Maude Latour

by Corey O'Flanagan

Big on Spotify, where she made the Indie Pop and Fresh Finds playlists, Maude Latour talks about her stacked harmonies and extremely personal breakup songs.



She'll stack a cappella harmonies and sing about just maybe being in love with her best friend. There's nothing conventional about Maude Latour, so it's not surprising she learned music though an unconventional method. When she was in Hong Kong, the world-traveling Latour studied the Suzuki Method, an immersive program where she learned how to listen to music before learning how to read it.

Latour has lived in Hong Kong, Sweden, London, and now New York City, where she's a student at Columbia University. Her worldly ways and penchant for journaling make her a formidable lyricist; she's been known to use her powers in songs about ex-boyfriends, including one with a chorus she wrote in the middle of a fight.

In this episode of the Songfacts Podcast, Maude tells the tales of some of those ex-boyfriend interactions that led to songs, explains the Suzuki Method, and talks about balancing her Ivy League education with her music.


Nomadic Upbringing

I loved growing up in various countries. If I have kids, I really hope to give them a similar experience. I think moving around is really healthy. I'm so glad I got to call Hong Kong home - it has a really cool community and is just such a beautiful city.

Growing up in this way enabled me to know what my passion was. I always knew I liked music as a kid, but I think that moving so often really gave me that extra push to find music in each new place. I would always join the choir or find the "music people," and this social circle became my automatic home everywhere I went.

I'm also not a person with a lot of fears and I think this lack of fear of being vulnerable or sharing music has helped me to be a confident performer. I'm sure it's helped me with that whole philosophy of music, which is to have your walls down and show the true essence of your person.


Musical Education

I grew up playing violin. I actually studied Suzuki, which is a Japanese style of learning where you rely on playing by ear. You really aren't encouraged to read music, but to listen and learn that way.

Learning music through the repetition of listening has definitely shaped my ear. It really made me zoom in on that sense of hearing and listening to what was happening within the sounds.

I played violin for 10 years, but a few years after I began, I started begging to learn how to sing. After performing in a second grade talent show, I joined the choir and traveled throughout Asia singing choir. When I got back to the US, I joined an a cappella group with some friends. We would do Pitch Perfect-style covers and would busk and sing on subways.

I'm also self-taught on guitar and piano, and in 10th grade I started writing songs.


"Starsick"

I still don't know a thing about love. My ex-boyfriend used to cite that line all the time.

[I get a little starsick
When we talk about love
'Cause I don't know a thing about love
]

"Starsick" kicked off the moment of music where I feel like I have finally unlocked the sound I was looking for, and that has set me on a path.

"Starsick" is a word I made up while I was at Joshua Tree. A friend and I were lying on the roof of a car, and we were staring at the sky of infinite stars. That word for me just means being drunk on the vastness of the universe. Drunk on black holes and on your insignificance.

This song was written for my best friend's birthday and that is why I say "happy birthday" in the second verse. She and I are very close. It's about how blurred the lines can become between love and friendship and what do you do if you feel like you could marry your best friend. No matter who I have dated, I have always ended up coming back to my best friend, so why would I not just choose my best friend? It's about being confused about love in that regard. Even now, I'm confused if I love my best friend or if i'm in love with her.


Her Signature Sound

The defining things about my sound are the a cappella harmony vocal stacks on everything. It's a Beach Boys/Queen influence and also an influence from my a cappella group.

Discovering harmony was the first thing that made my hair stand up on my arms, so I definitely want to have a choir on every song. I feel like I'm moving towards that place, where a cappella harmony stacks are going to be my signature sound.

My skill set is definitely to be the composer. I always make choir parts. I did that throughout quarantine. Arranging vocals like that is my favorite thing to do.


Writing

Both my parents are journalists and I think that has had an influence on me. I have kept a journal since first grade - I'm a religious journaler. I have written down every single thought I've ever had. I think songwriting is an evolution of journal writing.

One of the ways I write lyrics is by writing poetry first. I call it "spam poetry," kind of stream-of-consciousness where there's lines after lines and then afterwards I can go back and find my favorite lines. Then eventually a song gets forced out.

I love collecting sentences, so when I'm writing a song, I'm often pulling from a bank of sentences that I have already written down in my journal at some point.


