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'We just want people to come out and listen'
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The first time that budding songstress Lauren Lapointe opted to put her original words and music down for posterity, she did what many upstart locals have done over the past few years – take advantage of the studio facilities housed at the Savannah College of Art and Design.

It’s a cheap and easy way to produce a basic audio recording to use for demonstration purposes. However, working with student engineers for free can be likened to having your hair cut at a barber school.

You know you’re in for a good deal, but the back might be a little crooked.

And so it was with her first release. That self-titled CD-R collection of sparsely arranged ballads and laments (all centered around her wistful vocals and rudimentary acoustic guitarwork) was a serviceable document of a performer just beginning to find her sea legs.

However, rough as it may have been in spots, it got her out of the house and onto the stage. It also helped her nab a spot at one of those bohemian songwriting retreats where veteran artists offer enthusiastic newbies one-on-one encouragement and the chance to network with other attendees from around the country.

Before long she was becoming a familiar face on our restaurant and coffeehouse scene – where solo guitarists with crowd-pleasing repertoires are in high demand.

But despite an ongoing and enviable surfeit of live engagements at a variety of area venues (at her busiest, Lapointe works as many as four nights a week), which allows her to pursue music full-time – Lapointe knew she was nearing the second phase of her nascent career.

And so, she decided to hunker down and craft a second album. Only this time, her game plan would be a bit different.

She planned to have the disc professionally packaged and replicated, and she hoped to use a full-fledged studio. Furthermore, she was lucky enough to have an experienced producer on board who was familiar with her work.

That producer was guitarist and songwriter Kyle Shiver, known to many around town as “Georgia Kyle.” Before settling down in our area, he paid his dues on the Northeastern folk circuit, cutting some impressive records of his own and singing backup for no less than the Grammy-nominated roots-rocker Shawn Mullins.

“Kyle’s always been my mentor,” explains Lapointe. “He moved to Savannah a couple years ago and immediately took me under his wing. He said to me, okay, you wanna be a singer/songwriter? Here’s what you do. He’s been influential and helpful in so many ways.”

Lapointe says the fact that Shiver had been an active part of the acclaimed Boston folks scene – which she rightly calls “a hub of acoustic artists in our genre”) spoke volumes to her of his abilities to helm her biggest project to date.

“Collaborating with another person opens you up to so many new things,” she enthuses. “I was really ready to hear what someone else might want to do with my songs. Kyle is good at giving directions, but he let me contribute a lot as well. It felt like the two of us working as a team.”

In the end, the singer scrapped her plans to use an existing studio, instead spending her budget on “a really good microphone” and computer-based recording gear. This freed them from the financial and scheduling constraints normally associated with such projects, but kept them from capturing more than two channels of audio at once.

This mixture of liberty and limitations found the sessions dragging on for almost a solid year (in fact, production was halted for three straight months when an adjoining townhouse underwent major – and noisy – renovations). However, the results are several steps beyond her first release, and at times are indistinguishable from the average low-budget album cut in a traditional manner.

Lapointe says she is very proud of the finished results, and hopes people enjoy the finished product, Beautiful Shadow, but has no desire to rest on her laurels.

“I’ve talked to so many musicians who say by the time you finish a CD, you’re ready to start another one, and that’s so true! I already have a new batch of songs, and I can’t wait to record them.”

While she still plans to remain based in Savannah, she is hopeful this new CD will help her join the songwriters’ touring circuit, where quality trumps quantity.

“I really want to be able to play more places known for original material,” she says, “so I won’t have to rely as much on cover songs to please the crowds.”

In addition to her high hopes for the new disc, Lapointe is equally jazzed about her upcoming release party, which finds her accompanied by Shiver – a rarity given their often conflicting schedules.

“I think it’s gonna be great fun,” she smiles. “It’s a real celebration of all this work that people have been waiting so patiently for.”

“There’s no cover. We just want people to come out and listen, and hopefully they’ll buy a CD.”

Lauren Lapointe and Kyle Shiver play a free, ALL-AGES show at The Sentient Bean, Saturday at 8 pm.