Laura Mustard has the rare ability to become your friend before she even speaks a word.
Fresh-faced, clad in a long-sleeved button-down, and smiling broadly, Mustard looks every bit the burgeoning Nashville songwriter, radiating a quiet but palpable charm that immediately draws you into her. Humble through and through, she doesn’t speak a word about the array of instruments behind her, even though the multi-talented singer-songwriter features each and every one in her sophomore EP, Treehouse, which is slated for release this September. Mustard, did, however, speak profoundly about self-acceptance, body positivity, and personal growth, all of which have influenced her upcoming EP and will continue to inspire indie music devotees.
1. Hi, Laura! It’s nice to meet you. Tell me a little bit about yourself and your sophomore EP, Treehouse.
“I’m from Connecticut originally but now live in Nashville. When I was 6, I read the “Goosebumps” book Pianos Can Be Murder, and I started begging my mom for a piano. In high school, I played percussion… Singing in high school led me to doing open mics in college and joining two bands, Stillbridge and Silvertone 5 [where I played drums, piano, and keyboard and performed vocals]. Then I went to Nashville on vacation, fell in love with the songwriting community, and decided to move there. Since then, I’ve been songwriting and releasing EPs, [including] Treehouse. Treehouse is about self-acceptance and each song on the EP addresses that idea from a different angle.”
2. What are some of your biggest musical inspirations behind Treehouse?
“I grew up listening to a lot of Gavin DeGraw, John Mayer, and Sam Cook, but lately, [I’ve] been getting more into Bluegrass and Folk, listening to Railroad Earth and Green Sky Blue Grass. [My favorite folk and bluegrass groups] inspired Treehouse.”
3. Treehouse has been described as “a fresh collection of songs about the journey to self-acceptance.” How have you grown in self-acceptance throughout your life?
“It definitely has been a big journey from not talking about [my struggles to being open about them].
Part of it [was] getting to know [myself]… the good things about [me] and also [my] pitfalls…. I [did] years of quiet introspection and reading and meditating that helped me love myself.
I think the first time I talked about the medical stuff in elementary school and middle school, there was a negative response, but as I got older, I learned that I shouldn’t care what anybody thinks. I learned to kind of override that [self-doubt] and speak up.”
4. Your music video for Treehouse’s lead single, “Nobody’s Road” includes shots of the medical supplies you use, and you’ve shared that this is your first time publicly talking about your medical history through your music. What influenced your decision to speak up about your medical life and include it in your work?
“Growing up, I didn’t really talk about [my medical history] with anyone outside of my family. [Now], I’m trying to break down that instinct. And because this is a new album with more emotion, I think that [being vocal and vulnerable about it] is… a good direction to go in.
“Nobody’s Road” is an autobiographical song, and [my medical devices] were such a big part of my life [that] it sort of felt disingenuous to leave [them] out. I had a second of hesitation about whether or not I want to be honest about it, but I thought it was important… for people with catheters and urinary issues… to see those things on screen and know they aren’t alone.”
5. Your vulnerability in your music is compelling and highly relatable. What advice do you have for people who want to remain open about their struggles but have difficulty speaking up?
“…Journal about [them], and get to know yourself. Once you write about [your struggles], it’s easier to speak up about [them] and share. Knowing that you’re [perfect the way you are] but also knowing where you can improve too [is also key to sharing more about yourself].
6. You’ve established yourself as a champion of self-love and body positivity. What would you want people struggling to love themselves to hear when they listen to Treehouse?
“There is [usually] a struggle [to love yourself, and [my EP] Treehouse captures that struggle in different ways. The song “Treehouse” is about escaping and avoiding [the struggle to love yourself, while] the song “Eager” is about laughing… at your flaws and… mistakes and not tak[ing them] seriously. It’s very tongue-in-cheek [and is about]… making friends with yourself, [which] I hope other people can do… too. And “Nobody’s Road” is more about how everybody [struggles with something]. It makes me [love myself], and I hope it makes other people [love themselves] too.”
7. How does your sophomore EP, Treehouse compare musically to your debut EP, Ramble On?
“[When I wrote] Ramble On, I’d been living in Massachusetts for 5 years playing open mics, so I could test [my songs] out on audiences. But… I haven’t shown too much [of Treehouse] to the world. This is also the first EP on which I’ve used co-writers, both of whom live in the Nashville area. Ramble On was a little more cohesive because I wrote all those songs on my own, [while] this EP has more of a country feel [with some Motown and folk influences].”
8. How have you grown musically and personally since you released your first EP, and how does that growth translate into Treehouse?
“For one thing, I was [working towards] getting to the self-acceptance, journaling and meditat[ing] and [learning] Buddhist teachings when Ramble On came out. But now, moving to Nashville and having that independence was a big step towards self-acceptance. And also, speaking up about my medical history helped me accept myself.
Musically, I got more comfortable with co-writing, and now that I’ve been doing that for a few years, I feel comfortable putting [my songs] out with the other co-writers in Nashville. We [all] had a lot of fun in the studio producing Treehouse. There was a tin can phone and a glockenspiel involved, and we really got into it.”
9. As a pop-folk singer-songwriter, you release music with a distinct sound that’s often missing from the pop world. How does your music stand out from the songs that other artists are producing today?
“It’s [been] interesting to watch pop change over time, to see pop become influenced by rap and hip hop and R&B. Even country has become more of what pop used to be. My music has a more acoustic feel [than most Top 40 songs], so it’s a sound that you don’t usually hear on pop radio. [That type of sound] is missing from th[e] pop space.”
10. We’re currently living in some frightening, uncertain times. How do the themes in Treehouse tie into the current state of the world? Why is this a message that we need to hear now?
“The Treehouse EP is very positive, which is helpful when we’re going through times like [these]. The song “Treehouse” in particular is about escape, so it can help other people get away from what’s going on in the world and find self-acceptance. Sometimes I [even] listen to my own songs during this time [to escape!]”
As our interview drew to a close, Laura smiled warmly, thanking me for my time with the same bright demeanor she possessed from the moment I first (virtually) met her. It’s clear that in the Nashville indie scene, Laura Mustard has it all — talent, poise, and vision — and she’s certainly a force to be reckoned with.
Featured Photo via lauramustard.