Molly McLaughlin describes the creation of her first album, A Beautiful Dying, as an experience of moving through grief. As she puts it, "Grief is brutal and exhausting but it reveals truth if you let it. I needed to step into creating my own music and share my experiences with death and dying. By connecting with other people who are on their own healing path, my heart has healed little by little." The songs McLaughlin wrote were inspired by the passing of her mother to cancer in 2014 and reflect a deep affinity for Irish folk music. We are grateful to share an interview with Molly McLaughlin on this new album, as well as her book and music recommendations.
Please introduce yourself. Besides music, what other projects are you involved with?
Hello! I'm a musician and yogi in Kansas City. I make a living playing music, teaching music, and teaching yoga. I grew up in Massachusetts, went to grad school in California, and have lived in KC for about five years. I play regularly with my Irish band, Into the Sun.
Your first album, A Beautiful Dying, was inspired by the passing of your mother to cancer in 2014. Can you delve into how writing and creating this music was part of your healing process?
My mother was an incredibly beautiful soul and stood strong in support of my career path as a musician. She was at every concert and every recital. Mom was sick with cancer for four years. The sicker she got, the less I wanted to play music. It was too painful, too interwoven with her love. When Mom passed, it became clear that music was the only way I could truly honor her. Creating 'A Beautiful Dying' was a lot of "firsts" for me: the first time I wrote songs, lead a band, organized a concert, went through the recording process, and received a grant. It was a lot of work and a lot of learning and it helped me move through my grief. Grief is brutal and exhausting but it reveals truth if you let it. I needed to step into creating my own music and share my experiences with death and dying. By connecting with other people who are on their own healing path, my heart has healed little by little.
What were some of the unexpected challenges you encountered while making A Beautiful Dying?
Ha...well, when I realized I wanted to create this project I knew I needed to be by myself for a chunk of time to focus on my work. I was offered a two month stay at a phenomenal farmhouse built in 1860 on the coast of Maine. My family still lives in New England and I decided to sell my things, pack my car, and move back east. I spent two months in Maine, writing, journaling, practicing music and yoga, and hiking Acadia National Park. It was incredible. My mom and I had spent lots of time together in Maine and being by the ocean connected me to her Spirit. When the two months were up, I had a rough idea of what the album would be. Then I realized that the musicians I wanted to work with all lived in...Kansas City! So I packed my car and drove west. It was a lot of driving and a lot of moving but things fell into place relatively easily. My cat may tell you a different story.
What may surprise a listener about how you write your music?
A lot of my material comes from my dreams. I need dreams to process what is happening in the waking world and I always keep a dream journal next to my bed. I have a lucid dreaming practice and have received specific pieces of information over the years. There is a lyric in my song, 'No End', "Let go into the blue" which came directly from a lucid dream I had in which I asked to know how Mom doing was after she passed. I was shown a beautiful translucent female figure surrounded in blue. She was happy as she dissolved into the sea. Different people have different ways of *seeing* and mine is through dreaming.
What inspires you about original music in Kansas City?
I ended up moving to KC on a complete whim. I had been driving back and forth across the country trying to decide on a place to live after grad school. I visited a friend in Kansas City and liked it immediately. I didn't have anywhere else to be so I got an apartment a week later. Kansas City is chock full of music and I remember being thrilled to have so many choices of shows to attend for reasonable prices. I play traditional Irish music and the folk scene in KC is alive and well. It's a great city for music.
Molly's recommendations from the Johnson County Library catalog:
Side Pony by Lake Street Dive. One of my favorite bands! I've followed Lake Street Dive for years and love their latest CD, especially 'Mistakes.'
Astral Weeks by Van Morrison. This album is incredible in it's mix of freedom and togetherness. There are moments that sound like the band is coming apart, stretching time in different ways, then in an instant they are together again. It's pure beauty. 'Sweet Thing' is one of my favorite songs of all time.
When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron. This is truly heart advice for difficult times. After my mom died and several other relationships fell apart, a friend handed me this book. Pema has a way of speaking truth that is gentle and calming. I always keep a copy of her book around to read when life gets turbulent.
Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace.I love everything I've read by David Foster Wallace but I have a special affinity for his short story about the Lobster Festival held annually in Rockland, ME. My grandmother had a cottage near Rockland and I spent many summer days walking around the main drag. Rockland was also where I decided to stop eating meat at age ten because of lobsters. I'm still vegetarian and I still love lobsters :)