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Biography

Laurel Brauns’ voice can strike you like sunlight shooting through a hundred bits of stained glass. In certain moments it’s a multi-hued tremolo, colored with an indefinable accent from… from… from someplace cool and northern -- like the peaty glow of Scotch whisky -- like the singing of a Druid.

With three out of four grandparents from the “olde country” (Ireland), and a lifetime exploring the mountains and rivers of New England and the Pacific Northwest, this indefinable accent is part of the essence of her music. It is rooted actual hyperborean experiences: following the Appalachian Trail through the snow, plunging down the rivers of Oregon and Idaho in a white water kayak in spring waters, and sleeping under the stars by a myriad of alpine lakes, filled with icy mountain run-off.

With four albums under her belt, Laurel has embraced a life in the rivers and out on the road, with equal time spent performing around the campfire for fellow rafters and on big stages with the likes of the Portland Cello Project, Weinland, Horse Feathers, and Joan Osborne.

Laurel has toured both coasts for over a decade, on the college and coffeehouse circuits and in little mountain towns where she always finds new friends and old. She found a place to call home in Bend, Oregon, where she has lived for the past five years in a ski cottage, enjoying quiet, snow-fallen winter nights to hone her craft.

Laurel often travels between Bend to Portland, Oregon where she has a full band that makes regular appearances on the McMenamins circuit and in Portland's acoustic-friendly clubs. In the summers she often performs with her side project "The Ashlings" at weddings and private events throughout the state.

Laurel's fourth album, House of Snow, encapsulates themes of sustainability and reverence for the outdoors in a beautiful collection of songs, produced and arranged by Douglas Jenkins, the creative director of the Portland Cello Project. 

Featuring some of Portland’s finest musicians including Jenny Conlee of the Decemberists and Sam Cooper of Horse Feathers, “House of Snow is an indie-folk gem, drawing on the folk rock sounds that have all but dominated indie music in the Northwest for the past few years. Brauns’ folk sensibilities shine through an orchestral tapestry as brightly as her trademark streak of blonde hair,” said Mike Bookey of The Source Weekly.

Chris Dahlen of Pitchfork.com and Paste Magazine chimes in, “Laurel Brauns writes some of my favorite songs, and the way she sings them makes me shiver.  Her new disc is lovely, strong, and haunted, and likely her best yet.”

Other Stories:

PDXchange Series

One night, after a great week touring the McMenamins circuit in Oregon, Laurel stayed up long into the night at Edgefield Winery with her friends Amy Mitchell (also her cellist), and Henry Abel, Amy’s boyfriend. The question was why more bands from Portland don’t make the trek over the mountains to Bend to play shows.

Henry had a plan; he would start a music series that would host Portland bands in Bend, at the Tower Theatre, the city’s finest music venue. The bands would be well paid and well fed; the catch was that they would have to come up with some sort of collaboration with musicians from Bend.

Over the next few months bands like Viva Voce, Talk Demonic, Laura Veirs and Blind Pilot graced the stage, and Laurel and Amy (aka the Sweet Harlots) opened for Horse Feathers and collaborated with Weinland and the Portland Cello Project. Later, Laurel would tour throughout the Pacific Northwest with the PCP and eventually work with Doug Jenkins, the creative director, on her latest album.

Check out this video from Laurel's show with the Portland Cello Project at the Tower Theatre below:

Hush Hush Sweet Harlot – Portsmouth, New Hampshire

For four years, Laurel lived in the bustling seaside town of Portsmouth, NH, a stone’s throw from the Atlantic Ocean, where she curated the Hush Hush Sweet Harlot music series. Every Monday, the 20s and 30s something’s of the Seacoast (with inclinations towards hoodys and PBRs) would crowd into The Red Door, a hidden upstairs martini bar with no sign.

The series featured a host of local and regional indie-folk bands and singer/songwriters, and pulled in Nationals like John Vanderslice, Deer Tick, Winterpills, Tara Jane O’Neil, Laura Gibson, Anais MitchellJason Anderson, Unbunny, Tiger Saw and Red Door favorites Hotel Alexis, (which is now Winter Sons.)

The Sweet Harlots

 

Laurel moved to Bend, Oregon in 2007 with intentions of starting an all-girl Be Good Tanyas-esqe folk project that would appeal to the mountain-minded population of her new hometown. She gathered up the best ladies of Bend, including cellist and world-renown tandem mountain biker, Amy Mitchell, multi-talented percussionist and singer/songwriter Shireen Amini, fiddle goddess Jenny Harada of the Moon Mountain Ramblers, Indian violinist-mastress yogini Julie Southwell… and then decided to let the men folk in… which has included Empty Space Orchestra’s bass player, Patrick Pearsall, drummer John Cashman, and Bend’s Music Mayor, Mark Ransom.

The Harlots are favorites on the McMenamins circuit, and have played all the major festivals in Bend including Bite of Bend, Summer, Fall, and Spring Festival, Munch & Movies, and the Clear Summer Nights Series with Joan Osborne. They are also a favorite on St. Patrick’s Day, with a raucous set of Irish Drinking songs, jigs and reels.

