Singer-songwriter and producer Pamela Laws recently released the first single/music video, “Dry My Tears,” from her forthcoming album, The Ones I Love, slated to drop on March 24, 2023.
Along with Laws, “Dry My Tears” reveals the musical gifts of Jack Petruzzelli (guitar, Hammond organ), who also produced, Rich Pagano (drums), Adam Bernstein (bass), and Larry Campbell (mandolin, lead guitar).
Born in Houston, Texas, and raised in California, Laws grew up listening to artists such as Hank Williams, Gene Autry, Johnny Cash, Roberta Flack, Janis Joplin, Kris Kristofferson, Rita Coolidge, and Linda Ronstadt. Later, she joined a band, which morphed into a girl rock band, signed to a major label, and sang backing vocals for Counting Crows, followed by going solo, releasing her debut album, Masters and Gardeners, in 2004.
Laws then collaborated with visual artist, Lesley Dill, on a collection of musical compositions called Drunk With the Starry Void, an exploration of human stories set in a landscape of digitally and acoustically recorded layered sounds.
“Helium (Acoustic)” appeared in 2020, followed by “Let Angels Sing,” “Sun,” “Orphan,” and Laws’ 2022 EP, High West.
Guitar Girl Magazine spoke with Pamela Laws to discover the inspiration for “Dry My Tears,” how she got started in music, her tone, and her writing process.
What inspired your new single/music video, “Dry My Tears?”
‘Dry My Tears’ is the first single from my upcoming album, ‘THE ONES I LOVE.’ This song is about breaking free from a story that is not mine so that I can grow and gain the strength to face my own challenges… I am calling on the storm and the dam break in order to shed that final layer and be free and complete without unhealthy attachments. I was born in Houston, Texas. My mom came from the drought and flood lands of Live Oak County, Texas. She grew up in and around a small town called George West located right between San Antonio and Corpus Christie. Though I have so much compassion for the struggles she endured, they aren’t mine. I have my own. I was drawn to the silhouette concept for the video for this song because I love how graphic it is, not to mention I love the way the silhouette highlights the truth of aloneness. Yes, we have friends and lovers and family but there is an underlying aloneness that we must make peace with, in order to grow to our full potential. Larry Campbell is featured on Mandolin and lead guitar on ‘Dry My Tears.’ Jack Petruzzelli produced and played additional guitars and Hammond organ. Will Bryant is playing the piano; Adam Bernstein is playing bass. Rich Pagano is on drums. The song is produced by Jack Petruzzelli and myself and engineered by Justin Guip at Milan Hill Studios. The video was directed by @Traceyyarad
You have a new album, The Ones I Love, dropping soon. What can you share about the album?
The songs on ‘The Ones I Love’ began emerging during lockdown … it wasn’t only the world stopping, it was as if COVID was something so out of my control, and the loss going on was so out of my control that I just naturally took refuge in my internal world. Turning inward like that caused me to see and hear all the stories that had been sitting and brewing, waiting for me to grab my guitar and write them down and sing them out. There is so much joy there and so much space and freedom where my imagination lives. Once the songs got my attention, they would not let me turn away. I reached out to my friend and longtime musical collaborator, producer, and co-writer, Jack Petruzzelli . Once I got a song as far as I could, I sent it to him for further development and feedback. I would then start writing the next one. The songs are stories with threads of family and lovers and friends.
Is there one song on the album that means more to you personally than the others? If so, why?
They all mean so much to me! But ‘Dry My Tears’ came one of the first days of lockdown when I picked up my guitar. The changes and tempo and tone and feel came instantly. I did not think. I just began playing, and the chords were there along with the tempo and attitude. It was cathartic playing it – kind of like a great run outside. I played it over and over and sang the melody into my phone. Something about the original guitar part was like bursting through a door – it still feels great to play it!
How did you get started in music?
I started playing piano at age 2. My grandmother was a violinist, and another grandmother sang along to old jazz records day in and day out when we’d visit. She had a gorgeous smokey voice. I sang all the time on my own and in any choir I could find. I picked up the guitar in high school. In college, I joined my first band, ‘Girl Boy Girl Boy.’ The bass player and I had a great vocal blend and we made an acoustic duo that turned into a girl rock band called Seven Day Diary. Counting Crows were fans of ours and used to come to our shows. I eventually sang background vocals for them. In Seven Day Diary, I played rhythm guitar and sang lead vocals – I played a Telecaster and a Gibson ES335. We played stadium shows at festivals on tour supporting artists like Weezer and Hootie and the Blowfish. After Seven Day Diary ended, I moved to New York and began my career as a solo artist.
