Indie singer-songwriter Lady Lamb has been building up to this moment since she was 14. That was the first time she went to a concert at the State Theatre. It was a Wilco show. Now, it’s her turn to headline the Portland venue on Saturday on the final stop of her “Even in the Tremor” album tour.
Her real name is Aly Spaltro. Born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Spaltro, 29, moved to Brunswick as a teenager. During a few of those teen years, she worked at Bart & Greg’s DVD Explosion, and when the shop closed for the night, Spaltro sprang to life as a singer-songwriter and wrote many songs there. Spaltro’s moniker started off as Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, which came to her in a dream. She shortened it to simply Lady Lamb a few years ago.
“Even in the Tremor” (Ba Da Bing Records) was released in early April and was preceded by “Ripely Pine” in 2013, “After” in 2015 and a handful of other singles and EPs. The new album is arguably Spaltro’s finest moment as a singer and songwriter as she fearlessly explores the inner chambers of self-discovery, love and gratitude. Spaltro has come as close as an artist can to creating her own language with the acute and compelling level of detail in songs like “Little Flaws,” “Young Disciple” and “July Was Mundane.”
I recently spoke with Spaltro via telephone from her New York City home. When asked what it’s like having “Even in the Tremor” out in the world, Spaltro said everything in the record is totally autobiographical and both spiritually and emotionally it feels light and happy.
“I’m really proud of this record and proud of some of the ways I was able to express myself lyrically in ways that I feel are concise and precise with what I was feeling,” Spaltro said. “It’s got its share of anxiety and questioning that all my records have, but I really tried to come to more positive conclusions lyrically in this record, and so I feel like it’s more uplifting. If a person is feeling really down I feel like it can help out.”
The song “Deep Love” is a prime example of that positive message. “Passing by a pure scene in somebody else’s life gives my life meaning/Passing through a good scene in somebody else’s life fills my cup, it ignites that fire to pour out my love,” sings Spaltro in a song that she said poured out of her. “It really encapsulates the feeling, the essence and the point of what I’m trying to get at,” she said. “Deep Love” was the last song she wrote for the album, and she said the song enabled her to fully understand the meaning of the entire album. “I feel like I got at the heart of what I was trying to say, which was essentially to have gratitude and love thy neighbor.” That love shines through not only with the lyrics but with Spaltro’s full, melodious voice that explodes with unfettered emotion.
Here’s the lyric video for “Deep Love”:
I was stopped in my tracks upon realizing that Spaltro co-produced “Even in the Tremor” with a producer, mixer and engineer named Erin Tonkon. Tonkon was an assistant engineer on David Bowie’s “Blackstar” album and also sang backing vocals on two of its tracks. Spaltro said she came to work with Tonkon after a friend who manages producers put them in touch. During their first conversation Spaltro and Tonkon realized they lived just blocks apart and Spaltro walks by Tonkon’s building almost daily. On a professional front, Spaltro said she hit the jackpot. “She’s my age or maybe younger and she’s so determined and so confident and competent and passionate and enthusiastic.”
They also share a level of frustration about how women on the technical side of the music business seldom get recognition.
“People always assume that there’s a man usually behind every great woman in the industry,” said Spaltro. She and Tonkon share the belief that it’s important to lift each other up as women and find women to collaborate with. “The idea is to have more visibility so that young girls see that it’s absolutely possible that they can go into engineering,” said Spaltro.
Spaltro said when she and Tonkon were working on “Even in the Tremor,” she appreciated the acute level of Tonkon’s presence. “No matter what I was doing, how many takes it was into something, she was always listening and right there with me.”
Spaltro has graced the State Theatre stage a few times over the years as an opening act and as a co-headliner with The Fogcutters. But there’s something extra special about this show, as it’s part of the tour of her best album. Ending the tour in Portland was by design, and it came as no surprise to hear that Spaltro is feeling quite emotional about it and that many friends and family members will be in the audience. “I have such a history of loving the venue so much, it’s really an honor.”
I told Spaltro about the recent renovation of the State Theatre marquis and how she’ll likely receive countless texts from people with a photo of her name on it in the coming days. Spaltro thinks that’s pretty cool. I was at the State a few days after our conversation and saw Lady Lamb in huge letters and sent a pic her way. Spaltro’s response was perfect: “Ah, that is amazing!!!”
WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday, June 1.
WHERE:State Theatre, 609 Congress St., Portland
HOW MUCH: $20 in advance, $25 day of show.
TIX & INFO: statetheatreportland.com