With a distinctly modern blend of classically-trained vocals and edgy ambient electronica, Lori Cunningham has found an outlet for musical expression online. After years of vocal training, Lori decided to begin writing and recording original music in 2006. She has recorded an album, Unseen, and has had a guest performance on Jennifer Thomas’s The Lullaby Album. In addition to her solo music, Lori is working on a side project, Emeria, with British musician Adam Amos. Lori has answered a few of our questions, and she has a few things to say about being a full-time mother and composer, and her passion for vocal performance and songwriting.
She is also having a promotional giveaway of her album until June, and there is still time to enter to possibly get a free CD.
First of all, your website mentions that you are giving away free CDs until June. Tell us about that promotion, for interested readers.
A: It’s something that I’ve been doing since last July. It’s a monthly contest running for 12 months where I give away at least one free CD of my debut album at the end of every month. There’s a new contest every month, so it’s always fresh, new and fun. The contests are short, to the point, and don’t take very much time to enter. It’s a great way to get new interest in my music. I’ve also met some great people through the contests. For more information, please visit my music blog at www.loricmusic.wordpress.com and click on the category “Free CD Contests” on the right. The contest runs through June of this year, so there’s still time to enter!
Tell us about how you got started in music.
A: Well, all my life I wanted to sing. That’s really the only thing I wanted to do, besides being a mother. I went to a local college in Colorado where I earned a BA in Vocal Performance. At that time I did not do any music writing of my own. Though my chosen emphasis was vocal related, all the music majors had to pass an extensive piano proficiency exam to finish their degree, so I have some foundation in the piano as well. The discipline I learned in school is something that has served me over and over in many aspects of my life. Classical musical training is not for the light hearted and it takes years of dedication.
It was not until my third son was about nine months old that I decided to start composing and recording my own music. I was never fully happy with singing arias and the like. I wanted to make the music I enjoyed listening to! It was a bumpy ride, but I never regretted the decision. I’ve used my classical training but have had fun experimenting and pushing the boundaries.
It was important for me to find something that I could do that would make me happy while still keeping my priorities in order. I’m a mother of three boys, currently ages 10, 7, and 4, and am expecting another boy in May. My family always comes first and I feel it’s very important for me to be in the house and be there for them – all of them, including my wonderful husband. My husband has been extremely supportive of my music as well. I couldn’t do it without him. All of my music is done from my home and also collaborating with many great people all over the world via the internet.
How are you connected with previous Linescratchers interviewee, Jennifer Thomas?
A: Jennifer and I “met” on MySpace. I remember stumbling on her page and reading a bit of her bio. She mentioned that she attended BYU. I wrote her telling her how impressed I was with her music and that she and my husband were students at BYU at the same time. It turned out she went to BYU Idaho, unlike my husband who went to BYU Provo; but that started a long and terrific friendship. We soon discovered we have a lot in common. We are both the same age—our birthdays are only 5 days apart, and we both have classical training as part of our background. It has been wonderful to have a friend in the music business who is also trying to juggle it all around a family and LDS values. We have been able to meet up several times too. I seriously don’t email anyone as much as I do with Jennifer.
We have also worked on a couple of tracks together, both projects for Jennifer. One track is on her most current release The Lullaby Album. Technically, it was a song that her mother, Carolyn Southworth, wrote. So we all worked on it together. Jennifer was the person who I sent all my ideas to and she sent me suggestions back. I hope someday to work with her again, as I think she’s tremendously talented. This isn’t anything that we’ve even discussed so I’m not leaking out anything; it’s just a hope of mine someday.
You have a hand in composing, mixing, producing, and singing on your songs. Is there anything you can’t do?
A: Ha- there’s a lot of things I can’t do! I do try to continually learn and improve, but I still feel like a novice. 90% of my studio is external gear, so the software end of producing and recording is over my head. That is something that I want to learn; the software end of it all. I taught myself how to record and engineer, with some advice and help from friends on the internet.
You seem to be very active in blogging and keeping your fans up to date on what you do. Tell us about your blog.
A: With the Internet, musicians can be much more accessible than they ever have been in the past. I think it’s nice to show that I’m a real person too. The music industry has changed so much over the years with more studios being more affordable for the common person. It’s becoming more of a rarity for recording artists to spend days upon days in an expensive studio doing takes for their new album or project. Instead, it’s finding a few minutes here and there in the spare moments. There is so much music out there now for everyone, if the artist is not constantly showing a presence, they are easily forgotten and buried.
But most importantly, I really want to show people that I’m just like them, have likes and dislikes, hardships and successes. And I want to make friendships. I don’t like to use the term “fans” as I feel like that puts other people below me, so to speak. Plus, I’m a social person. Always have been! I love to talk and to tell people about my life and hear about theirs. I love the interaction that the internet provides.
A great example of being personal and active is the artist Imogen Heap. I love how she kept her followers informed with the making of her third album with video blogs, on Twitter, and 12 second videos. She had a terrific release and her following is absolutely huge now.
Talk about your Emeria project with Adam Amos. When will that album be available?
A: After working on a few tracks together for my solo album, Adam and I decided that it would be dumb not to continue the great working relationship we had built. We have never met in person as he lives in the UK and I live in Utah. Everything we have accomplished has been via the Internet. Hopefully this coming fall we will be able to finish the album and have it available by early next year.
How is Emeria different than your solo music?
A: Emeria is much more organic and earthy. It still has its base in electronic down tempo styles, but it branches out a bit. There are few tracks that are heavier, with more of an Evanescence feel, while others are more reflective and gentle. It doesn’t seem like there’s going to be any instrumental or vocalize tracks (songs with vocals but no lyrics) on the album, which is different than my solo music.
Adam and I both pushed beyond our comfort zones with this project. For me, I’ve expanded and experimented with lyrical content and also vocal style, from belting to super soft.
The pictures on your website include several taken near what seems to be the Temple. Is there any special significance there?
A: Well… not really! We chose to take some pictures around the Salt Lake Temple because it is such a beautiful place and I love the spirit that’s always on the temple grounds. I could make something up and say it was all planned to go with the theme of my album “Unseen”, where there are so much symbolism all around and in the temple that at first is unseen until you look deeper, but that would be making something up.
How does your faith influence your music?
A: My faith is in everything I do, though I don’t make it as apparent as some. It influences all my choices in lyrics, how I sing, and how I want to be viewed. I have had to turn down projects where they wanted more suggestive and questionable lyrics, and make changes in costume ideas for photos so I could remain modest. I refuse to do anything that I would not want my children to see, especially with having all boys. Many times I have had positive comments about how I haven’t “sold out” and am using my talent to attract people, not anything else. That’s exactly what I have been trying to do!
Do you tour or play shows in support of either of your musical projects?
A: I’m not touring or playing live shows at this time. I would like to at some point. It is in the plans. I started getting things ready to do so when I found out I was pregnant with our fourth child and then had complications right away. It has been put on the backburner for now. Maybe in a year or two after I’ve had the baby and he will be old enough to be away from me for several hours at a time. The music industry is changing and it’s possible to be successful using the Internet as the main key instead of touring.
Where can interested readers discover more about you and your music?
There’s my website – www.loricmusic.com
Facebook fan page – www.facebook.com/loricunninghammusic
Official music blog – www.loricmusic.wordpress.com
MySpace page – www.myspace.com/loricmusic