Laura K Balke
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Laura K Balke

Indianapolis, Indiana, United States | SELF

Indianapolis, Indiana, United States | SELF
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"Laura K Balke"

There is a video on Laura K. Balke’s Facebook page of her playing one acoustic song in an apparently DIY space with one other musician on percussion. This is absolutely beautiful music, and I am totally blown away. This is good enough to fill enormous spaces, and I was surprised to see the number of Facebook “likes” she has. Laura K. Balke is on her third album, and it’s totally wonderful. You need to hear this. Get her to come to your town. She should be more popular than so many things.

I had the pleasure of exchanging emails with Ms. Balke recently. She informed me that she is currently planning a spring tour, and I can only hope that she comes somewhere I will be able to see her. If you’re looking for more tour dates, Murfreesboro is great for music, Laura.

The timbre of her voice is perfect. “Limberlost” is possibly my favorite track on her most recent album, “Rumors & Legends”. It’s a brilliantly written story song with totally appropriate and sufficiently dynamic instrumentation. There are deep, rolling strings and soft, organic keys throughout the mix. The chorus is catchy, and the verses keep your attention. I’m a sucker for long builds that drop out to nothing and then rebuild, and this song does that very well several times.

Head over to Laura K. Balke’s Bandcamp page to check out her music, or keep up with her on Facebook to find out if she’s playing a show that you can make it to. These songs are among the best modern stories around. - http://indianapolis-music.com


"Album Stream: Laura K. Balke ‘Rumors & Legends’"

The album is the third full-length release from the Princeton, IN native. It was produced by John Autry and recorded in whatever quiet space proved convenient – a piano warehouse, an empty art gallery, and a variety of apartments. The efforts resulted in eleven songs that underscore Balke’s strengths as a writer.

Though not an overriding theme, there is an element of pop in Rumors & Legends. She carves out a character of defiant confidence, not unlike the ones portrayed in songs by Top 40 starlets Taylor Swift or Kelly Clarkson. However, a darkness is present here that’s lacking for those artists. Her emotions translate in the writing, never missing a syllable, she is clearly a musician that values the lyric. This comes as no surprise, unlike the bulk of Swift’s work, these songs were written entirely by the singer.

Also departing from the Top 40 formula is Balke’s refusal to dress her songs up. There’s no layering of choruses with a dozen vocal tracks or a fifteen-man backing band. Though her band complements nicely, Balke’s acoustic guitar and voice lie at the core of every song on Rumors and Legends. - Thoughts On Track


"Vinyl Pressing Review: Laura K Balke- Rumors & Legends"

Third full-length album from this Indiana singer-songwriter, released Dec '11 in a stunning format: a bound-book with hand-drawn art. This is very pretty, dynamic music with a strong female voice as the focal point. Balke's knack for simplicity and emotional climaxes are reminiscent of some of the best Will Oldham records. Recorded in several different locations including "non-traditional" spaces like art galleries and apartments. The whole album is gentle and moody; a must for fans of evocative, female-fronted folk music. Collectors and format geeks take note: this one is worth the price for the packaging alone - limited edition of 100 copies!

4.20 out of 5 stars - Record Geeks


"Bro. Stephen tells us the "Folks You Should Know""

"Recently Laura released her new full-length entitled Rumors & Legends and it might just have the most beautiful packaging of any record I’ve ever seen. She hand bound a book of artwork together as the packaging for both the CD and the gold LP and all of the artwork inside are illustrations which use the lyrics of each song to craft the image. There just really aren’t many artists out there who put the care and sweat into the overall craft like Laura does. Her songs are well arranged and beautifully orchestrated and she doesn’t get caught up in trying to be the hip new thing. She just writes really solid songs and finds creative ways to deliver it to her ever-growing audience.

I am not sure why anyone would want to play music for the sole purpose of making a lot of money. The costs are too great. It is a path of continuous self-doubt, lots of bad shows, and constantly putting yourself out in the open for everyone to judge with a number system and money just doesn’t make that worthwhile. What makes it worthwhile, in my opinion, is being able to express yourself artistically, meeting wonderful new people from around the world, and being involved in a powerful artistic community. I’m pretty sure that Laura shares this view and it’s pretty obvious in everything she does. She is the best kind of musician: an honest and sincere one." - Slowcoustic


"Bro. Stephen tells us the "Folks You Should Know""

"Recently Laura released her new full-length entitled Rumors & Legends and it might just have the most beautiful packaging of any record I’ve ever seen. She hand bound a book of artwork together as the packaging for both the CD and the gold LP and all of the artwork inside are illustrations which use the lyrics of each song to craft the image. There just really aren’t many artists out there who put the care and sweat into the overall craft like Laura does. Her songs are well arranged and beautifully orchestrated and she doesn’t get caught up in trying to be the hip new thing. She just writes really solid songs and finds creative ways to deliver it to her ever-growing audience.