Lorde Lyric Love

There's a lot of songs by the artist Lorde that have tiny lines that have stuck with me forever. I love overly detailed songs - I want as many details as possible bubbling out of my mouth. That's my dream sound bite.

My song "Superfruit" is actually based on the song "400 Lux" by Lorde. "You buy me orange juice, we're getting good at this" is my favorite line of that song.

I read a great book called How To Steal Like An Artist. It's about taking tiny details from work that you love and making it your own.


OCD

I have obsessive compulsive disorder and it comes out in the manic way of talking really fast. I do use writing and music to help funnel it.

I realized a few years ago that my anxiety would always be so much better if I had a notebook with me. In the middle of conversations, I would write down the other things I was thinking so I could focus on the conversation. I just want to punch a hole and let the water spill out. This is how writing makes me feel.

I have voice memos and notes going all the time and I feel that as long as these words are coming out of my head, I won't feel overwhelmed by them.


"Block Your Number"

With this song, there's so much packed into it, I was concerned that people wouldn't catch all of the details. My goal is to earn an audience that will analyze every word, to earn an audience that will treat my music like poetry, annotate it, and find every secret.

The chorus was a voice memo from when I was in the middle of an argument. We were breaking up, and I said, "Hold on, stay right there." He was like, "Oh God, I know this is going to be a song." I said, "Yes, it will."

I don't think I've written a nice love song about any of the people I have been with, but the breakup songs are still flattering. Two days ago I asked someone to be my boyfriend and he said no because he didn't want to have to listen to the breakup songs.

I do feel kind of bad for my ex now. The lyrics are so immortalized and so personal and are of me speaking directly to him. Of course his new girlfriend hates me, but what else can you do? I own my life story and this is my way of getting closure. It's so meaningful for me and I get to write the chapters of my life.


Live Gigs

I would literally do anything to be on stage. Before quarantine, I did a bunch of shows in New York, and being on stage was such a life-giving source for me. Watching the shows grow was really amazing. A turning point for me was during one of those live shows when I was doing the outro for "Starsick." I heard the whole room singing along with me and I could not believe they all knew the words.

Since then I have put out so much new music, and I can't wait to perform those songs live. They are going to be so much fun to perform, especially "Block Your Number." My shows are totally mosh pit vibes and I can't wait to be in a sweaty room, dancing out of breath to my new songs.


If She Could Only Listen To One Band

The Strokes.


Song You Wish You'd Written

Camila Cabello. [sings, quite well] It's you, babe, and I'm a sucker for the way that you move, babe.

It's called "Never Be The Same." Just a great pop melody.


Balancing Columbia And Music

In that same book I referenced earlier [How To Steal Like An Artist], it gives some great advice: Never sacrifice one of your passions. Do all of them.

I have always felt so much pressure from my management, labels, and the industry to drop out of school. There's a lot of pressure to show that I'm fully dedicated, but I need both of these parts of my life to be a complete person. I always prioritize music, which makes me come to school for pure educational pleasure. Having both of these things in my life lets me take what I want out of both of them. I don't complain about school ever because I'm actively choosing that. I'm so grateful for school and I try to make the most out of it.

November 11, 2020

Subscribe to the Songfacts podcast, part of the Pantheon Network

Check out Maude's music on Spotify

More Songfacts Podcast

Comments

Be the first to comment...

Editor's Picks

Penny Ford of Snap!

Penny Ford of Snap!Songwriter Interviews

The original voice of Snap!, this story is filled with angry drag queens, video impersonators and Chaka Khan.

Ian Astbury of The Cult

Ian Astbury of The CultSongwriter Interviews

The Cult frontman tells who the "Fire Woman" is, and talks about performing with the new version of The Doors.

Oliver Leiber

Oliver LeiberSongwriter Interviews

Long before she was judging contestants on American Idol, Oliver was producing Paula Abdul. Here's how he helped turn this unknown choreographer into a star.

John Parr

John ParrSongwriter Interviews

John tells the "St. Elmo's Fire (Man In Motion)" story and explains why he disappeared for so long.

Ron and Russell Mael of Sparks

Ron and Russell Mael of SparksSongwriter Interviews

The men of Sparks on their album Hippopotamus, and how Morrissey handled it when they suggested he lighten up.

David Bowie Leads the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Long-Haired Men

David Bowie Leads the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Long-Haired MenSong Writing

Bowie's "activist" days of 1964 led to Ziggy Stardust.