“One of my favorite quotes from a movie is from ‘My Dinner With Andre,’ where he says, ‘I could always live in my art but never in my life,’ and I’ve always held that near and dear to my heart,” said Natalie Lovejoy. “This has been a huge lesson. In the last ten years, I’ve kept my art mostly to myself and I acted out in other ways. It was such a drive in me to make this album.”
Lovejoy’s third album, “Hiding In The Light,” is the first recording from the St. Paul-based ambient singer/songwriter since 2003. Although she’s played plenty of live shows at the Aster Café and other Twin Cities venues, much of the last decade-plus was spent writing songs in private, raising her two children, Veronica and Lucinda, going through a divorce, opening her hair salon/performance space, Soapbox Salon in St. Paul, and falling in and out of love.
“I’m really connected with my clients,” said Lovejoy, who hopes her story – a single mother and independent business owner and recording artist – inspires others, especially women in similar situations. “The majority of my clients, I’ve been cutting their hair for 15 to 20 years, and I have amazing relationships, and I’m affected by their relationships as well. My clients and I are always communicating about life; very rarely do we talk about hair. I think that’s why my music is so introspective, because that’s what I do all day. In fact, one of the songs on this record was written about the end of one of my client’s marriage.”
The grist of all that experience can be heard in the deep grooves and dreamy melodies of “Hiding In The Light,” a work driven by Lovejoy’s huge heart, luxurious voice, and a batch of tunes that suggest Kate Bush holing up on a cold winter night with Lake Street Dive. And while Lovejoy’s first two albums, “Wish I Could Fall” (2001) and “One False Move” (2003) are good introductions to the self-taught musician’s vulnerable tunes, the new Andy Thompson-produced collection of songs is her most full-bodied work to date.
“Two babies close together kind of knocked me on my ass,” said Lovejoy, whose effervescent personality gives way to a decided pensiveness on “Hiding In The Light.” “Between that, working fulltime and trying to maintain a marriage, music got swept by the wayside. I didn’t mean for it to be a full decade between albums, it just happened. But it was the slow and painful fade-out of my marriage that made me turn to music again. Writing and playing songs became my therapy and my salvation from an unhappy marriage.”
Backed by the crack studio band of John Munson (bass), Alexander Young (drums), Dan Lawonn (cello), Josh Misner (violin/viola), Kevin Steinman (back-up vocals), Brian Tighe (guitar) and Thompson (everything else), “Hiding In The Light” was recorded at Thompson’s Instrument Landing Studio in South Minneapolis. The Grammy-nominated Thompson (Dan Wilson, Taylor Swift, Jeremy Messersmith, Julia Douglass) proved to be as musically inspiring as was Lovejoy’s sometimes painful real-life subject matter.
“Working with Andy was delightful,” she said. “He just ‘got’ me; we spoke the same language. He could play exactly what I was thinking with almost no explanation on my part. I had complete trust in him. He helped me grow immensely as a vocalist, he challenged my playing, and he really got the feel behind each song. He was also unbelievably understanding.
“My marriage ended just as I began recording with Andy. The poor guy barely knew me and I showed up bawling in his studio a few weeks after we got started. I would start crying during recording and say that I needed to take a walk. He would just sit back and say, ‘No problem, take your time, we’re gonna get some really great raw emotion in these vocals today.’
“I had to stay in the moment. It was sort of a Zen experience. I had to turn my brain off from whatever was going on, or whatever attorney meeting or court date was happening, and sing my heart out.”
You can hear as much all over the tracks, be it in the forlorn feelings behind “Goodbye,” “Would You Be Happy?,” “Fallen From Grace,” “House of Coates,” “Fool,” and the title track. Then there’s “Demolition Derby Queen,” a radio-ready should-be hit that mixes broken hearts with car crashes and takes the whole lover-as-hot-mess oeuvre to another level.
It’s been a long time in the making and gestating, but thanks to a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign that’s attracted new fans as far away as Germany, Lovejoy and the rest of us now have “Hiding In The Light” as a soundtrack to our lives.
“I was blown away by the Kickstarter process; it was an amazing experience, because it put me on the map,” she said. “I did so many personal updates on Kickstarter, that I think people got emotionally involved with the making of the record. Then my music, where I also put myself out there in not-so hidden ways… I’ve been getting lots of emails from people who say how they can relate and that it’s more than they expected, and thanking me for my honesty.”