Track-by-Track: Laura Fell unpacks her incisive debut album Safe From Me

Today sees the release of Safe From Me, the debut album from London-based songwriter and psychotherapist Laura Fell. Across the album’s eight tracks, Fell uses her exquisite voice and precision playing to guide listeners through the dark recesses of her mind, where thoughts she tries to avoid reside. Bringing them out into the light through her graceful playing and empathetic lyricism, she exposes her true feelings with bravery and clarity that is rare for an artist on their first outing.

Of course, given this, we wanted to know all there is to know about Safe From Me, and, wonderfully, Laura Fell has provided a brilliant track-by-track guide for us to chew on as we listen.

1. “Glad”

This song is hugely personal to me, and is always quite an emotional one to perform. I wrote this song for my parents, essentially as a message of hope when they were in the midst of their divorce. In writing this song I wanted to acknowledge how much life as we all knew it was changing, and how difficult that was – and would continue to be – but I also wanted to encourage both of my parents to be strong, and to learn, grow and change from the experience. The final verses capture a moment in my imagination – where they are both settled and content in their new lives some time down the line, able to look back fondly on their life together, and to be at peace with how that time together ended.

Writing this song was a really healing and cathartic process for me, and helped me to process the impact that the divorce had on me personally, and on my individual relationships with both of my parents. I often find that writing about things as I’m going through them helps me to make sense of my own experiencing, and this was definitely the case with “Glad”.

2. “Bone of Contention”

“Bone of Contention” is about a love triangle gone wrong, and the feelings of anger and resentment towards the third person that comes out of the affair unscathed. With the chorus of this song, and the title itself, I liked the idea of taking common phrases and sayings and playfully integrating them into lyrics, setting myself the challenge of doing so without the end result feeling forced or cheesy. I like to think I succeeded!

When I look back on this song now, I also feel that in writing it I was trying to understand the behaviour of the other person and to put myself in their shoes and psyche, alongside needing a space to vocalise my anger towards them. Ultimately though, the gift that writing this song gave to me was the realisation that comes in the final verse – that there will always be others that get you wrong or judge you unfavourably, that you cannot please everyone. And so… the important thing is that we hold onto our own truth, and can walk away from a situation feeling at peace with our own actions, and at peace with the fact that others may never see it our way.

3. “Cold”

This song is all about deciding to open up to vulnerability in the early stages of a new relationship – what to tell / not tell, and when to disclose – and the fear of being judged by the other when you do open yourself to them. “Be warm to me when I am cold” is essentially asking someone to not reject or judge me when I show them the more messy parts of myself.

It’s also talking a lot about self-doubt and finding it difficult at times to land on a decision and stick to it. I wanted “Cold” to be a slightly tongue-in-cheek, playful exploration of​ a presumption I’ve encountered quite a lot that therapists are in some way these entirely self-actualised people that have it all together, and I guess also an acknowledgement of the frustrating way in which it it ​is​ often so much harder for any of us to take our own advice than it is for us to give it out to other people. But I’d also say the song sort of captures that self-doubt and self-frustration in the moment it’s experienced – it names it – so that it can then be let go.​

4. “Left Foot / Right Foot”

This song is all about a relationship breaking down, with both parties knowing it’s the end but not wanting to admit it to themselves. My friend Gus White and I co-wrote this together, and both really liked the idea of the dancing metaphor to sort of sum up the falling away of the relationship, and the clumsy uncoupling of these two people falling out of love – this isn’t something that’s going to last, but we’re going to see it through to the end and ignore all the bumps along the way that tell us we’re not the most compatible dancing partners! The crossover section in the recording at the end, where we sing over each other, was essentially meant to sonically reflect the relationship falling apart and the two people missing each other completely, even though they’re desperately trying to sing from the same hymn sheet, as it were!

5. “Every Time”

This song is essentially about looking back on old relationships through rose-tinted glasses – that whole idea of ‘the one that got away’ and lying in bed at night and imagining the conversations you might have if you were to bump into them now, or catch up over coffee. I guess it’s about ego in a way? That part of us that would quite enjoy hearing that someone still thinks of us, so we feel less embarrassed of the moments where we find ourselves thinking of them. The chorus speaks of another part of the self I suppose – the part that comes in and reminds us that what we’re doing isn’t helpful and that it doesn’t make us feel any better – “What am I doing to myself?” is that more self-compassionate voice coming in and calling you back out of the rabbit hole.

6. “Until Now”

This song is about being with someone who struggles to accept love, and to be vulnerable, preferring to hide behind humour in order to distance themselves from intimacy. Additionally, and on my part, it’s about acknowledging my own fears around – ‘What if they never open up, or let me in?’ – and my hopes of being allowed in on a deeper, and more meaningful level – “You’ll feel it but won’t ever say / I hope that’s different some day.”

As the song progresses, it reflects that need in the other to distance falling away, and them allowing themselves to be more vulnerable and seen. It also explores the difference in love languages, and how we can’t necessarily expect others to love us in the way that we love them – how we can often perceive our own way as ‘right’, and thereby the way of the other gets perceived as ‘wrong’, whereas in fact each way is simply different.

7. “Safe From Me”

This is a break-up song about loss – as all break up songs are – but about the loss of self, not the loss of the other. It’s about being in a relationship that feels unhealthy and co-dependent, where you’re constantly triggering each other’s wounds and trying to sort through it all together and somehow stay afloat. I was trying to encapsulate how affirming and special we can feel when we are made to feel needed by someone, but how this can sometimes come to feel more like a responsibility for the other, that in turn can cloud any sense of our own needs. “I couldn’t lie to you, so I lied to me instead / and failed to hide in my own head” – this is all about idealising the other, ignoring red flags, and shoving my needs to the back of my mind until I could no longer ignore them and had to confront the unhealthy dynamic I’d found myself in.

8. “I Didn’t Mean To”

This song is simply an apology. It’s saying ‘Iknow I can tend to overthink things and expect the worst to happen, and then want to have these pre-emptive conversations about problems that don’t exist yet, instead of allowing myself to be present – to just be in the relationship and to enjoy it. It comes from fear, but it’s not helpful and I’m sorry’.​

It’s also about conflict and difference – how, when we are opposites in a relationship, we can stop seeing ourselves as just different, and start seeing ourselves as right and the other as wrong. It’s about naming and communicating those points of difference in the relationship, so that you can both respond to the other with compassion, instead of jumping to the judgement of the other person doing things in a way perceived as incorrect or wrong.

Laura Fell’s Safe From Me is out today via Balloon Machine – read our review.

You can find her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.