Twenty three-year-old Aly Spaltro (a.k.a. Lady Lamb the Beekeeper) can wail. Like, really wail. Amidst songs full of melodic, folk-tinged pop, Spaltro's fiery growl catches you off-guard and shows the range of musicality the young performer possesses. The Brooklyn-by-way-of-Maine musician released her debut album, Ripely Pine, last week and will embark on tour next month (she'll be playing Brooklyn's Glasslands Gallery on Saturday, May 11). And, before you catch Spaltro in concert, watch the artist perform a few songs in the PAPER kitchen and read about her new album, how she got into music, and why lucid dreams ultimately led to her stage name.
Where did the name come from?
When I was 18 and started making music, I was so over-the-top inspired that I couldn't sleep and was recording all day long. But I was also drawing -- it was the most creative time in my life. I was having trouble sleeping I would write lyrics in my head and it would keep me up. I started keeping a notebook at the side of my bed, training myself to roll over in the middle of the night, write the lyrics, and fall back to sleep. At the same time, I was trying to learn how to lucid dream, which never quite worked, but the notebook was there for anything. Lady Lamb the Beekeeper was written in the notebook [one morning] when I woke up. It was in my messy cursive and it was at the exact time that I wanted to share the twelve songs I'd recorded. I wanted to put them at the counter of my local record store for free but because the town was so small, I didn't want it to get back to me -- that's why I wanted a moniker.
Tell us about your background. You grew up in Maine?
Yes. I didn't start making music until I was 18. I'm 23 now. I was going to go to art school in Chicago and after I got in, I immediately deferred. I thought I should take advantage of my year [at home] so I taught myself how to play guitar. I hadn't played or sung before.
I mostly learned by ear and taught myself different chords. I practiced for hours on rhythm and wrote little songs. I was so serious during that year playing music and so when it came time to go to school, I couldn't relate. It was so far from what I wanted to do. .
When was the first epiphany when you realized you could make a career out of it?
I think it was when I started to play proper shows and meet musicians. It just began to make sense and it wasn't a hard decision. At the moment, I thought, "I don't want to go to school -- I'm busy."
Tell us about your debut album.
It's called Ripely Pine and it's my first studio album. Everything I've ever made has been recorded by myself on my bed or in the basement. I layered everything myself [before] so this is my first proper recording with a band. I arranged [music] for strings, for bass and drums.
What inspires your songwriting? Do you usually write songs about your own life?
[Once] I tried to write fictional songs but I didn't connect to them as well. I'm the type of songwriter to write from experience and to write about what I know in my own life. A lot of the songs are full of longing and pining -- wanting something you can't have.
As a new artist, what have been some of the most memorable shows you've played?
One of the most monumental shows was when I went on a short tour with Beirut last year. I opened for them in my hometown of Portland, Maine at this placed called the State Theater, which is the venue where I saw my first show at. I had one of those moments onstage in this beautiful, giant theater and I'm looking out and it's 1800 people and I recognized a bunch of people. I remembered when I was 14 and saw shows there and never would have dreamt I'd be up there.
Where have been some of your favorite tour stops?
I loved Canada -- we went all over Canada -- but aside from that, for some reason I really loved Iowa. Maybe partly why I was drawn to it was that the theater was beautiful and had these beautiful purple seats and my last record cover featured a purple chair that I drew.
Where would you like to see your music going?
I have trouble with that question. I've thought about that before, like, "What's my five-year plan? Where do I want to be?" but I don't know. I'm trying to be present and music is my whole life so all I want to be doing is making records and playing shows and that might mean playing bigger shows or eventually I want to have my own band. I'm not quite there yet but I'm happy being solo.