"If I were really stuck on something [preconceived], some of the beautiful ideas that sort of pop out of the woodwork wouldn't happen. Some arrangements are organic. They have structure. The little details are left to see what happens in the moment. I love that. Some of the arrangements are more tightly constructed. A lot of the arrangements from my more jazz albums, including songs from Butterfly Blue, are a collaboration effort between myself and Matt Treder. We've worked together a long time, 15 years. A lot of the ideas, even sketches of arrangements, even if it's not a full-fledged notated arrangementwhich is rare for usa lot of them are things we work out as a vocal first, then get to where we like it to be."
She notes, "On Butterfly Blue there were a few I brought in as arrangements, but developed in the studio as well. It varies. There are a couple songs that are more bass-centric, we worked out on the fly with the bassist and created something that sounded like a constructed arrangement but was sort of last-minute inspiration on his part."
It rose to the Billboard #1 jazz album, the third time one her recordings achieved that status.
How people put things in musical genres "is an interesting dynamic," says Loren. "In my personal journey I've done all kinds of music as long as I can remember. It has all influenced what I do. I've listened to classic jazz artists, jazz vocalists. It was a huge part of my development both as a music fan and also as an artist. I think there are some things I do that can be considered well within the parameters of jazz. I don't really know what the parameters are, to be honest. I feel it when I hear it. But jazz in itself is such an expansive and expressive art form, it invites all kinds of influence from other forms of music. Some of my music is accurately categorized within the jazz realm and other parts of my music feels like its categorized that way because of the other thing. It's tricky. I consider myself a singer/songwriter foremost. Everything else is secondary to that. Whatever people classify it as is beside the point. I just love making the music that I make... That's their business, in a way. I do like a lot of different things that are genre classified as jazz. If there has to be a label on a lot of music that I make, I feel like that may be the most accurate for a lot of it. But a lot of it, in my new album in particular, forays into a sort of soulful pop jazz territory, where I'm not sure jazz is always at the forefront."
Her varied influences began seeping in as she grew up on the small island town Sitka, Alaska. The Great American Songbook was a companion and has never stopped influencing her.
"For one thing, it is has a wonderful nostalgic familiarity to me, because I grew up listening to so many of those songs. I connect those songs with a wonderful time in my life. Other songs I can so appreciate the richness of the writing. There's such a craftsmanship to the way they're written. They feel timeless, but really personal and intimate. They connect in a poetic and melodic way that so few things in however many decades," she says with a passionate glee. "It was an era of song that was so concentrated on the craftsmanship element. I love how there are so many different life experiences in a lot of those songs. The emotional content of them is, for me as a singer, really great to dig into. Often times there is humor included in a lot of the balladry, a lot of the more serious songs, that can really create these interesting twists you can put into it as a performer."
"For me, my greatest love is melody. There's just no better era of song in terms of incredible melody writing than when the American Songbook was written," she says. "I strive all the time to try to say something in as few words as possible," something she gets from the classic songwriters. "My instinct is to say more than the thing I want to say. But figuring out how to strip things down to the most essential element is a real art. And its incredibly challenging."
In Alaska, Loren was isolated in some ways from the experiences of most Americans. She listened to her mother's record collection, which included records from many jazz singers. "Etta James was one of my mom's favorites. I loved her. Patsy Cline I loved. I liked all these voices that I could emulate. I grew up mimicking the vocalizations of all these singers who were pretty awesome teachers."
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