Music Talk: Meet Laurel Violet, the New Face of Classical Composition

Laurel Violet interview to Artlist

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Highlights

Laurel Violet grew up playing music but truly fell in love with it when she started composing her own tracks
When she first started releasing music, Laurel considered changing her name to sound less ‘girly’, but she now sees her gender as a strength
Nevertheless, men have a 500-year head-start on women in classical music, and instilling confidence in female composers is key to their continued success

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Laurel Violet’s music is suitable for any occasion. It’ll light up your morning as you get ready for work, soften an arduous car journey or add a little romance to a home-cooked dinner. Laurel’s not yet 25, but she’s already created a definitive sound within a definitive niche – classical composition.

“I get really nervous in front of a big crowd of people, so I never liked having solos. I just wanted to stay at home and write music.”

Laurel cites Olafur Arnalds, Johann Johannsson and Nils Frahm as her biggest influences, but one influence reigns supreme – her father. Born and raised in south London, Laurel says the house was always full of music. Her father encouraged Laurel and her twin sister to learn piano, flute, violin and sing, and family get-togethers would often turn into a Von-Trapp-style jam session, with an uncle on bass, an aunt on vocals and a cousin or two on percussion. Music was always deeply ingrained in Laurel’s life, but it wasn’t until she was 15 that she really began to appreciate it. Before, she’d simply been learning the instrument and getting the grades, but as soon as she started to write her own music and add her own creative flair, she knew she was in it for life.

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Laurel went to the University of Bristol to study music with a focus on singing. “The problem was, I’m really bad at performance,” Laurel says, chatting from her home in Fulham. “I get really nervous in front of a big crowd of people, so I never liked having solos. I just wanted to stay at home and write music.”

“I’m also quite extroverted and quite loud in a group…But then here I am writing this very quiet, gentle, sad music.”

Once Laurel realized where her true passion lay, she switched to composition and spent the next 3 years living in 2 musical realms. The first was that of Bach and Mozart, with hours spent analyzing the structure, theory and discipline behind history’s greatest composers. The second was the gritty recesses of Bristol’s drum’ n’ bass scene, with weekends spent in graffitied basements, neck-deep in dub-step, bass and UKG. “That probably influenced the electronic elements in my music,” Laurel says. If you listen hard enough, it’s there – something about the snares and hi-hats in the piece “esse (Instrumental)” whispers techno.

pachala album
Blending electric guitar and drums alongside piano, harp and strings, ‘Panchaia’ creates a dramatic cinematic atmosphere.

You’ll find Laurel Violet’s musical catalog when you search for ‘Love‘, ‘Hopeful‘, ‘Sad‘ and ‘Peaceful‘ on Artlist. Her music is perfectly suited to road trips, nature films, documentaries and fashion, and although she only started working with Artlist a year ago, she’s already established as one of the community’s favorite composers. The release of her first album, Panchaia, in 2021 catapulted her catalog into the stratosphere. The final piece, “Where We Are Now” has captured the imaginations of filmmakers across the globe with its melancholic piano, heartbreaking strings and feather-light cymbals. The piece is a musical equivalent to meditating in a Japanese zen garden.

Laurel’s peers are often surprised when they find out what kind of music she writes. She has red hair and several ear piercings, so they tend to assume she’s an RnB singer. “I’m also quite extroverted and quite loud in a group,” she says. “I love going out. But then here I am writing this very quiet, gentle, sad music.”

Laurel is not entirely sure where her melancholic taste comes from – she just knows she’ll sit down to write something upbeat, and all that comes out is a cacophony of strings, percussion and piano, telling the age-old story of love, loss and heartbreak. “I am actually quite a happy, light hearted-person,” says Laurel. “The music I write is quite heavy and sad, but I think it’s just an outlet to balance everything else.”

“A lot of men will be able to say that their music is epic, and you’re going to love it. Whereas women are terrified of seeming arrogant and are way more self-critical.”

There’s another reason people are surprised when they find out Laurel’s preferred choice of genre. “It’s very much a male-dominated space,” Laurel says. “Most of the contacts I have in this industry are older white men.”

Laurel says she feels the gender imbalance works more in her favor these days, as industries across the board try to rectify the glaring disparity. “But I do find it insulting when men say it’s a really great time to be a woman in the industry,” Laurel says. “Like – it’s a really great time to be talented as well.”

Women have been getting more support within classical music in the last 5 – 10 years, which means men have a 500-year head-start. Young women don’t have many role models in the industry, which means artists like Laurel are forging a path for them to follow. “Sometimes, I’m afraid I’m just getting selected for projects to meet a certain criterion,” Laurel says. “But I’m not going to argue with it because it’s a great thing for my work to be exposed, especially to other women.”

gates of the arctic
Inspired by mountains, ice and the northern lights, ‘Gates of the Arctic’ is a cinematic ambient journey through vast untouched landscapes.

There’s a disparity in confidence between men and women, too. “A lot of men will be able to say that their music is epic, and you’re going to love it. Whereas women are terrified of seeming arrogant and are way more self-critical.” This is the result of women being told they’re lesser than men throughout history. However, Laurel refuses to let self-doubt get in the way of her ambitions and feels her confidence growing every day.

“I remember not wanting to use my full name because I thought it sounded too girly, and people wouldn’t take me seriously,” Laurel says. “But my friends and family convinced me to use it, and I now feel that being a woman in the industry sets me apart for the better.”

Laurel is currently committing herself to music full-time. She’s signed to 2 labels, working with Artlist and is writing more music than ever before. She says her favorite pieces always seem to come out the fastest and sees her music as aural snapshots of her life. “I was in such a good place when I wrote ‘Where We Are Now,'” Laurel says. “And when I listen to it now, I’m just transported back to that moment. And then comparatively, “How It Was” is a very sad piece, and I remember my mindset when I wrote it. It’s almost like a journal.”

She’s a morning person and tends to get her best work done when tinkering on the piano in between sips of coffee. She gets most inspired by film scores and dramas such as The Duchess and Theory of Everything and aims to release many more compositions with royalty-free platform Artlist in the upcoming year. Laurel’s biggest dream, though, is to write music for Planet Earth. “Anywhere that has room for wonderful, elaborate music.”

waiting
‘Waiting’ is a series of emotional, cinematic classical pieces with a gentle and melancholic sound, and a mix of piano, strings, bells and percussion.

Laurel sees instrumental music as a way to communicate things that can’t be said. “It’s what words don’t express in a film or series, what they can’t or won’t say,” she says. “And it’s the same for me too. It’s an outlet for the feelings I’m not even aware are there, and whenever I sit down to write a piece, whatever’s going on inside me just spills out.”

If you’d like to use Laurel Violet’s music in a film or project, check out her page on Artlist.

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About Alice Austin

Alice Austin is a freelance writer from London. She writes for Mixmag, Beatportal, Huck, Dummy, Electronic Beats, Red Bulletin and more. She likes to explore youth and sub-culture through the lens of music, a vocation that has led her around the world. You can contact and/or follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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