grand production values of (David) Bowie and Queen. We liked the idea of using as many different colors as we could. When we first started putting together songs for Pyromania, Mutt said, ‘We wanna to make a rock version of (Michael Jackson's) Thriller." So we made everything sound larger than life and became known for doing that. The only problem with that was the time just tracking the vocals was outrageous! And this was back in the day when you didn't have Pro Tools. Everything was analog. I remember once being able to see clearly through a tape because we'd gone over that part so many times!
With Lauren's music, I said to myself," I really wanna keep this pure and organic." In most cases, the sound of a record is predetermined by the writing process. I wanted it to be uncluttered, with the focus on vocals and guitar. There was really nothing else to compare this to, so there were no preconceptions, no constraints of any kind.
Melt: What was your dynamic like working on the CD together?
RA: We had a lot of fun.
LM: We really like and respect each other.
RA: With Lauren, there is no committee. We just do it.
LM: We're about doing. We're hands on.
Melt: Was there was ever a point when you disagreed on something?
RA: Sometimes I had a tendency to become too attached; We'd be working on a song and I'd be obsessing over a particular aspect of it because I needed to get right. But otherwise. if there's something we don't agree on, we wait. We pause and then come back to it.
LM: In the recording process, what I've learned from Rick is the art of listening. He's a great listener and he can catch things many others wouldn't. For example Rick can hear the squeak of John Bonham's drums on a Led Zepplin song. He listens to the music on every conceivable device on tour before doing the final mastering.
RA: At an outdoor festival where there was no roof, and thus, no acoustics, I got a chance to hear the music on huge arena speakers. That is such an amazing and physical experience.
Melt: How did the Raven Drum Foundation come to be?
LM: After touring Mexico and England in 2002, Rick invited five boys who had been the victims of the war in Afghanistan. One boy lost an arm due to a land mine. They all sat, talked, and played on Rick's kit. On the bus afterwards, we thought, "We really have to do this again." It really is a healing process.
So, we began hosting Raven Drum Foundation events and first worked with special needs children. We also work with women who are the victims of violence, children in juvenile detention facilities, cancer patients, and war veterans. We teach everyone to play with intention, which promotes healing and empowerment.
RA: We welcome all age groups. We'll have ages ranging from three year old kids to grandparents. It's very appealing to everyone.
The Freedom Sessions can be purchased at CD Baby, itunes, and Amazon
Lauren's website: www.laurenmonroe.com
Raven Drum Foundation: www.ravendrumfoundation.org
Def Leppard: www.defleppard.com