Before Georgia native Lara Oshon found a home for her free spirit as a singer-songwriter in LA, she lived out a few different lives first. Having once been a basketball player, a web designer, and a Spanish interpreter during various points of her life; Lara has no limit to what she can do, and she still isn’t finished. However, they say everything happens for a reason, and Lara found hers in the secret chords of her first song, “Fly.”
Lara’s music has been compared to Karen Carpenter and Carole King for having been able to successfully capture those magic vibes of the 1970’s while also maintaining her own modern feel. Her new single, “Phoenix Rising,” out November 7, sends a message of resilience which was inspired by her own struggles to break free of what no longer suited her and how important it is to be able to get back up.
Lara sat down for Inspirer to discuss her new single, the inspiration behind her “Rise Up” t-shirt, and what it means to be able to share her passions for others to enjoy.
From being a basketball player in Australia to a children’s adoption social worker, just to highlight a few of your accomplishments, you seem to have such an interesting life, what was it that finally inspired you to pursue music?
I studied piano and loved it as a private creative outlet, but writing, singing, and performing were never on my radar. The first time I unexpectedly wrote a song was a total surprise, and quite honestly terrified me because I had no idea how to sing. I didn’t tell anyone about it while I secretly wrote an arrangement on the piano, but I still didn’t know how I could possibly sing it. (That first song is called “Fly.”) It took a year’s buildup of internal pressure and some extremely supportive friends to get me to do my first concert. And in the middle of that experience of performing my own songs, I knew I had found my place. Even though I was terrified, I felt like I’d finally come home. Once I opened the door music and art started pouring out.
As a singer-songwriter especially, which artists inspire you? Even growing up, who did you listen to?
I grew up listening to my parents’ old records of The Carpenters, Andy Williams, The Lettermen, Johnny Mathis, Helen Reddy, Roger Whitaker – these beautiful voices with very simple arrangements, pure vocals and harmonies, and warm live production. This has definitely impacted how I approach arranging and recording my songs. Karen Carpenter was my favorite singer as a young girl. Her voice was so deep, rich and melancholy. Living in Atlanta in the 90s when hip-hop and R&B were exploding gave me a deep appreciation for groove, textures and heavy beats. After moving to California, my favorite female singer-songwriters were Sarah MacLachlan and Sara Bareilles, who have influenced my music as well. I love music that is lyrically driven, that speaks to me in an authentic way. I am inspired by artists who are emotionally vulnerable while also giving me some groove!
What’s the songwriting process like for you? It’s always fascinating to hear how writers go about their process. You almost always learn something new.
I don’t know if I have a defined process other than being available and listening. Songs seem to happen to me when they’re ready, many times when my mind is occupied with something else – like when I’m driving or out walking. Sometimes they happen when I’m writing in my journal, which is something I do a lot. Usually, all of the lyrics come fully together, and I’ll hear the melody in my head as they come. The lyrics typically come quickly, it’s the arranging that takes me a while. Sitting down at the piano and working out the chord structure and composition takes more time and discipline.
Your new single, “Phoenix Rising,” has a very powerful message about breaking free from struggle, can you tell us a little bit about it and what it meant for you?
When I wrote Phoenix Rising I was going through a difficult transition, feeling stuck, lost, and with no idea how to move forward. The song was born from this feeling of being trapped inside a shape that no longer fit me, and struggling to break free from it. I think this is the normal process of growth and change, but when it’s happening to you it can feel very painful. I wanted to burn down everything that was holding me back and start fresh, and singing this song gave me a great feeling of release and relief.
This message is important to me because life is constant change, wanted or unwanted. We all need to remind each other that the extremely difficult stuff is just part of living, and that we can rise up again even stronger. We can learn how to be with our pain, our darkness, and trust that something greater is happening around us if we can stay open. This is the metaphor of the phoenix rising from the ashes. Phoenix Rising is an anthem song of rising up, again and again.
There’s also a music video – is there anything you can tell us about it? And when will both be released?
Yes! This is my first official music video and I’m very excited about it! For years I have wanted to create a visual story to compliment my songs, and in particular, I have wanted to use a dancer to help tell that story. After I recorded Phoenix Rising a year ago, I felt strongly that I wanted to release it with a video so I approached my close friend Nathan Prevost, who is a dancer/choreographer/director. I played him the song and he had a very strong emotional response to it, immediately coming up with ideas about how to help me create a video featuring a female dancer. We interviewed numerous dancers before selecting Ayesha Orange, and then hired a production team that also happen to be professional dancers and choreographers. This was important to me in that they understood all the elements I was incorporating, and could also edit the video with a trained dancer’s eye and understanding of synchronizing beats. The result is different than what I expected, which is always how creative projects work, and I am SO happy with it. I can’t wait for people to have a chance to watch it on my YouTube channel
Aside from the release of your new single and music video, you’ve also created the “Rise Up” t-shirt. What motivated this? What is the message behind it?
After I started the video project for “Phoenix Rising,” things started escalating in our world in a way that felt alarming – natural disasters, mass shootings, political outrage, environmental alarm, racial violence, refugee crises, and on and on. I wanted to do something practical but felt helpless about how to contribute. I came up with the idea of the “Rise Up” t-shirt campaign as a call to action, a reminder that we all can do something in our immediate environment. The tagline is “Listen In, Speak Out, Rise Up.” We can each stay awake and aware of what is going on in our own minds and with the people around us, and do something small each day to be a beneficial presence in the world. We can all contribute toward creating a culture of peace.
50% of the profits go to 5 separate non-profit organizations ranging from animal rescue to helping transform the lives of individuals who have been previously incarcerated – do all of these organizations hold space in your heart?
Yes, all these issues are very important to me, although I have more personal experience with some of the organizations than others. I have volunteered with Step Up here in Los Angeles and was so impressed by the effectiveness of the work they’re doing with teenage girls, and the high caliber of their staff and volunteers. I actually just spent all of last weekend in a volunteer training for the Freedom to Choose Project. This will allow me to go into the prisons they work in to participate in their compassion communication workshops with the inmates. It is extremely inspiring and transformative work, and I’m very excited to be part of it. Best Friends is a favorite of mine for the work they do with rescue animals, and specifically right now with animals affected by the recent hurricanes. The Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research is one that I recently discovered as I was doing my own research about gun violence and how I could contribute. Similarly, I found Americares as an incredible organization providing health-focused global aid. I wanted to touch on a wide range of issues that matter to me, and support reputable organizations who are truly making a positive difference in those areas.
Where can readers find these shirts?
They are for sale on my website laraoshon.com.
Do you have any advice about pursuing your passions?
Someone told me a long time ago that our gifts are not about us, so if you hide or ignore your gifts you’re withholding something of value from others. It helps me to think about it that way – we all have gifts and talents and passions, and if we can create a little space between who we are and what we do, it allows us to view those gifts as something of value to be offered freely and without fear. I measure success by how actively I am engaging with my passions and doing everything I can to offer them to others. The results of this pursuit really aren’t up to me. So I think getting out of your own way and just going for it is the most basic advice I can give.
What’s next for Lara Oshon? What are your plans? Any other projects?
I’m eager to continue working on my next album, and am in the process of putting the right people together and selecting the songs to include. I will, of course, continue to do live shows, and hope to create more time and space to paint and do some exhibits with my art. One of my favorite things is to create an experience that combines live music with art, so I’d love to find a venue that could host a concert and art exhibit.