Americana-flavored performer Lauren Shera is a recent transplant to Tennessee, having moved to The 615 a couple of years ago from her native California. She stands amazed at how the city has grown in those 24 months.
"It's been the perfect change of pace," she tells Billboard. "I love everything that's happening in East Nashville, where I live -- the food and the music -- places like the Five Spot and the Family Wash. Both of them have so much character, and there is such a good mood there. Nashville is a very welcoming place."
Life in Davidson County is a lot different from where she comes from. "I was living in a small town in California, so it was very lovely and coastal, but sleepy. So when I moved here, I was ready for a change. I wanted to be somewhere where culturally and artistically, there was more happening."
Shera has just released a new album, Gold and Rust, and she's excited for people to hear the music she's been working on. "I'm so excited to let it finally fly the nest. I've been working on it since before I moved here. I was trying to be very deliberate about the choices that I made in writing and recording the album. I took some time to assemble those parts."
She feels that she got it right, saying, "I'm at a point with it now that I'm ready to let it go and let it do its thing -- and not overthink it. It's a record that I stand behind and still love listening to. It came out just as I hoped it would, if not better."
Shera penned all 10 of the cuts on the project herself and admits that she put herself on the emotional line -- particularly with "Hell's Bells," the first single. "It's about the universal experience of being close to somebody in a friendship and having that person do a complete 180 on you. They completely transform and change right before your eyes. I think a lot of people can relate to that. I just got burned by someone that I thought I had been a good friend to."
As a writer, does Shera compose better from a first-person narrative, or is she better at interpreting the stories of others? "I think first-person comes more naturally, but I think third-person can inspire some really cool stories," she said. "I tried to experiment with that on this record, actually. There's a couple of songs on the album where I stepped outside of myself, took an idea, and wrote a song about it. There's a love song called 'Stepheny + Agbar,' which is about two fictitious characters. There's also one called 'Lila.' I did try to play around with that, because my prior record had been very personal and intimate and very much first-person."
Influence-wise, Shera says her parents introduced her to the music of Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, John Prine and Townes Van Zandt, among others. "I was lucky enough to grow up around those artists. My dad, who was a musician, instilled in me that there were lessons to be learned from those people. I still try to do that: focus on what they're saying and see how that changes to me over the years as I get older.
Shera is in the midst of planning a tour to promote Gold and Rust, which she is very excited about, though she stresses that there is no place like her new home of Nashville. "I could have never anticipated how much this city would be changing and growing before my eyes. I didn't move here because I thought it would be the next 'it' town or 'boom' town, I liked the vibe I had witnessed here. I liked the shows I had played here, and I knew some people here. But I can't believe in the two years I have lived here just how much it has changed. It's exciting to see all that is happening, and how people are embracing it here and wanting to be a part of it."