Laura Roppe

San Diego singer-songwriter Laura Roppé has released her sophomore album, "I'm Still Here," produced by Matthew Embree, the frontman and lead guitarist of indie rock sensation, Rx Bandits (whose music is featured on the latest iteration of the popular video game, Guitar Hero.). Laura wrote all the songs for the album during and immediately following rigorous chemotherapy and radiation treatments for an aggressive form of breast cancer in 2009.

"I'm Still Here" has received a glowing reception: "George Clooney" recently charted on Myspace; Laura's celebratory music video for her bucket list song, "George Clooney," has grabbed Top 30 or higher most-watched, "Youtube Honors" in Canada, Australia, Spain, India, Japan, France, Germany, and many others. So now it's your turn, don't wait any longer, check out her XXQs.

XXQs: Laura Roppé

PEV: How would you describe your sound and what do you feel makes you stand out over the others in your genre?

Laura Roppé (LR): My music is an eclectic and organic blend of Americana, pop, rock, and blues. It’s melodic, catchy, and typically happy and hopeful (though sometimes a bit testy if I have something urgent to say).  My lyrics are honest.  I love harmonies.  People say my lyrics are a real stand-out and that they want to kill me because they can’t get my songs out of their heads after one listen.  When my musicians hear one of my new songs, they always say, “Oh my God, this is SUCH a Laura song.” What exactly is a Laura song? I’m still not sure, but they always, always say that, so there must be something particular about my sound that is unique to me.

PEV: Calling San Diego, California home, what kind of music where you into growing up? Was anyone your main influence?

LR:  I was exposed to all sorts of music growing up, from James Taylor, Carly Simon, the Beach Boys to Duran Duran and Depeche Mode to the Surf Punks to Frank Zappa.  I’ve always been drawn to melody and intelligent (or at least ear-catching) word choices.  I’ve always particularly listened to female voices.  I remember being absolutely blown away by Alanis Morrisette’s big album, Jagged Little Pill.  I didn’t know a woman could sing like that, so honestly, and without regard for sounding traditionally pretty.  She just kicked ass and she didn’t try to ingratiate herself to the listener.  When I first heard her on the radio, I pictured her like the lead singer from Missing Persons – pink-streaked hair and black, latex body suit.  I assumed she had to have some sort of Pop Star gimmick with an attitude like that.  But then I saw Alanis – and she was all-natural and authentic and unapologetic.  And a light bulb went off in my head.

PEV: Having played in the business for a good time now, what was it like for you when you first started out?

LR:  I’ve evolved quite a bit.  I know who I am in a way I didn’t in the beginning.  I speak up now so much more, and I follow my gut.  I listen carefully to good advice from others, of course, and I am immensely collaborative, but I no longer assume everyone else knows how to do this better than me.  I’ve realized everyone is making it up – music is changing so rapidly, no one really knows “the Answer” to how to succeed.  There is no formula now, if there ever was one.  There is only hard work, and good product.  And luck.  And making luck.  I didn’t know that when I started out, so I didn’t always follow my gut like I do now.

PEV: Any preshow rituals before going on stage or do you just wing it?

LR:  For a big show, I rehearse and rehearse and rehearse, and the when I get out there, I just wing it.  I like to have some quiet time before I go out there, but that’s usually not possible because I often play with a 9 person band, and we are always crammed into a green room together, and everyone is talking and laughing and being rowdy.  Usually, I can barely eat before I go on-stage, though I try to have a little something in my stomach -- one pre-show vodka drink is usually a really good idea to calm the nerves and soothe the voice.  Once I get out there, I am on Cloud Nine, and the time just flies by.  There’s nothing like it!

PEV: What was the underlining inspiration for your music? Where do get your best ideas for songs?

LR:  I write about feelings and events from my life, or the lives of those around me, whether real or imagined.  My best songs hit me like a thunderbolt, either a feeling that rocks me or haunts me or warms me; or a melody I can’t shake.  Sometimes I build a song around a melody.  Sometimes, a lyric barrels its way into my brain and the melody and song structure follow.  There’s no distinctive methodology to the songwriting – but the common thread is I write about the situations, fantasies, people, and feelings that matter to me.  My absolute best ideas have come when I wasn’t searching for an idea at all.  I wish I could order a song from my brain, but it doesn’t work that way for me.

PEV: Tell us about your sophomore album, “I’m Still Here”. What can fans expect from this work?

LR:  I love this album.  I am so proud of it!!!  The songs on this album are a full-blown celebration of life, love and music!  My lyrics are honest and real and raw and uninhibited.  Sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking, always real.  Every song, every line, every note – I feel like it is totally me.

PEV: You wrote all the songs for the album during and immediately following rigorous chemotherapy and radiation treatments for an aggressive form of breast cancer in 2009. How did that help shape your inspiration for the album?

