Music interview: Joseph Lawrenson on life after Dancing Years

Singer-songwriter and former keyboard player of Leeds band Dancing Years Joseph Lawrenson, returns to the city on July 1, performing at Oporto.

Joseph Lawrenson
Joseph Lawrenson

The YEP caught up with Joe to discuss his recent life affirming travels, and how he channels positivity into his music.

You are launching your new EP I’ll Never Be Young Again at Oporto. Being from Leeds, does it add more significance to be able to do it in the city?

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Absolutely! The music scene here is awesome and welcoming. It is the promoters, musicians, venues and people of this city, which have shaped me into the musician I am today. The city means a lot to me.

Joseph Lawrenson

Lead single A Different Life portrays starting over, chasing your dreams and facing up to the passing of time. Does this direction of going it alone from Dancing Years feel like a rebirth and achieving your own ambitions?

I came tumbling out of Dancing Years and thought, ‘right what do I do now?’ I had to sit down and assess my skills as a musician and decide how to move forward. To start singing and build a new project from scratch was very daunting. However it has forced me to face up to some obstacles I’ve been putting off for too long, like singing and playing my songs live. I am a huge believer in facing up to your fears. Most of all it has taught me a huge amount about relying on myself, which has at times been hugely stressful and overwhelming but in turn been very satisfying and rewarding. Ultimately, I am growing more confident in my ability as a musician and performer.

You are a classically-trained musician and I understand you will be playing selections of instrumentals at the gig. Do you feel more comfortable speaking through sound rather than lyrics?

As well as song-writing my other passion is composing modern classical music, which ties in with my pursuit of music for the moving image. They’ll be some intimate and melancholic piano brass instrumental music at the shows to break up all the feel good pop songs! I feel very confident in my ability to communicate through my lyrics just as I do my music…the new and scary thing for me is singing, as I only sang in front of an audience for the first time this February!

The show will have support from Jasmine Kennedy who you champion and appear to have plenty of respect for. To anyone unaware of her music, why should people get down early to see her?

Haha I’m glad that my constant fan-boying of Jasmine is being recognised…She is quite simply Leeds best kept secret. Percy Anderson has that irresistible lofty romance of a Joni Mitchell song and Cardigan Sweater has the intimate story telling of a Leonard Cohen song. In terms of songwriter’s I’ve actually met and played with, she has consistently been the most inspiring.

Your previous band Dancing Years were well known in Leeds. Will any songs be played for fans of your previous work, or any uncovered gems to showcase?

I’ll be playing two songs which we toured extensively with Dancing Years but never got round to recording and releasing them. I’m hoping people will recognise and enjoy the return of these two gems!

What do you think of the current music climate in Leeds at present and where do you feel you for in within the spectrum of bands in the city?

Leeds music scene just seems to be growing and growing. Of course it’s tough as an act trying to break through... however there’s a whole home-grown underground scene here, which is championed by the likes of labels/promoters Hide & Seek, Come Play With Me and High & Lonesome – whom I’m working closely with on my own release. There’s a great sense of community in the Leeds music scene.

Following the launch of the EP, is there a full-length album to follow and when is that expected?

I hope so! I’m currently juggling three main musical aspirations: releasing my own music, writing songs for other people and composing music for screen. It all depends where and in what order I invest my time and energy!

Did leaving Leeds and seeking other countries and experiences shape your musical pallette and outlook to playing music?

Yeah I loved the laid back nature of the Australia, and their approach to playing and recording – I think this shines through on the record. I like to think I’ve captured some of that glorious Syndey sunshine in A Different Life! Especially as I had Tim Hart (drums) and Dave Symes (bass), of Boy and Bear, grooving their way through the record!

What other touring plans are scheduled for the year ahead and will you return to Leeds when your album is released?

As it stands I just have the two release shows in the diary. I intend to be far more selective about the shows I play. I want to grow and mature as a performing musician but I don’t want it to take over my diary, as I need to push my screen composition and co-writing aspirations too.

What one thing apart from music has inspired you to be driven in your pursuit of a different life?

This sentiment has been expressed many times by various people but Barney Norris puts it well: “All our human life we think is so big and important will just have been a little flowering that’ll never come again.” When I’m bogged down in anxiety, apprehension and self-doubt about my music, I remind myself in a positive way, ‘I am so damn tiny and irrelevant and who really cares?’ and then just get on with it.

Joseph Lawrenson plays at Oporto on July 1.