"It was a funny show," says Laura Veirs, but she isn't exactly laughing. Veirs is describing the tour stop her band made recently in Oklahoma City.
"It was kind of like an old juke joint vibe," she recalls of The Blue Door. There were only 10 people there, but they stood right up front, whooping and hollering after every song, and we played really well. It was one of our most positive shows, actually."
Sometimes it's the nights when no one shows up that prove to be the most rewarding. Sometimes. Unfortunately, the attendance thus far on Veirs' first U.S. tour has been sparse. "It's pretty hard," she explains, "since no one's heard of us. The press was a little hard to get rolling, too, because my CD came out kind of suddenly, without a lot of lead time."
The glaring irony of this last statement is worth pausing over. The CD Veirs mentioned, the stunning Carbon Glacier, was recorded in July of 2003, and was released not long after by U.K. label Bella Union, to massive acclaim and strong sales all across Europe, where Veirs has toured extensively for the past couple of years. Despite a devoted international audience (and the towering beauty of her music) Laura Veirs couldn't get a record out in her own country.
Then a chance encounter with the head of Nonesuch, the Warner Bros. imprint that has made a name for itself by putting major label muscle behind eccentric artists (Magnetic Fields, Wilco, et al), landed the orphaned album an impressive home.
"All I've been doing is just going where the energy is," she explains. "It was like, 'Well, they're really into it in Europe, so let's go over there!' Five times this year, and each time it's been wonderful. It was just magical."
That magic consisted of sold out shows all through France, England, and Switzerland, "people lining up around the block, and just going nuts. I'm not talking like huge rooms, you know, but still. And then we went to Hoboken for our first show in the States and there were 13 people there, including the other band, our band, our roadie, and the sound guy. It was a good wakeup call. We have a lot of work to do."
Whether or not she will find the audience she deserves is a question that Veirs herself seems content to leave open for now.
"I'm not, like, gloriously ambitious," she says. "I guess I'm ambiguously ambitious; I don't know what I want to do with my life. I want to make another good record. I'd love to be able to sustain my life through music making, but I don't know how long that can happen. Right now, it's happening and I'm pretty excited about it."