Exploring the elements

With the release of Year of Meteors, songwriter and musician Laura Veirs is suddenly in the media spotlight. But for her, happiness and success don’t lie in publicity. She avoids looking for her face in magazines and reading reviews of her album because she doesn’t want to get too wrapped up in it. When she says it’s about the music she means it.

“Sometimes it feels absurd, waiting instead of playing music,” she commented on the strangeness of touring, and the strangeness of success. While driving to the Spaceland in L.A. after a jaunt to a beach filled with surfers and then a radio interview, Veirs shared her reasons for why she does what she does, all while safely in the passenger seat.

“It feels good to discuss the music,” she said.

Year of Meteors, her fourth album, pairs her intelligent lyrics with a lush background composed by friends and backing-band the Tortured Souls. It’s an album full of discovery, layers of exploration on the element of air taking on an ethereal sound. With instruments like the viola, organ and guitar, handclaps and na-na-na’s, the album takes you on an interesting ride. And it’s one you want to be on. Like Veirs herself, it’s approachable and honest. And unlike her last album, Carbon Glacier, this one was written in the summer.

“It’s like a sea-breeze,” Veirs said about the sound of Year of Meteors.

The musician left behind a geology degree and a job as a teacher to play music, or at least some of it behind. The science behind the elements she was educated in creep into her songs, her explorations doing the teaching she doesn’t get to do much of anymore.

A car veered toward the van as we spoke, nearly hitting it and causing a brief silence over the phone.

“I’m OK,” Veirs said, her voice soft and thoughtful over the phone, “I’m just an innocent.”

She said the band has I-pods set on random, everything from Bulgarian folk music and bizarre Japanese noise to Pavement and Cat Power accompanying them on the road.

“It’s all over the map – there’s no limit.” It’s that approach to experimenting that has helped Veirs get to where she is today. She’s an explorer. What she loves about songwriting, and what she loves about music, is uncovering some sort of mystery.

“You squeeze the essence out of life and put it into songs,” she said. And with Veirs, they’re songs you want to listen to.

See Laura Veirs, along with Great Lake Swimmers and John Vechiarelli, tonight at the Doug Fir at 9 p.m.

For more information on Laura Veirs, go to lauraveirs.com