Secret Medicine: Vagabon Is Speaking Her Truth
One of the first things to take note of when it comes to New York-based Laetitia Tamko – who performs under the name Vagabon - is the sweet lilt of her voice; a little shy, a little unsure but hiding a lot of wisdom.
The 26-year-old singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist has emerged after a self-imposed seclusion - a brilliant butterfly out of a quiet cocoon - with her self-titled sophomore album, due for release this week.
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The album previously titled ‘All The Women In Me’ – inspired by and referencing poetry by writer, Nayyirah Waheed, who Laetitia admires – is a follow-up to 2017’s ‘Infinite Worlds’, but sound-wise things are dramatically different this time around.
Speaking on how this album differs sonically from her previous collection of homey guitar tones, she says: “Experimentation excites me. Being able to explore new worlds that I haven’t before, discovering parts of myself that I didn’t know existed is what made this album different.”
Being experimental is important to Vagabon who doesn’t settle for something linear, something unchanging. It’s established first she says the one piece of advice she holds dear is “never be satisfied”.
This is made much clearer by the fact that she doesn’t have a personal favourite from her nine-track album. She says: “Recently I’ve been thinking about ‘Secret Medicine’, but this constantly changes, I’m always thinking of different songs at different times.”
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While on the topic of changes, we discuss the story behind changing the name of her passion project. After naming her album in ode to her favourite poet, she discovered that Waheed didn’t want her words to be quoted and respectfully changed the name. But why name it after herself? The answer lies in that unsure tone of voice she held in the beginning of the interview; confidence, or lack thereof.
Explaining why chose an eponymous title, she says: “Having the album be self-titled was aimed to feed into and help grow a confidence that I hadn’t had before. I wanted to re-introduce myself as a confident artist, and person.”
Carrying forward the conversation of what kind of artist she wants to be, we talk about the message she’d like to leave behind with her music. ‘Infinity Worlds’ was a journey punctuated by Vagabon’s search for community, and while she may not have found it yet, she aims for her music to be that solace to others.
Delving a little into her message, she says: “I’m not in search of making music that spreads one single message. But I want my music to build a community. To make people feel like part of a community, making them feel less alone... that’s what I hope to leave behind.”
A lonely path seems to be familiar to this rising talent. Recalling the frustrations she experienced while making music she says: “Personally, what frustrates me about making music is being unable to find the best way to express the songs as they’ve been created and told in my head. It feels like a roadblock, like you’re stuck, it happens to me a lot.”
But with ‘Vagabon’ she has succeeded, and she knows it. The confidence she mentioned earlier shines through, and with the unsure undertone of her voice disappearing Laetitia comments: “Having finished this record, it’s a symbol of all the personal hurdles I overcame to get to this point.”
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She acknowledges she wasn’t as alone as thought she was in this journey. Crediting her family as her source of “emotional” motivation, she says: “Creatively I’m so zoned into my own imagination of where I want my music to go, that I don’t really think about who inspires me. But emotionally I find my most recent inspirations have been the matriarchs in my family. Being able to tap into their experiences, and the lessons I’ve learned from them, has motivated to keep me going.”
Cameroon-born Laetitia’s ultimate musical goal - aside being able to visit Africa in the context of touring - is “having this album reach as many people as possible”.
It’s no wonder, therefore, that the most memorable moment of her career are her live shows. She says: “There have been so many solid moments, it’s hard to pick one. But the best moments are the shows, because of how many people I get to meet and connect with - there isn’t anything else I’d like to be doing.”
A bag of happy surprises and pleasant contradictions, Vagabon is shy, but open, unsure but confident, and the journey of her metamorphosis on the latest album - judging from the amount of work she’s put into it - is sure to be stunning; you can’t help but be excited at the thought of the cadence that’s set to grace your ears.
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'Vagabon' will be released on October 18th.
Words: Malvika Padin
Photo Credit: Tonje Thilesen
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