We had the good fortune of connecting with Laura Mustard and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Laura, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
This is always the struggle, isn’t it? Lately, I’ve been trying to bring more play into my balance, and also a sense of gentleness or kindness…rather than guilt tripping. For my “day job”, I work as a speech pathologist. It’s a very rewarding job to work with kids and to help kids to communicate easier, but it’s also really challenging to work with young kids who have special needs. Lots of patience and flexibility…and a sense of humor is crucial! I’m grateful for my profession, but to do that and then come home and try to be a professional musician is a lot. And when you’re an independent artist, you’re basically running your own business to promote and market your music on top of the creative aspect of it. And I also have a lot of medical issues I was born with and that takes time to manage every day. So my plate is always full. And I used to be really hard on myself when I felt like I couldn’t “do it all”. But acknowledging how much I do is a form of self-kindness. I feel that is more constructive than the negativity I used to bring to the process, and actually allows me to get more done. I’m really quick to run to binge-watching TV or scrolling on social media if I feel overwhelmed. I think recognizing my own habits has been helpful. I learned too that if I take care of myself more regularly with walks and journaling and meditation and playing music, I actually get more done in the long run since I don’t get burned out so quickly. Also, I’m really trying to prioritize sleep cause that helps a lot. I’m personally over the “rise and grind” culture and I’m much more interested in “rest and play”. Really, this year is all about being kind to myself and learning to play amidst the stress.

In terms of organizing, I try to plan out my week on the weekend before I’m in it with a Passion Planner and set intentions with the idea that it’s okay if I don’t do “everything”. I used to want to have certain things I did every day, and now I think of it more like a see-saw. It’s okay to have some days that are more focused on my work as a speech pathologist and some days that are more on music. And also times that are just for me and self care. Or to be kind to myself if I am not feeling well with my medical issues and can’t get all the work done that I was planning. Luckily, playing music and writing songs is very cathartic for me after a long day so rehearsing or writing new material is a form of play and self care, as well as “music work”. And, I try to add play to the tasks that are harder. Can I listen to favorite music while writing paperwork for my speech therapy sessions? Can I research and email for music promo in a room (or blanket fort?!) full of Christmas lights? Can I practice or write music outside in the grass? Little things like that combine the “work” and “life” elements a bit. I also keep a little “I Did It” list in my planner where I write down all that I have accomplished throughout the week. Taking note of my wins and my progress is really motivating for me too. Especially with social media. It is so easy to compare to other songwriters and artists and see how many shows they are playing or how many cuts or streams or views they have. It can make me feel like I’m not working enough and I don’t have the balance right. But I try to use it now as motivation and a sense of where I can grow. Really feelings of envy or jealousy are just showing me what I want. There’s room for everyone in music and competing against myself instead of others is more constructive. It’s taken me a long time, but starting to remove the intensity and guilt tripping from my balance has helped a lot.

#RestAndPlay Haha!

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Songwriting is storytelling for me. That’s what drew me to Nashville. And lately, I’ve gotten really honest about my own story. In 2020, I was releasing singles for my EP, Treehouse, but behind the scenes I had a urinary blockage that led to three operations and a permanent catheter. It felt disingenuous to be posting pre-planned content about my singles like, “Look how awesome my life is! Go listen to my music!” when my urinary system was being re-routed. So I just started talking about it throughout the promotion. And that led to a really nice community online, and also brought more awareness to people with bowel and urinary differences (and latex allergies)! Growing up with these issues and having a lot of shame around it that I started to work through recently also created a big focus on self-kindness and body positivity in my music. I’m proud of the community and awareness that I create for people whose bodies work differently by telling my own story. And I’m really excited about a new collection of songs I’ll be sharing this year that dive even more into themes of shame, self-love and social media. So stay tuned!

In terms of my art, I grew up playing the piano, spent all of high school playing percussion, and recently started learning the banjo, I have a diverse collection of instruments and influences that I’ve picked up along the way. I guess my music is more like syncopated pop songwriting with banjos. That’s totally a thing! I started writing songs in high school and immediately felt more relief in the magic of creating something out of nothing that helped me understand myself and my emotions better. This led to hundreds of open mics and songwriter nights, which led to joining a jam band where I played keyboard and a classic rock cover band where I played drums and sang in Western Massachusetts. Then I eventually ended up in Nashville where I started co-writing for the first time and releasing my own music and EPs. In 2020 I put out a music video for my song “Treehouse” that was filmed in a real treehouse at Treetop Hideaways in GA and tells a time-traveling love story that I’m really proud of. It’s on YouTube (hint hint). It’s been a long time coming with lots of instruments played and songs written, but I feel like I am now writing the most honest music of my life and I’m really excited to be able to share it!

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Nashville…there’s so much to do to pack into a week! My favorite spots actually lean towards nature. Radnor Lake, Edwin Warner park and Bells Bend are my favorite hiking spots. Which I know is what everyone comes to Nashville for! Haha. The Parthenon and the pond in Centennial Park are great to explore too.

If you’re only in town for a week…go see a show at the Bluebird Cafe. If you’re a songwriter in town, they have an open mic on Monday nights that fills up fast, but it’s a magical room of excited songwriters from all over the world that all come together to play their best songs and encourage each other. It’s a really warm feeling and that songwriting community is what drove me to relocated here. Cafe Coco is a more chill venue, but it’s a fun place to grab a coffee or a drink and see local rounds too. Alley Taps as well is an off-the-beaten-path venue that gives you more of a look at an average songwriter night. The Ryman and the Grand Ole Opry have cool behind the scenes tours to check out if you’re in town for the first time. Also, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and the National Museum of African American Music are great places to go to dive into the history of music and Music City.

And, of course, you have to ramble around Broadway for a night if you’ve never been to town before. Lots of Honky Tonks and rooftop bars. It’s a fun chaos that you should experience at least once. My favorite place on Broadway is the Nashville Underground. Also, I love walking over the Cumberland River on the Pedestrian Bridge just off of Broadway, so definitely treat yourself to that view.

In terms of food….I have a latex allergy so I have to be careful because if the food is made with latex gloves and I eat it, I’ll get really sick, This eliminates a lot of the favorites that people come to eat at. But, Fido, Frothy Monkey, McDougal’s Chicken, Bobbie’s Dairy Dip, Kay-Bobs, and Jack’s Bar-B-Que are latex-free places to eat that I like a lot!

You’ll definitely never be bored in Nashville!

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Wilson Harwood is a producer and musician in Nashville. He created Elevated Music Studio and built his own studio in his backyard, literally from the ground up. He’s also just the nicest guy and wicked fun to create music with. And, he gave me banjo lessons over Zoom to my neighbors delight (haha) during 2020 when there was not much else to do after work. He also recently worked with me in the studio on a project that I’m really excited to share this year! So he definitely deserves credit and recognition in my story, and he has a great story to tell with his own studio and production!

Website: www.lauramustard.com

Instagram: www.instagram.com/lauramustard

Twitter: www.twitter.com/mustardlaura

Facebook: www.facebook.com/lauramustardmusic

Youtube: www.youtube.com/lauramustardmusic

Other: www.tiktok.com/@lauramustardmusic
“Treehouse” music video direct link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IdHNAASiCJ0

Image Credits
Treehouse single and album photos taken by Matt Hoots. Ramble On cover photo taken by Sage Orville Shea. Live performance shot taken by Andrew Lange. Selfie with catheter taken by Laura Mustard.

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutLA is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.