Categories: Arts Music Pop

Folk rocker Laura Veirs writes songs and children’s books

Two years ago, nine albums into her classy career, Portland folk-rocker Laura Veirs got a surprise career boost. Oregon transplant k.d. lang enmailed her with an impulsive idea, to form a fun power trio with indie rocker Neko Case, record an album “case/lang/veirs,” and go on tour to promote it. “My world definitely felt like it got a lot bigger,” say Veirs, recalling the project. “And overnight, I learned a lot about singing, songwriting, co-writing and collaboration. Plus we’re all still friends.”

After “case/lang/veirs,” you seem rejuvenated, with a new 10th album, “The Lookout.”

Writing it, I was in the mindset of, “Trump is destroying us. What are we going to do?” It’s such a strange, confusing world, but I feel like people look to artists to make sense of it. So I used metaphor a lot, and I tried not to be heavy-handed in my lyrics. But I didn’t want to be light and fluffy, because this is not a light and fluffy time.

The recording, like others on your own Raven Marching Band Records, was produced by the brilliant Tucker Martine, who happens to be your husband.

Yeah. I really lucked out meeting him back in 2000. And now I’m able to make these really great-sounding records because of him. But he pushes me into writing more songs, way more than I would just by myself. He told me to keep writing so many times last year when I was doing “The Lookout,” and I was so annoyed. But I did keep writing and eventually I had over 100 songs to choose from.

You’ve also published your first children’s book, “Libba: The Magnificent Life of Elizabeth Cotton,” about a real-life blues musician.

It was really interesting to go through that process and realize how complicated an art form it could be. To do a children’s book, well, is difficult. I learned how to write from a different perspective. I am a woman musician, writing about a woman musician, but I’m not black, and I wasn’t born in the early 1900s. I wanted to get the story straight, so I met with one of Cotton’s great-grandchildren, and she helped me understand my book better.

You also have your own podcast, “Midnight Lightning,” about touring parents.

Being a musician is an unstable career, and not one that you think has anything to do with children. But a lot of people struggle with it. So I did 15 interviews with women about musicians’ parental concerns, and next time I think I’ll interview men because no one ever seems to ask them about it.

Laura Veirs
Where: Chapel, 777 Valencia St., S.F
When: 8 p.m. May 21
Tickets: $16 to $18
Contact: (415) 551-5157,

Tom Lanham
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Tom Lanham

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