I am not sure why anyone would want to play music for the sole purpose of making a lot of money. The costs are too great. It is a path of continuous self-doubt, lots of bad shows, and constantly putting yourself out in the open for everyone to judge with a number system and money just doesn’t make that worthwhile. What makes it worthwhile, in my opinion, is being able to express yourself artistically, meeting wonderful new people from around the world, and being involved in a powerful artistic community. I’m pretty sure that Laura shares this view and it’s pretty obvious in everything she does. She is the best kind of musician: an honest and sincere one." - Slowcoustic


"Bro. Stephen tells us the "Folks You Should Know""

"Recently Laura released her new full-length entitled Rumors & Legends and it might just have the most beautiful packaging of any record I’ve ever seen. She hand bound a book of artwork together as the packaging for both the CD and the gold LP and all of the artwork inside are illustrations which use the lyrics of each song to craft the image. There just really aren’t many artists out there who put the care and sweat into the overall craft like Laura does. Her songs are well arranged and beautifully orchestrated and she doesn’t get caught up in trying to be the hip new thing. She just writes really solid songs and finds creative ways to deliver it to her ever-growing audience.

I am not sure why anyone would want to play music for the sole purpose of making a lot of money. The costs are too great. It is a path of continuous self-doubt, lots of bad shows, and constantly putting yourself out in the open for everyone to judge with a number system and money just doesn’t make that worthwhile. What makes it worthwhile, in my opinion, is being able to express yourself artistically, meeting wonderful new people from around the world, and being involved in a powerful artistic community. I’m pretty sure that Laura shares this view and it’s pretty obvious in everything she does. She is the best kind of musician: an honest and sincere one." - Slowcoustic


"Laura K Balke- Rumors & Legends (album review)"

"Balke is a hard-working artist with a strong DIY mentality. She’s spent a lot of time playing in Bloomington, in Indianapolis and in the toughest terrain of them all: Northern Indiana. She writes her songs, manages her tours and even hand-made the cases of her last record Souvenirs. This kind of work ethic spills over onto Rumors and Legends and you can hear this simply in the sound of the record. Balke wound up performing dozens of takes and brought in the experimental-electronica musician Jon Autry to help record, mix and produce the album. Autry did a masterful job: the full drums, subtle synth orchestration and clean guitars, banjos, pianos and strings make for an exceptional listening experience.

In all, Rumors and Legends is a fantastic sounding album, with catchy melodies and relatable material. Balke does a nice job with nearly every song, but hits the Jackpot with “Limberlost”. “Limberlost” truly stands out about the rest of the tracks due to its execution and its compelling story about one of Northern Indiana’s forgotten heroes. I can’t say enough about this track “Limberlost”, it is one of the best tracks I’ve heard all year." - General Thad- Northern Hoosier Culture Magazine


"Album Review: Laura K. Balke “Rumors & Legends”"

"Rumors & Legends displays Balke’s ability to be more than just a singer-songwriter. Skillfully crafted pop, folk, and alternative styles fill this record. Enlisting the help of Bloomington musicians Zachary Walter Jetter (Humans, Th’ Empires) on percussion and Kurt Friedrich (Rodeo Ruby Love) on keyboards, this album features a more full sound, adding more emotional depth to Balke’s songs." - Hipster Spinster


"Concert Review"

"Indianapolis singer/song writer Laura K. Balke opened the concert with a disarmingly authentic set that could have been read directly from her diary. Definitely a step above most acoustic solo acts."
- M. J. Butterworth


"The Scene: Episode 8, Singer/Songwriters"

“Laura’s music beautifully blends gentle folk sensibilities with light pop melodies, to create a genuine sound that speaks to the soul”

- The Scene (Indiana Public Radio)


"The Scene: Episode 8, Singer/Songwriters"

“Laura’s music beautifully blends gentle folk sensibilities with light pop melodies, to create a genuine sound that speaks to the soul”

- The Scene (Indiana Public Radio)


"A Truly Unexpected Pleasure"

I was relaxing under the awning at Lazy Daze Coffee House, drinking a coffee and entertaining myself by watching all of the foot traffic of young adults milling about while waiting for a multiple-band show to start later in the evening at the Irving Theater (adjacent to Lazy Daze).

There was also a lot of vehicular traffic in the parking lot behind the coffee house and theater, in that the bands were in-loading their equipment for the show. You could even hear a band going through a sound check inside the theater.

Nonetheless, around seven o’clock, this young, strikingly-pretty woman shows up with guitar case in hand and proceeds onto Lazy Daze’s outdoor deck (I had forgotten that Lazy Daze had a musician scheduled to play that evening: Laura K. Balke).

I thought to myself, this’ll be interesting to see and hear her play with all the surrounding traffic and noise. I hope she brought her own PA. Surprisingly, she didn’t; more surprisingly, she didn’t need one.

I go back to watching all of the foot traffic. I only gradually become aware of the sounds of an acoustic guitar being played and a strong, clear female voice singing.

