“I’ve always been led by circumstance and accident with music,” Australian singer-songwriter Laura Jean tells Apple Music. As evidence, the artist born Laura Jean Englert points to 2018’s synth-heavy Devotion, which was written on a keyboard a friend found on the street. Follow-up album Amateurs, her sixth, was penned on her mother’s piano and Englert’s old acoustic guitar, which explains the record’s return to her more folk-indebted roots, albeit with lavish and lovingly crafted string arrangements. Thematically the LP is a multidimensional affair, rich with characters and situations from Englert’s life, tied together by one central concept. “The album’s really about being an artist in Australia, a mid-career artist, and the way artists feel in Australia about their practice. So Amateurs is like the eternal amateur of the Australian artist. Because of our small population it’s very rare for any of us to make a living from it, which is fine. But it means that you always feel like it’s a hobby. I was talking to a friend about how the word ‘amateur’ means to do something for love, and it’s funny how that’s an insult in our culture. If you do something not for money, you must be shit at it. That’s pretty depressing.” To go deeper into the themes of Amateurs, read Englert’s track-by-track explanation. “Teenager Again” “The way it ties into the Amateurs theme is, it was me as a young person realizing that I needed help. I wasn’t very well, and me and my mum were quite naive in how we tried to help me. It was the late ’90s and New Age stuff was going off and my mum was really into it, so I did go to a psychic and she did tell me those things [in the song Laura sings that a psychic told her ‘I was an Aztec and I was sacrificed’]. It’s the setting for the album, which is someone who is trying their best even though they’re somewhat naive in their skill.” “Amateurs” “When I toured with Courtney Barnett in 2018 as a support act, I started to feel like a clown, like I was a jester. I was playing Devotion on this drum machine sequencer kind of thing. Some of Courtney’s audience were rock fans [and] were like, ‘Why is this woman getting up there and singing “Girls on the TV” with this weird robot orchestra?’ So that’s why I felt like a bit of a funny clown. I think I relate more to being a sad clown than I do being a musician.” “Too Much to Do” “I wrote that one on mum’s piano. It was probably just because I was trying to study law full-time and work and write songs and I was feeling a bit overwhelmed. So as always I just started making fun of myself and the idea of songwriting being a spiritual practice, this kind of devotional practice. So it’s a whole thing of being a nun, and songwriting is my prayer. It’s making fun of how seriously I take it sometimes.” “Folk Festival” “That’s just about playing at a folk festival in the Northern Rivers. I was playing that same set [from her Courtney Barnett support] and still felt that people were like, ‘Is she an amateur? Who is this person?’ I was just thinking about how different generations listen to music. And feeling like someone who doesn’t quite fit in to the expectations of any generation, or at least not the baby boomers or the Gen Zs.” “Market on the Sand” “I was pretty depressed and mum was trying to cheer me up and she was like, ‘Let’s go to this market down at Avoca Beach,’ ’cause I grew up on the [New South Wales] Central Coast. So we went down to this market and it didn’t have any sense of place. I find it hard to enjoy anything that doesn’t have a sense of place, of locality. And that’s why I talk about that girl singing Crowded House, and why are you singing ‘Four Seasons in One Day’? We’re on the Central Coast, there’s only one season here. Why don’t we sing about who we are and where we live? It’s that tension between the excellent side of globalization with the side of it that destroys locality.” “Pauly” “This is really about motherhood and the idea of motherhood passing you by, and near misses with motherhood. I needed to come in the side door because I didn’t want to write about it in a direct way. I just started writing about this story that my boyfriend told me about this parrot that he found. I think the elements that I took were the near miss of owning that parrot in the first verse—we almost had that parrot, that person. And then the next verse is me addressing the parrot, saying, ‘I could have had you but you didn’t want to come.’ So it’s really about pregnancy.” “Rainbow Club” “It’s about similar stuff [to ‘Pauly’]. Those two songs are really about close calls with motherhood and the way it made me feel and what it made me think about. They’re pretty abstract, and I don’t know if anyone will understand what they’re about without instruction. But I hope it comes across, ’cause they’re not the easiest songs on the album.” “Rock’n’Roll Holiday” “It’s a pretty complicated song. It’s not exactly about my situation, but it is about inter-class relationships in life and my attitude to being an artist and how my working-class upbringing affects that. And [it’s about] my family tree and my lineage, my grandparents, and how I kind of carry them with me when I’m writing songs, and how I’m grateful to do this because my predecessors wouldn’t have been able to do this. I’m not on a rock ’n’ roll holiday, this is serious!” “A Funny Thing Happened” “Mum used to love trying to get into amateur musical theater when I was a kid. She never really got a main part, but she always got in the chorus, so we went to a lot of musical theater when I was growing up. It’s just a tribute to that and wondering if the dream I had of being a songwriter and singer was more her dream or my dream, and wondering how that works with what parents pass to their children—do they also pass their unfulfilled dreams? It’s kind of asking that question.” “Something To Look Forward To Forever” “A teenager is the ultimate amateur; an amateur at being a person. You feel so much magic when you’re a kid and a teenager, and I thought, why is that? And I realized it was potentiality. I think the idea that potentiality is magic ties in with the whole amateur theme of not having to make it, not having to arrive. The point of my music is not to finish, it’s to keep going until I’m dead. Something to look forward to forever, something to always go towards, and that’s magic to me. That is the true happiness and excitement of life and being an artist. That’s a little message I wanted to send at the end there.”

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