On the first song from her debut album, Montreal singer-songwriter Lauren Spear, aka Le Ren, presents the listener with some handy instructions. “Just listen to a stillness of the stirring from within,” she sings on “Take on Me”—which is definitely not an a-ha cover, but rather the perfect introduction to a record that is deceptively simple and serene on the surface yet dredges up all sorts of raw emotions. On Leftovers, Spear soothes those uneasy feelings—heartbreak, missing your mom, long-distance relationship frustrations—with a comforting sound that threads the needle through classic country and bluegrass, ’60s psych-folk whimsy, and Mazzy Star-style reveries. But if Leftovers boasts a spare, old-timey aesthetic, the LP is very much the product of modern circumstance. While pandemic lockdowns forced Spear and producer Chris Cohen to record in isolation in Oregon, the record’s stellar supporting cast—including Big Thief guitarist Buck Meek, Tenci, and Kaia Kater—contributed their parts remotely, rendering Leftovers as a hootenanny conducted over Zoom. “It was kind of like this ongoing musical collage,” Spear tells Apple Music. “Because people weren’t in the room with us, we couldn’t try things out live, so we’d just get people’s sessions back and then piece them together. It was a very strange way to collaborate, but also a really beautiful process because I got to work with people from all over North America, including some people I’ve never met.” Here, Spear offers a track-by-track guide to Leftovers’ buffet of keepers. “Take on Me” “Musically, this song always felt like an opener. You know how at the beginning of Shakespeare plays, there’s that opening monologue where one person comes out and sets the scene? Like in Hamlet, they foreshadow all the deaths and get you in the mood for what’s about to take place. This song always felt like that character to me. It's kind of like a welcoming of sorts. But the actual lyrical content was written for an ex-partner after we had parted ways. It’s supposed to be about finding a new form of love between us and changing from romantic love to a friendship. So, it’s an acknowledgment of that change. But when I wrote ‘Take on Me,’ I was not thinking of [a-ha’s namesake 1985 synth-pop classic] at all. My friend Eliza Niemi, who plays on the record, brought that up way after the fact, and I was like, ‘Oh my god, that is horrendous!’ I love that song, but it’s just so sonically different. It’s very funny.” “Dyan” “This was written during the pandemic for my mother. I was in Montreal, and she was on Bowen Island [in British Columbia], so we were separated. That’s how we’ve lived for the past nine years. I’ve been in Montreal, and that distance always seems so far—Canada is such a big country and going from the West Coast to Montreal is no joke. But during the pandemic, I was just really feeling the distance and thinking about her. She’s just this incredible light—she’s so charismatic and so lovely, and everyone who knows her loves her. I was thinking a lot about songs that were love songs but not romantic love songs. I find it very easy to write about my romantic partners, because there’s just so much emotion and feeling there. But this was definitely a choice to write about my mom and write about a different kind of love. I sent the song to her on Mother’s Day and my sisters and my dad were with her, so they reported back that she had cried—which is perfect. It’s exactly what I wanted!” “Was I Not Enough?” “Mostly, I write from my own experience, but with this song, I wanted to just write to write and see what that felt like. I was listening to Skeeter Davis a lot and she has this song called ‘Am I That Easy to Forget.’ There’s so many country songs I love that have this simple statement that is so cutting. You might hear that in passing, but when somebody makes that the thesis of their song, you’re like, ‘Whoa, that is really heavy.’ So, I wanted to write something with that sentiment, and I thought ‘Was I Not Enough?’ did it.” “I Already Love You” “I was home [on Bowen Island] when I wrote this, so I was definitely thinking about parenting, because I was around my parents. I just have no idea what [parenting] feels like, and what that kind of love is, because it is so distinct. And it is something that I potentially want for myself one day. I write a lot about love, and different forms of love, and so I thought it would just be interesting to think about the future and think about that feeling that is coming towards me but hasn’t arrived yet.” “Who’s Going to Hold Me Next?” “This was very much written during a time where I was like, ‘I’m single! This is great! Maybe this is my life now!’ Classically, I’ve been in long-term relationships, and I really haven’t played the single game at all. But this was written during that time where I was like, ‘OK, sure. Maybe I can get used to this.’ It didn’t last long, I will say. But I got a song out of it.” “Your Cup” “There’s this poet, Susan Alexander, who’s from Bowen Island, where I grew up, and who I really look up to. And she told me that every line counts and don’t waste a line—no line has to be a throwaway or just something to rhyme. So, with this song, I feel like I spent the most time actually writing and paying attention to that and making sure all of my ideas were in one place. I feel most proud of the writing for this one.” “Annabelle & MaryAnne” (feat. Tenci) “Tenci and I were kind of internet friends for a year, and we wrote each other letters. I just love their record, My Heart Is an Open Field, so much. And it was just so sweet that they agreed to feature on this. The song was written for one of my best friends, and the characters are supposed to be me and my friend singing to each other, so it was nice to have Tenci step into that role. They were in Chicago when they recorded it, and I was in Oregon, so it was funny to do it that way, but it ended up sounding how I wanted, so I’m happy with it.” “Willow” “This one is the oldest track on the record. I probably wrote it three years ago, and it was during a time when I was entering into a new relationship and feeling freaked out about getting hurt. But I like this song because it starts with that feeling, and then ends by turning to the other person and being like, ‘I understand you’ve also experienced this, and I don’t want to hurt you either.’ I like songs that add something new at the end. Because this record was written over a span of time, the writing is really different song to song. So, with this one, I was definitely in a phase of strictly sticking to bluegrass/country structure, which I love. I feel very safe writing in that way because it’s so predictable. Once you have a thesis—like a chorus—then you can build out a story around it, and it’s fun when you get something that lands.” “Friends Are Miracles” “This is an older one as well. It was written in my earlier twenties, when I was just thinking about how hard everyone was hustling. My friend, who’s a poet, was working this shitty service job and everyone was just trying to make ends meet. Most of my friends are artists who live here and they’re just trying to make money by doing whatever they can and then doing their actual calling on the side. So, this song was about recognizing that and celebrating the hard work. It’s a love letter to my friend group.” “May Hard Times Pass Us By” “This was written very specifically for my partner. I write many songs as journal entries, and so a lot of them aren’t meant to be shared. And this one was very personal—it was like my way of extending myself to my partner. We’re in a long-distance relationship, and we were dating over the pandemic, and our communication was off, and it was feeling really heavy. He’s American and I’m Canadian, and the borders were closed. It was a really, really tough time, so I wrote this song during that moment. I felt pretty conflicted about adding this to the mix, just because it did feel so personal. But he’s also a musician and a songwriter, and we’ve written pretty extensively about our relationship. So, we’ve just agreed that if something feels good, then release it. But he’s been doing it longer than me, so I think he can feel more detached to some of the music than I can. I still feel very, very delicate and emotional and sensitive around my songs. But I’m learning to understand that relationship a bit more and realize that once the song has exited your body, it kind of changes shape.”

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