LR:  I cannot emphasize enough how transforming my cancer treatments were for me as an artist, and as a person.  During chemo, I lost all my hair, and somehow that became symbolic for me – along with my hair, I lost all pretense, too.  The B.S. layers I’d been hauling around for many years fell off along with the hair, and I felt exposed and raw and vulnerable.  But in a good way.  During the months of chemo, I wrote only a handful of songs, but in the months immediately afterwards, when my hair started to grow back, and I started to have color in my cheeks again, I felt more creative than I’d ever felt in my whole life.  I was clearer about who I really am, what I want, what crap I’m willing to endure and what I’m not – and the songs just flooded me.  It was a beautiful time.  I was happy to be alive, and very honest about my feelings, dreams, and desires.  All of that comes out in this album.  I am so proud of it.  It perfectly captures every facet and shade of that period of time for me.  I absolutely love it.

PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about Laura Roppé?

LR:  I’m a total bad-ass.  You wouldn’t know it to look at me.  You would never guess it because I’m super nice and happy and good-natured.  But I’m just a total bad-ass.  Nothing deters me.  Nothing stops me. Nothing gets me down.  I will stop at nothing to achieve my goals.  I will stop at nothing to make my dreams a reality.  I will stop at nothing to make my time on this earth meaningful, worthwhile and also fun.   When I get a “no,” I say to myself “I’m gonna change his/her mind.”  And, by God, if it takes a year, two or three or whatever, I will lie in wait and not stop until I get where I am going.  I am freakishly patient.  But if you met me, you’d be surprised by this because I’m always laughing and having a good time, and you wouldn’t know that underneath that façade I’ve got balls of steel.

PEV: You’ve been called a “comeback kid” – a nice compliment. What can you tell other people wanting to make a comeback from any health or other life traumas?

LR:  That really is a nice compliment.  I would say, never, ever quit.  Never, ever stop dreaming – no matter what.  Never, ever be afraid to be authentic and embrace your true self.  The very thing that’s uncool about you, or not in fashion, or straight-up embarassing, is the very thing that makes you accessible and interesting in a world of same-same.  And know that dreams do not come on silver platters.  You have to work harder, longer, and more passionately than everyone else.  You have to believe in yourself, even if no one else does, and more than anyone else.  And, last but certainly not least, recognize the love and kindness you receive from others, give it back, and show your gratitude in word and deed.  I believe in karma big-time, so any comeback from adversity will involve integrity, kindness, and gratitude.

PEV: How have all your friends and family reacted to your career? What’s it like when you get to play at your hometown?

LR:  My friends and family are over the moon about all that is happening to me.  When I got sick (with cancer), a couple girlfriends put out the word that my family needed help with meals, etc. – my chemo was really tough -- and more than eighty people signed up to help us.  There were teddy bears on my front porch, and meatloaf, and flowers, and non-stop cards, emails and well-wishes.  My friends and family literally saved my life.  And now that I am all better and kicking ass, and living my dreams, each and every one of them is on this ride with me.  We all feel like it is happening to all of us together.  I feel unbridled, giddy, ecstatic love and support from a massive group of people who brought me back to life when I was at death’s doorstep.  We are celebrating!!!!!!!!!!

PEV: What can we find you doing in your spare time, aside from playing/writing music?

LR:  Writing a book.  My cousin Matthew Embree of Rx Bandits produced my new album (“I’m Still Here”), and we recorded around his touring schedule in 2010 which was unbelievably busy.  So, every time he went off for another leg of his tour, I jumped on the computer to write a book.  In 2010, almost all my spare time was spent either writing, recording or performing music, or writing my book.  I was just signed by a top literary agent, and she is submitting the book to publishers in early 2011, so I am excited about that. 

Other than that, you can always count on me spending time with my family (of course!), exercising, or taking my adorable dog for a walk.  I’m also a HUGE football fan, so during football season, I am pretty consumed with that – watching it, talking smack about it, having friends over to watch, reading about it, grieving the Chargers’ latest bumbling loss, stressing out about it, and most importantly, heckling my husband about his stupid fantasy football team.

PEV: If you weren’t playing music now what do you think you would be doing as your career?

LR:  I would be a writer, definitely. If I could be a sports commentator, like one of the women on the football sidelines on ESPN (and in the locker room!!!!!!!), that would be awesome.  But I know I wouldn’t take the time to actually pursue that, so I’m going with writer.

PEV: So, what is next for Laura Roppé?

LR:  How nice of you to ask. Well, world domination, of course.  If I get a book deal in 2011, as I’m hoping to, I am excited to be able to cross-promote the book and music together.  The book is about the music and cancer journey, so I’d like to cross-pollinate promotion, speaking engagements, and performances.  Also, my album “I’m Still Here” just came out, so I’m also going full steam ahead in 2011 to promote it in the U.S. and in Europe.  I’m really looking forward to that. Hell, I’m really looking forward to just waking up tomorrow morning!

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