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Places to keep

Talking with Lauren Barth at her Courtyard Concert

The sonic space where Lauren Barth’s new album Forager exists is on a desolate stretch of road halfway between Laurel Canyon and Turkey Mountain. A California native in Oklahoma, Barth takes her surroundings with her in songs as a kind of collection of imagined vistas, places to visit between your ears. Inhabiting the spirit of a traveler, a gypsy, and a long-lost companion, Barth’s song “The Devil, My Father” takes the listener into a sprawling landscape that’s equal parts desert dunes and windswept tallgrass.

While here at the Voice office for the first Courtyard Concert of the season (accompanied by Jesse Aycock on guitar, Aaron Boehler on bass, and Andrew Bones on drums), Barth talked about the places that inspire her, taking Kurt Vile to a Jacob Tovar show, and hating Tame Impala (most of the time).

First song learned: It was “Take It Easy” by The Eagles. That was the first song I learned on guitar and then the first song that I learned to actually sing and play was “Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright” by Bob Dylan. The first time I played it in front of people, it was three people in my dorm room and I was so scared that I was shaking. It was terrifying. I’ll never forget that. It was so great. Then it took me 10 more years to get comfortable doing it.

Desert island discs: One for sure, no doubt about it, is Blood on the Tracks by Bob Dylan. That’s my desert island record. Animals by Pink Floyd is my other favorite record. I can zone out to it, I can sleep to it, I can meditate to it, I love going to that world. And it might be cheating because it’s a compilation, but it’s called I Am the Center and it’s a compilation of American New Age music from 1950 to 1990, and it’s, like, the best music in the world. So good.

Guilty pleasure listening: I have a lot, but my newest is “I’m a Man” by Tame Impala. And I only say it’s a guilty pleasure because I am the biggest hater. Like, “You should listen to this new Tame Impala,” and I’m like, “Get this out of my face, I hate this hipster crap.” And then I heard this song and thought it was so good and someone told me it was them and I thought, NO! It’s so good. Don’t tell anyone I like it.

Also “Sideways” by E-40. Some real hyphy Bay Area hip-hop. Sometimes you really need it.

Tulsa’s best show ever: Any night of the week where you go to a local musician’s weekly gig is gonna be great. I’ve seen some incredible Sunday Nite Thing with Paul Benjaman nights. The one after Leon Russell’s funeral might have been the coolest one. It was packed to the gills, so many people in there, everyone singing along, drinking, celebrating.

There was another night, when Kurt Vile played at Cain’s and then we took him and his band to Mercury to see Wink [Burcham] and [Jacob] Tovar play and he was so stoked on it. That was really cool because it was like two of my worlds mixing. 

Most memorable shows: My favorites are usually weird spaces that aren’t venues or house shows. Jesse and I played a really cool show last summer in San Francisco at this venue called The Chapel. It’s an old church that they converted to this beautiful venue. It was packed and everyone was quiet and listened. And I’ve had some pinch-me moments, like playing The Roxy in LA while I was touring playing guitar for Nikki Lane. We played some big, beautiful, old theaters that I never thought I would
get to.

Dream venue: I really want to play the Fillmore in San Francisco. That’s one of my dreams. The other is the Santa Barbara Bowl. Santa Barbara is my hometown and you can see the mountains and the ocean from the Bowl and it’s just gorgeous. If some day I can play on that stage, I’ll be a happy lady.

A non-musical influence: Landscape and nature, locations. The desert was my big muse for a long time. I lived in LA and it was my escape. As soon as I’d get to the desert, I’d feel so much better and inspired. Oklahoma’s been doing it for me for a while. It’s a new landscape for me, you know? I’m not used to it and it’s exciting. It’s kind of like my cool new boyfriend that no one knows is cool.

On music: Music is two things. Just as a human, it’s my savior. It’s the thing that makes life okay. When life is overwhelming and scary and weird, music is the thing that makes all the scary thoughts turn off. So for me as a human, music is therapy. As an artist, it’s my tool to put poetry to. I didn’t think I was going to be a musician when I was a kid, I just liked to write poetry. And then I started listening to rock and roll, so I figured I should get a guitar. It’s my vessel to express myself. 

Catch Lauren Barth’s next local show, June 10 at Soul City with Annie Oakley and Shannon Brackett. 

Forager is available in stores and online now via Horton Records.

Want more from the Courtyard? Watch Dustin Pittsley perform his song, “Satellite.”