Meet Lara-Jane Stewart, Sunshine Coast-based singer-songwriter, artist and dreamer.
If you had to describe Lara-Jane's songwriting to date in one juicy sentence, you could say it's something like: Jewel, Norah Jones and Alison Krauss having a jam, with Janis Ian on piano, Angus & Julia Stone singing backing vocals, and maybe Dan Fogleberg, Fleetwood Mac and The Waifs fighting each other over who’s going to bring it all home.
In other words, stylistically-speaking, it's a beautiful hot mess of indie-pop-folky-jazzy-rootsy-country-ness.
All talk of genres aside though, Lara-Jane's passion is bringing forth music that is from the heart and for the heart. And so, in the tradition of many millions of folk artists before her, her tendency is to craft the kind of songs that are as compelling and beautiful to listen to in their completely raw, unadorned state as they are fully produced and dressed up to go out for dinner.
THE MAKINGS OF LARA-JANE STEWART
To say that the musical soup Lara-Jane swam around in throughout her upbringing was “eclectic” would probably be an understatement.
Dad loved Supertramp, Pink Floyd and The Doobie Brothers. Mum loved Paul Simon, Enya and The Gypsy Kings. They both loved Neil Young, Cat Stevens and Fleetwood Mac. Big bro loved a bit of Cake and Ben Folds Five, and the whole family loved the soundtracks to The Lion King, Sister Act and Oh Brother Where Art Thou.
She loved it all, but as she grew through her teenage years she found new kindred musical spirits in contemporary singer-songwriters such as Jewel and Norah Jones; Australian folk-rock artists, Lior and The Waifs; and then in more recent years artists like Gillian Welch, Jason Isbell and Birdtalker.
Lara-Jane's earliest releases such as her debut EP in 2009, “Wonder Floating Free”, reflect the softer and more contemplative influences of the above artists, with the vibe of the record approaching an Angus & Julia Stone-like sound, though less rhythmically-driven.
Fast forward to now and as you listen to Lara-Jane's most current creations, you’ll hear the country/folk/americana elements of her musical influences have grown much stronger, giving the music a more grounded, earthy quality.
And, perhaps most notably, while the sweetness in her voice is still there, you'll hear the voice of a slightly stronger, more knowing woman, reflecting the personal journey from maiden to mother that’s taken place in the time that’s lapsed between projects.
the winding road to here
At thirty-six years of age, Lara-Jane has lived another life already on the music scene, first under her maiden name, for a while with just one name, and is now starting all over again from scratch in many ways.
For much of her 20’s she was writing, recording, performing originals and covers everywhere she could, in between part-time jobs, doing all the things one does walking the road of a professional musician trying to get their art out into the world... Until one day she found true love. Ahhhh. And then marriage and step kids and babies and all manner of "domestic life" came and whisked her into its magical vortex, and she gradually convinced herself that she had to give away the “artist path”, like maybe a hundred-thousand-thousand other souls before her.
Thankfully that aching, swirling creative impulse to make art would not leave her alone, and somewhere in there she began to realise she didn’t have to give it all away; and that even if she did she would always be an artist, no matter her occupation or what she put herself into, so she may as well get on with it already and continue doing what she came here to do.
She came to realise just how much the "creativity" and the "artistry" are actually the far easier parts of the equation to master. The harder part is having faith - in life, in ourselves and in our dreams. Finding the strength, courage and ingenuity to forge one's own path forward, oftentimes alone and in spite of all the apparent roadblocks - this may be the hardest work that any artist does, or indeed, anyone at all.
Thus, here she is today friends, re-emerging as the woman of song she’s always been and doing once again, what never really stopped below the surface: serving the songs. Bearing witness to them swirling in the darkness and the silence; feeling their essence; giving them life; letting them flow through her, dance in her, rest in her bones, cry out through her tears; letting them live and breathe through her... and at last reach out and touch the world through her once again.
New Single - "Marianne" - Out Now!
Lara-Jane's new single, “Marianne”, is a celebration of the re-emergence of herself into the world as Artist, Woman Of Song and Mother, all blended up together with more gratitude, humility, passion and courage than ever before.
The essence of "Marianne” came and sang life and faith into her bones in the most beautiful way when she needed it, so this recording is a gift from her heart back to life itself and to the infinite mystery of grace from whence it came.
As you listen, maybe you'll feel its beating heart and maybe it'll breathe some faith and life back into your bones.