From exclusive interviews, live performances, special collections and more, we’re celebrating music all month long. We talked to the bands and artists playing our upcoming UO Live in Austin shows about their musical beginnings and the places they’re headed next. Click here to read more from our favorite musicians.
Writing and performing under the name Vagabon, Laetitia Tamko’s songs explore her personal history and intimate emotional spaces. We talk to Laetitia about self-taught guitar playing and her forthcoming debut album.
Photos by Julia Robbs
You taught yourself to play guitar in high school but had been making music prior to that. What did those early songs sound like? Can you remember the first song you ever wrote?
I actually did not start writing my own songs until college. I learned the basics of guitar in high school and set the instrument down soon after 3 years ago. I can’t remember the very first song I ever wrote but the first full original song I wrote is on my new album, it’s called “Cold Apartment”. It has gone through many lives but the song remains as it was written years ago.
What made you want to start making music in the first place?
It’s where I felt the most “in-place.”
Do you have any advice for young musicians who want to start creating music?
Don’t feel discouraged by an instrument you are not familiar with-- including your voice. If you don’t have access to the resources to get lessons - just remember that very few people were born with outstanding talent, the rest of us just work on it. So work on it, learn the basics and when you feel like you’ve hit a wall, turn to YouTube.
Your new album marks a subtle departure from your earlier works— both in terms of polish and your use of programming and sampling. What was the process like for refining your earlier songs that are included on the album? Was there a learning curve for incorporating these new electronic elements?
There was definitely a learning curve. Part of the knowledge came naturally and over time while other things took longer for me to grasp in ways I was happy about. For example, getting familiar with Logic then moving past “familiar” to “comfortable” to “decent” to “good” etc, etc. It’s a process I needed to have happen.
You worked closely with Chris Daly recording the album, what was the recording process like?
Chris Daly is great! His studio is where I made most of the album. It is super comfortable, we’d spent long nights working and I’d sleep in the studio then we’d pick it back up the following morning. The studio (Salvation Recording Co.) is also in such an idyllic place so getting out of New York City and being near trees and woods was important to my time spent there.
The title of your album, Infinite Worlds, is adapted from a poem by Dana Ward. Can you talk a bit about how his work influenced your writing process?
His work hasn’t really influenced my work. The connection comes from the emotional part of recording the album while teaching myself new instruments and pushing my personal artistic boundaries- and how that happened at the same time I was reading Dana’s book and had some challenges with that for many reasons. “Infinite Worlds” as a title was also chosen because I thought it reflected the sort of “scattered” sequencing of the album.
What’s the most difficult part of being a musician for you? How do you work through that?
The most difficult part for me right now is how exposed you can feel. Especially right after I perform. I work through that by just tucking myself away, hide and regroup.
Who keeps you going?
What’s the last great thing you read/last great piece of art work that you saw?
The Kerry James Marshall exhibit, Mastry, at The Met Breuer last month.
What’s next for Vagabon?
I’ll be touring the U.S starting next month and Europe in the spring and summer. And many more records ;)
See Vagabon this month at UO Space 24 Twenty for UO Live in Austin. Click here for more schedules and information.