The Mynabirds

American singer-songwriter Laura Burhenn is a shape-shifter who can’t sit still. Since 2010 she’s worked under the moniker The Mynabirds, releasing three critically acclaimed and stylistically different albums on Saddle Creek: What We Lose in the Fire We Gain in the Flood (2010) and GENERALS (2012), both produced by Richard Swift, and Lovers Know (2015). She has also toured as a member of the Postal Service (2013) and Bright Eyes (2011), helped found Omaha Girls Rock (a non-profit helping young girls find their voices), and in 2013 gave a TED talk based on her “New Revolutionists” portrait project, exploring what it means to be a revolutionary woman in this day and age. Before the Mynabirds, Laura was a member of DC indie band Georgie James with Q And Not U’s John Davis, and also put out two self-produced solo albums on the label she founded herself, Laboratory Records.
The Mynabirds' new album, BE HERE NOW, is a collection of 9 songs written and recorded in just 2 weeks in January 2017 following the Inauguration and the Women’s March. Singer Laura Burhenn worked with producer Patrick Damphier in his Nashville studio (which he was being evicted from to make way for luxury condos) to document the news and peoples’ intense emotional responses to it all in real time. No stranger to politics in her songwriting, Laura aimed to speak from the voice of the collective consciousness in a work of “Emotional Journalism,” singing the heartbreak, anger, exhaustion and resolute hope she witnessed during the Muslim travel ban, the final stand at Standing Rock, and every other news story that rattled America in that period. The album vacillates in style and feel to reflect a frayed nation, featuring a Burundian refugee choir on one song, and a cacophony of dissonant saxophones in a new national anthem on another. It is the last recording made in that space.

BE HERE NOW is being released very quickly as 3 digital EPs over 3 months to emphasize the immediacy of the songs. It will culminate in an official full album release on Saddle Creek in the summer of 2017.

Doe Paoro

“The best of what humans and machines can bring out in each other” is how NPR Music described Doe Paoro’s single “The Wind,” a meditation on urban isolation in the face of Hurricane Sandy. The song, which was produced by Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon with beats by Chicago duo Supreme Cuts, sets the tone for the upcoming release of Paoro’s Anti- debut album, After, out on September 25.

The album’s first single is the intoxicatingly downtempo, R&B-influenced “Growth/Decay,” which Paoro co-wrote with Sterling Fox (who has previously worked with Lana Del Rey, among others). The groove-laced, gospel-inspired track ruminates on the notion that change fuels all life, with the chorus putting out the call to “cycle to the light or fade away.”

For After, Paoro worked with producers Sean Carey (drummer / supporting vocalist for Bon Iver) and BJ Burton (The Tallest Man on Earth, Sylvan Esso, and others) to even further deepen her musical repertoire, creating a mesmerizing hybrid of R&B, synthpop, and indie-leaning electro rooted in an earthy minimalism, drawing from influences ranging from Carole King to Portishead, Aretha Franklin and beyond. The album was recorded at April Base, a Wisconsin ranch house that Vernon had converted into a studio. “I’m used to just working with a piano,” says Paoro, “but with this album, we built an entire world with the sonics alone.”