The Harlots play "What a Feelin'" from the Flashdance sound track in the video below:

Weddings - The Ashlings

Laurel plays weddings throughout the Pacific Northwest, under the moniker of The Ashlings, which means, “dream” in Irish. The group features a cellist (and a violinist upon request) and has big repertoire of ceremony songs including Pachelbel's Canon in D, as well as The Ashlings most popular request, Areoplanes Over the Sea, by Neutral Milk Hotel.

The Ashlings have become well-known as the go-to wedding band in Central Oregon and have performed at ceremonies and receptions at Eagle Crest, Black Butte Ranch, Sunriver Resort, the Deschutes Brewery Mountain Room, and Aspen Lakes Golf Club.

 

Here is a video (below) with the song Aeroplanes Over the Sea, if you are curious to hear The Ashling's' version of it.

Wineries


Laurel’s mellow and sophisticated chamber-pop sound is sought after in the wineries of the Pacific Northwest and California’s Napa Valley. She is a regular on the wine bar circuit in Oregon, regularly performing at Edgefield Winery, Portello Winecafe, and the Loft of Bend.

Sarah Wolcott, wine curator and general manager at The Loft of Bend says, “"Laurel created the perfect atmosphere at Loft of Bend. Her music is a mix of mellow and upbeat originals and covers that is great for entertaining an attentive audience, or creating a beautiful backdrop to enjoy a fine glass of wine.”

Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe Pickin’ & Paddlin’ Series

Boat demos, music, and craft brews by the river = a utopic summer night in Bend, Oregon. The last Wednesday of every month,  Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe hosts the Pickin' & Paddlin' series, an evening of boat demos and live music on the banks of the Deschutes River. Laurel has worked as the PR and Marketing Director for Tumalo Creek for the past several years. It marries her passion for the water with engaging people in community and healthy activities in the outdoors.

Laurel is looking for rootsy, upbeat, bluegrass and old-time oriented bands from Oregon to flesh out the series for the summer of 2012. Her band, The Sweet Harlots, was the first to play on the back lawn by the river, before the series was official. This year, Tumalo Creek is taking things to a new level: local openers with regional or national acts.

The series and demo day is a fundraiser for the Bend Paddle Trail Alliance, the organization that is working with Bend Parks and Rec and the Old Mill to build a whitewater play park in place of the Colorado Avenue Dam.

The video below gives a great overview of the event. Laurel's band, The Sweet Harlots sing "Minor Key" in the background.

Past Albums

Laurel's first album, Swimming, was recorded in friends' apartments, has sold 2,000 copies and received reviews in Performing Songwriter and other national media outlets. Her second release, Periphery, was recorded and co-produced by Larry Crane at Jackpot! Studios (Elliott Smith, The Decemberists). Jeff Saltzman (producer Stephen Malkmus) mastered the album and hailed it as "elegantly arranged modern/folk pop" and "one of the strongest efforts I've worked on this past year."

Logging over 100,000 miles on her car in the past few years, Laurel enjoys being out on the road. Lured by the possibility that there is something left of Kerouac's America out there on the great highways, her songs are "like wistful Polaroid's, nostalgic memories of people and places throughout the country." (Matt Kanner, The Wire, Portsmouth, NH) "It's somewhere out there that she meets her characters and gives you a peak into their stories, she puts you right out there in the cornfield under the wide-open skies..." (Melissa Bearns, The Source, Bend, OR.)

Laurel released her third album, Closed for the Season, in February of 2007, produced by Jon Nolan, and inspired by the mercurial scenery of her native New Hampshire. Chris Dahlen of Pitchfork and Paste Magazine says, "She brings to bear all of her Celtic and indie influences on her haunting new album where cellos and dark finger-picked acoustic guitar all but surround you with the ghosts of the by-gone characters the songs speak of."  

Venues Played

 

Laurel has opened for:

Horse Feathers, Portland Cello Project, Loch Lomond, Weinland, Anais Mitchell, The Mammals, Matt Costa, Matt Pond PA, Joan Osborne, Greg Brown, Patty Larkin, Peter Mulvey, The Wood Brothers, Enter the Haggis, Hot Buttered Rum String Band, Grace Potter, Tara Jane O'Neil, and the Winterpills

Notable Venues Performed:

Tower Theatre, Bend, OR
The Music Hall, Portsmouth, NH
The Capitol Center for the Arts, Concord, NH
Palace Theater, Manchester, NH
Higher Ground, Burlington, VT

Colleges Played:

Bates College
Bennington College
Bentley University
Babson College
Phillips Exeter Academy
Colby College
College of the Atlantic
Unity College
Dartmouth University
University of New Hampshire
University of Vermont
University of Maine
Williams College
Wheaton College
St. Lawrence University
Middlebury College
Hampshire College
University of New England
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Skidmore College
Worcester Polytech
Lesley University
Northfield Mount Hermon
Lydon State College
Southern Vermont College
Johnson State College
Daniel Webster College
McIntosh College
St. Michael's College
Simon's Rock College of Bard
Plymouth State University
Keene State College
Lewis & Clark College
Willamette University
Portland State University
Montana State University
North Idaho College
University of Idaho
Gonzaga University
Oregon State - Cascades Campus