Laura K Balke

Laura K Balke

 Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
BandFolkRock

Whether she's unaccompanied in a living room or backed up by friends in a noisy bar, Laura K Balke's songwriting and delivery has been met with descriptions such as "simply and unassumingly elegant." Along with her DIY ethics and creative drive she is slowly but surely winning hearts in the Midwest.

Biography

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."

Lyrics

Achilles

Written By: Laura K Balke

When Mama dipped me in the river
I bet she didn’t think of you
I’ve been so careful to keep
My heel safely in my shoes
To the sweetest boys I’ve been the first to say goodbye
And the cruelest man I ever met, he could not make me cry
But when Mama dipped me in the river
I bet she didn’t think that I would find you

But what a weakness,
What a wonderful weakness I have found
Take me home and keep my head
Spinnin’ all around, around, around

When Daddy built me a fortress
I bet he didn’t think of you
The world, they meet a stone wall
But there is one who walks right on through
I will take on an army with my own two hands
Then you take me down with a single glance
When Daddy built me a fortress
I bet he didn’t think that you would find me

But what a weakness,
What a wonderful weakness I have now
Take me home and keep my head
Spinnin’ all around, around, around

When Mama dipped me in the river
I bet she didn’t think of you

Turn the Key

Written By: Laura K Balke

I saw you outside of my window
I let you in though I didn’t plan to stay
I loved you the best that I knew how
We consumed the amber waves of grain
Feel your heart beat in my chest
Imagine the air of a higher altitude
I let you in when I wanted out
The chains are only as heavy as what we are tied to

I was a songbird in ink on your arm
You were a redbird caged in my parlor
I turned the key, I let you loose
Into a cold, harsh winter that was the truth

I saw you outside of my window
Just like you had intended
The glass filtered everything out
But painful images
If I had other voices
I would call you out into the streets
If I had wings like an angel
I’d have guarded you from me

But I’m just a songbird in ink on your arm
And you are a redbird that my hands can only harm
I turned the key, I let you loose
Into the last song that I can sing to you

Two Ships

Written By: Laura K Balke

We were two ships passing in the night
Too unexpecting to put up a fight
I thought that I could mold my life
And make whatever I wanted to
But how could I, how could I
Have imagined you

And if you told me right now
That we should go our separate ways
I’d feel just as lucky for
The minutes, the hours the days

We are a palindrome
We are waters yet unknown
I would have spent a lifetime
Just looking for you
So how did I, how did I
Find you so soon

My Mother says life isn’t fair
And for once that’s working out in my favor
‘Cause we’ve left the world behind out there
And I have taken the best of it with me

I have taken the best of it with me

Maybe I Was Wrong

Written By: Laura K Balke

All the beautiful people in this world
They only make me want you more
What’s going on?
You’re across the country
And all of the eligible bachelors in this room
Only make me want to be attractive to you

Maybe I was wrong when I said
That “Love is just a mad rush of chemicals to the brain
That catches me at the right time, something easily explained”
Had I forgotten that I could feel this way?

We don’t know what kind of affect we’ll have on each other
And for once I don’t care to meet
The girl at the end of this road
But if I looked into your future
And I saw that I was no good for you
Baby I would go

Maybe I was wrong, when said
That “love is not for others, a decision to be made
It is only given with the intention to take”
Had I forgotten that it could be this way?

Maybe I was wrong, maybe I was wrong
Maybe I was wrong, maybe I was wrong

Not For This

Written By: Laura K Balke


I can see the cortisone injections in my fingers now
I can hear the cough I’m coughing as I lay me down
I can feel the back I’m breaking finally giving out
I never said I wanted to put a good body in the ground

I want my hands to be ruined by the matters of my heart
And I want my love to be used by someone
For whom I can thank my lucky stars
I want my legs to be broken under that which can be carried
Far, far, farther than I
Farther than I..

Can see the cortisone injections in my fingers now
I can hear the cough I’m coughing as I lay me down
I can feel the back I’m breaking finally giving out

But not for this, not for this, not for this

Limberlost

Written By: Laura K Balke

We took to the highway with a county map in hand
It’s been years in the making and we are executing plans
You read aloud from the Keeper of the Bees
As I try to focus my eyes on the road ahead of me

Cause Indiana is the best place that I’ve seen, though to love it’s been the hardest
The trees are hesitant to turn and the fields are ready for harvest

And I am so much of you that a different purpose will bring us through
The same paths with the same view
And if I had it in me, you know I’d be a good Christian girl
But Mama, Mama my home is this world

We took the woods to see where the author had written her books
And the cabin that she built on Sylvan Lake
You seem to belong here and looking out the window
I think that you deserve such a vision every single day

Mother and daughter lie beneath the same favorite tree
You see a beginning but it’s the perfect end to me

I know that you are heaven bound but there is beauty on this earth
And there are years to live out
We can have it all if you will just give me time
‘Cause Mama, Mama this world is mine

I Can't

Written By: Laura K Balke

You’re asking again if I’ll let you stay
‘Cause you’d rather it end any other way
And you try to remind me of the battles we’ve won
This is bigger than that, this is Armageddon

I’ve loved with my body, I’ve loved with my soul
I’ve loved with my mind but never the whole
And I need to know, I need to know if that’s possible

I try to explain but my words just pollute
I told you I loved you, how can this be the truth
But I’ve studied the structure we built with our time
Brick upon brick it’s your and it’s mine

And you are the ceiling, you are the floor
You are the windows and the door
But I can’t, I can’t live alone inside this house anymore

As Small As We Are

Written By: Laura K Balke

You were taken from the hospital into the lion’s den
Where they found you a baby boy while they were looking for a fugitive
There was no custody battle ‘cause Mama didn’t show
So you slept in a cradle in my bedroom five years ago

You were so weak and they were so strong
As you took the brunt of the things they did wrong
But as weak as we are I won’t be gone long
And you’re safe with me when I’m holding your hand
Whatever you are, child I understand

And now you’ve got a new Mama and a little sister
The harder you try to get their attention the further you’re pushed out the picture
Take the medicine down for your rotting baby teeth
You are much too young to be asking “why do you love me?”

You were so small and they were so big
I couldn’t move a finger while I watched what they did
But as small as we are I promise you this
That you’re safe with me when I’m holding your hand
And whatever you are, child I understand

Sticks and Stones

Written By: Laura K Balke

Put a bandage on the scrape
Peroxide washes the germs away
Tears and kisses on the face
They help alleviate the pain

It was easy to be resilient on the outside
You just get back on that bike
Harder with the things that can be kept in the dark
I can open my hands but can I open my heart?

You’ll find evidence if you map out the scars
Of living soul and beating heart
I used to know my enemies like I knew the pavement
Hitting my knees

It’s not sticks and stones, it’s words
And it’s not broken bones
It’s love that hurts

Living is messy business if you’re doing it right
I want to go to bed with my feet dirty tonight
And loving is gonna hurt you but I think it’s worth the price
Like grass stains on my jeans and a ruined bike

Retreat

Written By: Laura K Balke

When you think more often than not
That you should have stayed in
When you can count the faces out there
That you’d like to see on one hand
That’s when I remember
That there’s no place in this world I have to be
And I can just go home to my handful of friends
And retreat

When you’ve got no one to prove yourself to
But the devil on your shoulder
When all this practice and perfection
Is just getting you older
That’s when I remember
If I can write just one song I want to sing
Then I can rest in peace

When you’ve got nothing to reach for
But gray skies up above
And beneath your feet is only
The sad excuse for a hill to prop you up
That’s when I remember
that I shouldn’t stop, not for anything
And if I can just keep moving
I will be happy

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.