Finding a Balance
Laila Woozeer is only 23 but is already extremely active in a variety of musical projects. Not only is Laila the director of WOLF PACK, a collective that puts on multidisciplinary concerts, but she is also a solo singer/songwriter, is involved in Rhum & Clay Theatre Company, and performs in her band, Kids with Crayons. I had the opportunity to interview Laila about her current projects and the difficulties of juggling music in the hectic world of today.
When did you become interested in music? How did that interest develop?
I attended a sort of music group for children from the ages of 5-7 and from there took music lessons and joined music groups at school. I didn’t consider studying anything other than music at university; I always knew music was what I would do. Music is something I have always had in my life, whether practicing, studying or performing. I’m very private with my thoughts and music (especially writing) allows me a space to contemplate and work through my thoughts.
What was it like the first time you performed live?
I’ve always loved being on stage, so I was probably excited! The first time I performed one of my own songs live it was very weird – my songs are so personal and private that for years and years I wouldn’t even sing them to friends. I was expecting to feel terrified, but I actually didn’t feel that vulnerable or scared at all when I was performing because people just listened and took it on board. It was really gratifying.
What is your inspiration?
So many things! Everything! I try to keep my mind open to everything around me because inspiration can strike at any time. WOLF PACK concerts are all based on a one-word theme, and I try to choose things that I find intriguing or inspiring. The concerts themselves are kind of a mash-up of theatre, music, and films that have inspired me and the other members of WOLF PACK.
Is there a message you try to convey through your music to listeners?
I used to try hard to articulate situations so other people could identify the emotions in my songs but now I think it’s difficult to try and convey something. You can have the best intentions in the world, but people are always going to hear things differently or interpret lyrics in their own way. All I hope for really is that they hear something they like and come back to listen to it again.
What does a typical day on the job entail?
I wish there was a typical day! My daily plan is to do admin and computer work from 9am until 2pm whilst also eating breakfast, getting dressed. From 2pm I either practice or go out to a museum or exhibition. I have another meal around five-ish and evenings are usually rehearsals or performing. However, very few of my days follow that plan! There’s lots of travel between Surrey, where I teach, and London. When I am home in London, there are often extra rehearsals, daytime meetings, music lessons to squeeze into the day.
What is the greatest challenge of being a musician? What do you most enjoy?
Music typically doesn’t pay a lot, and I think the greatest challenge when you start out is trying to juggle music with actually earning enough money to live. Trying to juggle practicing and creating music with the amount of admin that comes with not having a manager or PR to do it for you is also difficult. I most enjoy performing live and connecting with people via the music I’ve written.
What is your favourite work you have done so far?
Creating and running WOLF PACK. Starting WOLF PACK was so kind of fleeting and bizarre, the idea just sort of popped into my head and I happened to act on it – there was no formal plan or manifesto. It’s amazing to me that it has all this forward momentum and has come so far! Any ideas I have I just throw at the project, it’s such a crazy platform that we have created.
What is your greatest achievement?
Being asked to present research and give a talk at the M()there Russia symposium in 2012 – there were so many notable academics there. I was told later I was the youngest speaker at Senate House ever. I was invited by one of my lecturers at Goldsmiths, Professor Alexander Ivashkin, and he’s somebody who I really respect and look up to. He has had an amazing career and it was a huge honour to be invited. I tend to be very overly critical of myself, but I was really happy with the work I presented.
What future projects are you currently working on?
WOLF PACK has a 5 day residency as part of VAULT festival in February 2014 which I’m sorting at the moment. I’m really excited about it- it’s by far the biggest gig we’ve had so far. Next year I’m going to be focusing more on my own songs and doing a few solo gigs to see how people react. That’s really what I want to focus on in the future, so it’s an exciting time!
Are there any musicians you would like to collaborate with?
So many musicians! It’s been a dream of mine since I was about 15 to play bassoon with Arcade Fire. I can’t imagine writing songs with so many other people. I’d love to work with somebody like Kanye West or Will.I.Am just because I think the way they work and write songs is probably so completely opposite to the way I work. It would be a massive learning curve.
Where do you aspire to be in five years time?
Playing in bigger venues to more people, hopefully able to continue to do the same varied mix of work I do now.
What difficulties do you and/or young musicians in general today face? What is your advice for young musicians?
Public engagement, I think. There are so many bands and musicians out there to compete with and try to stand out from. Just getting friends to come out for a gig is impossible, let alone trying to generate an audience who support your work and are interested. It takes a lot of time and it’s hard sometimes to feel like things are going anywhere. Money is also a big problem; getting professional recordings and such is very costly. My advice is just to be patient and focused. You have to be militant about having enough time to practice and focus creatively and not spend all your time working for free or doing unrelated work purely for money.