Hayley Coupon

Having already drawn national attention for her introspective songcraft and distinctive vocal power, Hayley Coupon is poised to reveal the true scope of her talent with her highly anticipated debut album, WIRE AND ROPE. Set against a spare yet surprisingly lush backdrop provided by GRAMMY® Award-winning producer Craig Street (Norah Jones, Cassandra Wilson) and a cast of studio all-stars, songs like the finely etched “All You Gave” and the first single “Curse Me” bend diverse musical genres into new forms to suit the astonishing gravitational force of Coupon’s widescreen vocals and equally potent lyrical voice.
Coupon grew up in New York City and was immersed in its “cultural pulse” right from the very start, attending opera, theatre, and concerts of all kinds with her mother from the age of three. The music inspired her to sing, loud and often, a talent nurtured during middle school to the point where Coupon knew it would be her life’s work. She learned a few basic piano chords from her mom and started writing songs ... or at least she tried. Convinced that she wasn’t able to find strong enough melodies to match her growing lyrical acumen, Coupon commissioned backing tracks from her more musically inclined friends that provided a template and backdrop for her own input.
“I found it really tricky to write lyrics to pieces of music that I didn’t feel emotionally connected to,” she says. “So I scrapped that idea and just started writing. I needed to give myself some kind of outline to find the chords that emotionally resonated with the words I was writing.”
Despite of – or perhaps due to – her self-admittedly “elementary” skills as a pianist, Coupon wrote half a dozen songs in just a few weeks, stark and powerful pieces that perfectly conjure the emotional maelstrom of the rough breakup that inspired them.
“The piano for me has always been a hindrance,” she says. “In a way, my limitations have created their own sound.”
Coupon released her debut EP, REMEMBRANCE, in 2013, followed two years later by a second EP, DO THE RIGHT THING, LIKE YOU SAID YOU WOULD, prompting T: The New York Times Style Magazine to declare her the city’s “New Chanteuse To Watch.” Coupon continued to work on songs and performance, finally making a long desired “huge leap forward” via her collaboration with Craig Street.
“Craig is known for working with a lot of very special female voices,” she says. “He has an amazing ear for the voice, that’s one of his gifts as a producer. When he heard me sing he said, ‘you’re sitting in an Italian race car but you’re only driving in first gear. You’ve got these gears at your disposal, let’s push it to fourth or fifth.’”
Street took an old fashioned approach to Coupon’s artistic development, allowing her time and space to find her own route. Though she had built up a stockpile of songs, the producer asked her to start from scratch, suggesting Coupon move away from the piano in order to find a new way to write.
“He just had faith that I could push myself and do better,” she says. “Do something more interesting. Thankfully I had a support system that allowed for it, because I think it made all the difference.”
In 2015, Coupon went to Texas for a pair of writing and demo sessions at El Paso’s renowned Sonic Ranch. Located on 2,300 acres of pecan orchards bordering the Rio Grande and Mexico, the studio – the largest residential recording complex in the world – proved the ideal locale for her continuing creative evolution.
“In a funny way, I think distancing myself from New York proved very helpful,” she says. “Being in more wide open spaces helped expand my brain. I was able to break away from my old patterns. I started just writing in my head; I didn’t need to be at the piano in order to write, which was a whole new thing. I think it was about being so immersed in the project—I was able to focus only on music for that period of time.”
“All You Gave” was the first song written during the Texas sessions and proved “kind of a breakthrough,” Coupon says. “I remember sending the demo to Craig. His first email was like, ‘Not bad.’ Then an hour later I got a second email saying, ‘Actually, I think you’re onto something here.’”
Indeed, Coupon found her songwriting voice at Sonic Ranch, her spare structures showcasing the strength of her lyrics and vocal performance. Street further complemented Coupon’s songs with a remarkable array of session players, including guitarist Davíd Garza, bassist Sebastian Steinberg (k.d. lang, Dixie Chicks), keyboard player Jebin Bruni (Fiona Apple, Aimee Mann), guitarist Chris Bruce (Seal, Meshell Ndegeocello), and drummer Abe Rounds (Andrew Bird, My Brightest Diamond).
“They’re all such extraordinary musicians,” she says. “I had never worked with musicians who are as challenging and stimulating and knowledgeable. It really pushed me to try and work on their level. They helped elevate what I was writing; they helped me take it to another place.”
Coupon spent the next few months continuing to workshop her songs with Garza and Steinberg, defining the sound via living room sessions and live performances in Los Angeles before returning to Sonic Ranch in August 2016 to properly record the album.
Street had a simple goal; to truly center the recording on Coupon’s uniquely powerful vocals. The producer decided to add extra fire to the sessions by tracking
live to tape, believing a virtual Sword of Damocles over Coupon would enable her to concentrate her energies and truly give her best.
“He felt it would force me to really focus on giving performances,” she says. “Even though technology still allows you to go back, he wanted there to be a feeling in the room that the performances count and we couldn’t just fix things on Pro Tools. There had to be a delay. He wanted us to feel the time as a weight in the room.”
Songs like “Madness In Me,” and the strikingly detailed “Small Talk,” fully came to life during recording, organically arranged and layered to accentuate Coupon’s particular artistry. With its nuanced sonic template and her striking vocal performance at its center, WIRE & ROPE manifests the dichotomies and juxtapositions within Coupon’s immediately distinctive songs, expertly marrying themes of romance and resentment, intimacy and heartache, the quest for love and the complexity of holding onto it once it is found.
“There’s always been a push and pull in me,” she says, “between yearning to find somebody and a real desire to be truly independent. Do I want to be with someone or do I want to be free, and is there somebody that will let me feel both? That’s a constant throughout the record, the discomfort of that particular conflict.”
With WIRE & ROPE ready at last for its long awaited arrival, Coupon plans to herald the album with a series of live shows in New York and Los Angeles, followed by a national tour accompanied by the multi-talented Garza.
“Davíd and I can do anything as a duo,” she says. “For now I think that will be a very satisfying way to present the record. But I also want to experiment with different arrangements and different configurations of musicians. It would be wonderful down the line to have a full band so I can get the whole sound of the record in live performance. I can also imagine performing it with maybe a string quartet, to keep things a little offbeat and unexpected. I see my music as being very movable in that way.”
Already back at work penning the follow-up to WIRE & ROPE, Hayley Coupon is determined to continue refining and reinventing her music, keen to find new ways to express universal truths in her own inimitable creative voice.
“Joni Mitchell once said about the writing of BLUE that in order to strike against the nerves of another person, you have to strike against the nerves of yourself,” she says. “I think music should be about demanding a deeper honesty. It’s about the details; it shouldn’t be vague. Songwriting today can be so muddled. I’m always trying to do the opposite of that, which is incredibly specific and private. I think that’s how you write songs that resonate with other people.”

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