Where are you from?
I was born in Houston, Texas. When I was six weeks old, we moved to San Francisco. I went to High School in Sacramento then went back to the Bay Area for college. I think of my “hometown” as West Marin County near San Francisco.
Did your hometown impact your sound?
I think so! People say they hear California in my music. The light and the breeze. I think the stringed instruments I use and the way I use them reflect the mood of where I am from. The acoustic guitars as well as the parts we come up with on the electrics and the mandolin parts all sound like they have tinges of the light and water I grew up around. Many musicians lived in West Marin in the 1960s and 1970s, including Van Morrison, Jessie Collin Young, the Youngbloods, Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead, etc.…. And the area has a musician’s vibe everywhere you go…
Did your sound evolve naturally, or did you deliberately push it in a certain direction?
My sound has evolved naturally. Right now, I have stories to tell, and the sounds are evolving to support and highlight those stories.
What kind of guitar do you play?
I play a 1965 Martin 0018 and a 1939 Martin 00019. My electric guitar is a Fender Jaguar.
What is your definition of tone? And has your tone changed over time?
For me, tone is a signature. A player’s guitar tone says so much about who they are and what they are trying to say. My electric guitar tone has evolved from crunchy and distorted to warm and glassy for this record! And my acoustic guitars have authentic sounds of old wood. There’s a warmth and a clarity to them that I love, and I can’t bring myself to play any other guitars.
What inspires your writing? Do you draw inspiration from poems, music, or other media?
In the past, I was so inspired by books! I have so many memories of reading and having to put the book down and pick up my guitar and get out a thought … Bob Hass is a poet who lives where I’m from. He wrote the preface to a book on Rilke. His preface talked about how Rilke’s words – the sound and feel of them – find a home inside our ears as if they are perched there. I’m sound-oriented and that line from the preface blew me away and had me writing a whole song in 10 minutes. Now I find my writing is inspired by my experience walking and driving and living in the world amongst people and nature. I remember being back home in West Marin – it borders Tomales Bay. We were throwing a huge birthday party for my mom and in the morning, I had to drive to the store to grab some supplies. The mist was floating on top of the bay and the long-legged white egrets were feeding… that’s when the opening line from my song, ‘Orphan of the Tidepools,’ came.
What can you share about your writing process?
I keep my phone by my bed because lots of times songs come when I’m drifting off to sleep or just waking. ‘Dry My Tears’ came as I grabbed my guitar and started playing. I make phone recordings first – then shift over to Pro Tools. Jack Petruzzelli and Adam Bernstein were my co-writers on this record. It’s been glorious to pass a song to them after I’ve labored over it. When they pass it back it’s fresh and new again and I can be productive with it some more. They’ve added everything from slightly different voicings of chords to rephrased lyric lines to suggesting that what I thought was a chorus might be a bridge… and ‘how bout something like this for the chorus…’ etc.…
Which artists in your opinion are killing it right now?
I love the latest albums from Kendrick Lamar, Amanda Shires, Margo Price, and Bonnie Raitt – they are putting big feelings and experiences into words in ways that no one ever has! And they are in a zone of perfection in terms of the musical environment they create – their music is fierce and thoughtful and brave.
How do you define success?
Writing a great song, playing a live show where the time and space continuum collapses!!
Looking at your experiences from the last few years, what have you learned from them?
My experiences in the last few years have been totally fueled by the mantra, “keep moving forward…” COVID stopped us all in our tracks but there was still a way to move forward. For me that was music. Looking back, I realize now that staying with music through the fear and uncertainty guaranteed me my mental stability and feeling of safety and even joy during hard times.
What can your fans look forward to over the next six months? Music videos? Live gigs?
I am releasing ‘The Ones I Love’ on March 24th. Between now and then I have two additional singles I’ll be sharing with you all. I’ll have videos for both songs. I’ll most definitely be playing live gigs in New York City and the Hudson Valley in New York. I hope to be playing festivals in California this summer. Please sign up for my newsletter at www.pamelalaws.com and follow me @pamelalawsmusic!!