Lots of people talk about giving up their day jobs to follow their dreams, but it's typically easier said than done. But that's just what one-time Charlestonian and country-folk singer/songwriter Laura Jane Vincent did last year. Not that she didn't need a little push to help her decide.
"Last October, my day job did some restructuring and my position was eliminated," Vincent says. "And I had the option to do something else within the company or take a severance and run. All my life I've wanted to do music full-time, but I've been too scared to do it. And I felt like this was the universe telling me, 'This is a good opportunity.' So I decided to take the severance and devote all of my time and effort into playing music."
It's been nearly a year since Vincent made that decision, and she couldn't be happier. "It's been wonderful," she says. "Not just for writing and being more creative, but I feel like I used to have to split my brain down the middle. Half the time I'd be focusing on my creative side, and the other half was about trying to do my job well. I felt like I wasn't giving either of them the full benefit of what I could do. And since I left, I haven't had to turn down any opportunities. I've been able to go out further and longer; I've been able to get my name out there more. It's working, and it's going well. I played between 80 and 90 shows a year when I was working full-time, and now it's way above that."
Spending all her time as a musician has allowed Vincent to network with a community of musicians, and it's also given her the time to start thinking about her next album and how she wants to create it. Her most recent release, ...For a Sweetheart from the South, is over two years old and was recorded with her husband and drummer Dave Tippets.
"It was a wonderful experience doing that record. I'm very proud of it," Vincent says. "But as great as it was to go to Echo Mountain and record it, because it was a really nice studio and we had a wonderful producer, I learned that I don't necessarily have to do that for the next record. We recorded it live, we did it in two days, and we really wanted that live sound. We wanted it to sound like we were playing music in a room together. And in the networking with other musicians that this has allowed me to do, I've heard several other records that were made like that in people's houses or backyards, and the passion is still there. There's a lot to be said for that fancy studio feel, but there's also a lot to be said for making a record on your own and maybe taking a little more time to do it.
"It doesn't need to be rushed, and I don't need to spend that much money," Vincent continues. "I think that I can find the resources and the same amount of talent right around me in my network of people. I think that at the time I didn't have that network, and that was a big lesson for me to learn."
Vincent has no regrets about making her debut album the way that she did. "It taught me how to get a record done, and the logistics of what it really takes," she says. "I was a musician for 10 years before I did a record, so it was great to see how much work goes into an album and how much of a village it takes to really get it done. There's something to be said for a different experience for a different record, though."
Vincent made another big decision earlier in her career when she decided to form a musical partnership with her husband. But in that instance, she says neither had any hesitation about working with one another. "We started off as co-workers," she says, "so for the two of us, [working together] felt very natural. He came from a very different musical background. He played in a lot of metal bands, and he played guitar before he was a drummer. And when we first came together musically, we clashed a little. But it just took a few practices, and we knew that it was going to work. I wanted it to be a family business; I wanted to keep him with me as much as possible."
Tippets drumming style is unorthodox; he tends to follow and add percussive commentary to Vincent's guitar and vocal melodies rather than simply keeping time. "He came to the instrument later in his life, and he never had any formal lessons," Vincent says. "He really just jumped right in, and my music was the first that he tried drumming to. So I think that's why he follows me more than another drummer might. He really goes on vocal cues, and he wants to make sure that my voice and guitar are very loud in his monitor. We watch each other very closely onstage, and that's made us more confident as performers."
Given the intimate and confessional nature of Vincent's songs, she says that she sometimes has to fight the misconception that she's writing about her marriage. But she's quick to add that for his part, Tippets has never been concerned about that. "Sometimes as an artist, you're going outside of yourself, or to a memory, and Dave gets that," she says. "Sometimes you're taking an emotion and putting it into a song, and it's not necessarily about the fight we had last Friday. He's more like, 'This is a great song. Let's dive into it.' He's never once come to me and asked, 'Is this about me?' or even, "Is this about that ex-boyfriend?' And it's not that he doesn't care about what I'm trying to say. It's that he respects the process, and I love that."