Northern Virginia native Lauren Calve has been undergoing a metamorphosis in her life, a massive shift. You can hear it seeping through every song, oozing out of every lyric, and feel the shedding of her skin with every note on her first full-length album Shift. The subtle and understated yearning in her voice, the intonation in her haunting vocals and delivery, Calve is longing for something more. Through the ten-track collection of songs on Shift, she invites the listener to come along on her journey of self-discovery and change, demonstrating a musical masterclass in the art of emotional storytelling.
Shift was recorded in Nashville at 3Sirens Music Group with producer, engineer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Dex Green (Margo Price, Aaron Lee Tasjan, Allison Russell). “He took songs that had never been road tested, songs that went directly from my living room to the studio, and effortlessly brought them to life,” says Calve. He also brought heavy hitters into the studio: Fred Eltringham on drums (ACM Drummer of the Year, Drumeo Country Drummer of the Year, Sheryl Crow, Willie Nelson), Audley Freed on guitar (Sheryl Crow, The Black Crowes), Robert Kearns on bass (Sheryl Crow, Lynyrd Skynyrd), Marlon Patton on drums (Larkin Poe, Lera Lynn), Jared Reynolds on bass (Ben Folds) and Joe Costa on the board (Ben Folds).
During this process, Calve learned that she liked putting herself in uncomfortable situations. From embracing a different sound to recording in Nashville for the first time with “musical Jedis” as Calve calls them, to trusting the unconventional fourteen month writing and recording process, she was thriving on pushing herself outside of her comfort zone. In turn, Shift was the catalyst for major paradigm shifts in her life. Several months after wrapping up the album she ended an engagement and six-year relationship, she finally stopped drinking after years of failed attempts, and the writing process forced her to examine the ways she had limited herself.
The sound reflects the environment in which the songs were written, in quarantine, mainly, and therefore in periods of silence and self-reflection. “At the time, I was more drawn to the softer qualities of my voice than the aggressive, blues-rock side,” says Calve. The instrumentation followed suit. Dex and the band really nailed the feel and filled in the emotional landscape with ethereal tones, lots of intentional space, and the perfect amount of grit.
Shift is the follow up to her 2020 Wildfire EP, which featured the stand-out lead track, “Better Angels,” written by Calve after listening to a radio interview with Jon Meacham who cited Abraham Lincoln’s inaugural address on the eve of the Civil War as inspiration for his book, The Soul of America: The Battle For Our Better Angels and it reflected what the world was going through during the pandemic. With Shift, it’s different from her past releases primarily because it’s her first full-length and complete album of work. “My prior releases were collections of songs I wrote around the same frame. This album is way more thoughtful and intentional; each song has its purpose and place. It’s the first record that really sounds like me,” says Calve.
Now, with the new album coming, Calve is building off the momentum she’s gained with her music, from touring with the likes of Ray Wylie Hubbard, Rhett Miller, Tom Paxton, Justin Townes Earle, and Amythyst Kiah, to name a few, recent writing sessions with Grammy-Award winning songwriters Jon Vezner and Don Henry, and a performance on the prestigious Mountain Stage. As a singer, songwriter, avid reader, and voracious observer in the human condition with a propensity for storytelling, this shift has brought Calve closer to herself and to her audiences in the process. “I want to continue to share my stories, play great shows, and meet more talented, inspiring people,” says Calve. “Every year seems to exceed my expectations; I don’t see why this year would be different.”