I wander over to the deck to watch and listen. This young woman --- turns out she’s 22 --- was standing on the deck with her back to the rear entrance of the theater, simply playing her acoustic guitar and singing these decidedly original songs, seemingly unaffected by all of the goings-on around her.

Ms. Balke's performance was simply unassumingly elegant. Amazingly, it seemed to grow quieter as she played and sang. The songs she was performing from her debut album, Souvenirs, seemed to draw everyone into her world, almost without being aware of it, songs of mature, subtle sophistication much belying her young age.

She easily held the crowd with her performance for over an hour, and then as the traffic and noise peaked (since it was almost time for the show in the theater to start), she decided to continue it inside the coffee house --- a substantial group of listeners followed her --- where she played for at least another half hour.

I would strongly suggest that you follow this young musician --- she is going to go places --- and I would also strongly suggest you consider purchasing her album.

My hope is that, before she becomes really big, she’ll play at Lazy Daze Coffee House again. - http://www.artsinirvington.com


Discography

///// Leaving Home- 2007 (Self-Released) /////

Leaving Home was written in the midst of moving from the small town where Balke had spent most of her upbringing, to a bigger small town where she waited tables in order to move to another small town, even farther from home and much more desolate.

Recorded in two days in the home studio of Mike Adams (Husband&Wife, Crossroads of America Records), the sparse instrumentation and minimal production left plenty of room for Balke's songwriting to breath deeply of her sentiments surrounding small town Indiana.

CDs were packaged inside of a handsewn, screenprinted paper gatefold jacket displaying Balke's artwork.

///// Souvenirs- 2009 (Self-Released) /////

Laura's first venture in a professional studio happened at Bloomington's Russian Recording. Armed with a knapsack full of junk keyboards and auxiliary instruments, Laura created most of the layers in two days of tracking with a little help from brother Philip and studio owner Mike Bridavsky.

Souvenirs was released independently, beginning with a special edition of 100 CDs that were tucked inside of a screen-printed, handsewn, fabric envelope along with a letterpressed booklet.

///// Rumors and Legends- 11/18/11 (Self-Released) /////

Rumors & Legends was recorded in spaces where Laura, producer Jon Autry, and a revolving cast of players often were not supposed to be. A traveling studio was set up and torn down in a matter of hours, usually in the middleof the night, and by the time nine-to-five America was up and about the only evidence was the room's reverberance in the recordings.

In addition to Autry, for her third full-length record Balke enlisted the help of percussionist Zachary Jetter (Humans, th'EMPIRES, Buttonhoof) and keyboard extraordinaire Kurt Friedrich (Rodeo Ruby Love). Together a lush soundscape was created that previous recordings could not afford, orchestrated to compliment Balke's songwriting with depth and texture. In the words of Record Geeks' Jon Rogers, "This is very pretty, dynamic music with a strong female voice as the focal point. Balke's knack for simplicity and emotional climaxes are reminiscent of some of the best Will Oldham records."

The record was released independently in November 2011 to CD and vinyl, both encased in a hardbound book. The pages feature Balke's artwork and correspond to each song, using the lyrics to create an image that is illustrative to their content.

Photos

Bio

In August 2011, Indiana native Laura K. Balke had just embarked on a series of changes that are still setting her apart from the Midwestern singer/songwriter pack over a year later. Having learned guitar at age 13 and after extensive stints in the coffee-house circuit for years shortly thereafter, Balke quit her day job as a hairstylist last summer and symbolically had her long, beach blonde hair shaved to give a physical manifestation to being a full-time musician, with the whole process filmed and used for her "Not For This" video. This epic sea change has taken Balke's touring schedule to 25 different states since then, spending nearly one-third of the last year just playing shows.

Much like the above choices speak to her character, Balke prides herself on the D.I.Y. nature of her albums, making sure they're packaged in anything but plastic. 2007's Leaving Home, 2009's Souvenirs and last year's Rumors And Legends were all packaged by hand: a handsewn, fabric envelope here or a screenprinted, gatefold jacket there. Rumors specifically stands out as well, as Balke's friends and family pitched in to package each copy inside of a hardbound book. "This was my first foray into visual art," says Balke, "with each song having a corresponding drawing that is made of the lyrics, creating an image that is illustrative of their content."

The songs themselves, packed with nods to classic country, alt-pop and folk, have garnered wide attention in their own right. RecordGeeks.com calls Balke's repertoire "very pretty, dynamic music with a strong female voice as the focal point. Balke's knack for simplicity and emotional climaxes are reminiscent of some of the best Will Oldham records." Slowcoustic.com also says Rumors "might just have the most beautiful packaging of any record I’ve ever seen... There just really aren’t many artists out there who put the care and sweat into the overall craft like Laura does. Her songs are well arranged and beautifully orchestrated and she doesn’t get caught up in trying to be the hip new thing. She just writes really solid songs and finds creative ways to deliver it to her ever-growing audience... I am inspired by how she is always trying something new and refusing to take the easy road. Her passion and determination to be a meaningful artist or die trying is one of my favorite things about her."