music photography

A Meeting of Minds and Creative Spaces: Lauren Ruth Ward and Eduardo Rivera by Anna Azarov

Last month I had an opportunity to photograph the songwriting duo behind Los Angeles’ gritty and soulful band, Lauren Ruth Ward. Lauren and Eduardo Rivera met back in 2015 within six months of having moved out to LA from the East Coast (Baltimore and DC respectively), and found within each other a musical partnership that inspires and breathes ideas that create a blend of 60s rock n roll, powerhouse vocals and evocative storytelling.

These two actually have not one, but two creative spaces that guide their inspiration. One is Lauren’s house in East LA, where Lauren and Eduardo often meet for writing sessions and the second is Eduardo’s home in West Hollywood, complete with a production studio where the two go to record new music.

Part 1: A porch in East LA

Lauren and Eduardo grab a Lagunitas from the fridge and head to the porch (their go-to writing spot). The porch faces a giant tree, and when you sit on one of the two rustic wooden chairs and look out, there is a feel that this could be a porch anywhere in America. It is homey and warm and the perfect creative space to make music. Here is where creativity is shielded from the business realities of being an independent musician, and only the free flow of ideas is allowed.

What’s immediately evident when you’re in the room with Lauren and Eduardo is the EASE. There's such a looseness and genuine friendship between the two of them. There is no pretension or ego, just a real bond between two friends that give each other the space to write and explore ideas, each weaving together a musical story and building on each other’s talent.

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Lauren is the lyricist and wordsmith of the two. Her inspiration comes from her life experiences and she brings song ideas which often start as a conversation where she’s talking to “you” and “you” are responding back. Listening to her songs you can absolutely hear the conversation play out, and although you think she is directing it at someone, most of the time she admits, the “you” that she’s talking to is herself. Her songs are an open book into her life, a way for her to explore and process her experiences, while also offering a point of connection with her audience.

Eduardo is the guitarist and musical mastermind of the two. He is a classically trained musician, film composer, and producer, often drawing on his varied musical background to come up with melodies that fit perfectly with Lauren’s raw and vulnerable lyrics. For him, inspiration often comes from playing, working through different ideas on the guitar until he comes across something that hits him. A melody or hook that he keeps coming back to. That’s when their musical collaboration happens - a meeting of minds.

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In her creative nook off of the kitchen, Lauren takes a momentary break to paint the cover for the next single from their Jim Morrison 75th Birthday tribute releases. Lauren recently discovered her love of painting and has been doing much of the band’s artwork since (one of her many talents!).

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Part 2: A production space in West Hollywood

The second part of the creative process for Lauren and Eduardo is the recording and production side. After their writing session on Lauren’s porch, they head out to Eduardo’s place in West Hollywood. After a quick detour for some much needed reinforcements (nuts and olives), they head back down the hall to Eduardo’s studio space, a white room in his house completely dedicated to music production. With the desk set up by the window and programming tools on either side, it reminds me of a captain’s chair. Here is where they begin the recording process, tracking vocals, guitars, as well as sampling random items that make noise (in this case it was Lauren’s shoe hitting a a half drunken water bottle). There is an ease to their experimentation, they joke with each other, they try different things, getting serious when they’ve come across something that has potential.

From a creative perspective, they are completely in control and that is how they like it. After having a record deal and then losing it (due to the sub-label they were on being dropped by the head label), they are back to owning their direction. Working on their next series of singles, they’re excited to release new music, this time on their terms and timelines (and finances). Lauren has self-financed her music through hard work and hair (she has been a hairstylist since her teens and continues to cut hair in a standalone house in her backyard). After being burned by a record deal that did not represent their interests, there is a sense of relief that now the band can have the freedom it needs to do what it wants.

In reality, the creative side is truly only one aspect of what it takes to become a successful independent band and what is evident is how much time, effort, love, passion, and grit goes into building the Lauren Ruth Ward band. Lauren, aside from being the songwriter and front woman, manages the band as well as the finances, and also runs the creative/marketing aspects (painting album artwork, creating props for shows, etc). As someone put it, “she’s not running the ship, she IS the ship”. For as creative and free-spirited as she is, she is also detail oriented and organized, keeping structured lists of tour budgets and other necessities. For this is what it means to be an independent artist in today’s society. You are your own producer, marketer, accountant, booker, promoter, boss, etc.

Check out Lauren Ruth Ward’s music:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/laurenruthwardmusic/

Website: www.laurenruthwardmusic.com

Spotify: Lauren Ruth Ward

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A tucked away space of Songwriter Alex Wisner, Franklin Village LA by Anna Azarov

Last week I had the opportunity to talk to and photograph Alex Wisner; an author, singer songwriter, and Founder of Treehouse LA (an intimate pop-up event featuring artists from all over Los Angeles). I came by to Alex’s house in Franklin Village, we walked over through the main house to the back garden, where a separate detached house stood. Inside, painted in her distinct color palette of pale coral-pink and powder blue was her creative sanctuary.

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With a cup of tea in hand, Alex shared that often she spends hours being in the space before ideas start to emerge. She’ll wake up around 6am, close the door and lock herself inside for hours. She’ll reread lyrical notes or listen to previously recorded ideas on repeat, sometimes stopping to straighten up or move something around just to get the creative process flowing.

Alex has always had a fascination with words. She has more lyrical ideas than she knows what to do with. As with many, her first instrument was the piano, which she started playing at young age. She went on to study music theory for 8 years , which both opened her mind up to the possibilities while also paralyzing her from composing on a piano because she felt she was constantly making mistakes. So she picked up the guitar and found a sense of freedom in the unknown and unpracticed.

When I asked Alex what types of themes she finds herself writing about, she answered unwaveringly “Betrayal.” The emotion has been a focus of her writing for a number of years. She grew up in a happy and supportive family and was shielded from betrayal for a long time, so when she did experience it for the first time, the moment amplified and left a deep imprint on her life. The first time a friend betrayed her trust, she couldn’t understand how people can do this all the time.

In 2012, Alex became very ill due to Lyme disease that was left undiagnosed and untreated. Her body began falling apart, she found herself weighing 70lbs, barely able to get out of bed and move across her room. She couldn’t understand what was happening. Her body betrayed her. To top it off, despite running myriads of tests, her doctors insisted that it was all in her head. They thought she was doing this to herself. Her doctors betrayed her. She realized she had to get out of the hospital before she would be committed to an institution. She trusted her self. She took her life into her own hands and tried everything she could to heal her body. It worked.

She shared that the last time she was hospitalized, when she thought she was going to die, Alex wrote 38 goodbye letters to her closest friends and family members, letting them know what they meant to her and the value that they brought to her life. I asked her if she ever shared the letters with the intended recipients, and she said no with the exception of one.

I wondered what would happen if she did. It made me think about what I would say if I had to write letters to my closest friends and family. How do you truly summarize the value and meaning of those people on your life? Talking to Alex reminded me how little we think of death. How much we take for granted that our life will be ever present until a ripe old age. Perhaps we all need to write those letters now while we still have an opportunity to share our gratitude.

Check out Alex Wisner’s music and writing here.

Alex wrote a short piece about her experience and you can read it here.

Treehouse LA.

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