I found a way to peace / It took me a long time sings Lauren Monroe, wading through mental struggles in life and love on “Void of Course,” off her upcoming album, Messages from Aphrodite, out Sept. 9.
Co-produced with Jim Scott, Messages from Aphrodite started piecing together while Monroe was mixing her 2021 release Under the Wolf Moon and writing “Big Love Lullaby” as an alternate version of the more produced Wolf Moon track “Big Love.”
“We loved the warm organic feel and that I could continue the message of healing and unity in a softer, more vulnerable way,” Monroe tells American Songwriter. “I thought it would be good to focus on a more organic sounding record that leaned into Americana more, and “Big Love Lullaby” set the tone for this new record.”
Opening on the slower crooned acoustic “Gold” and the enlightened “If You Want,” and moving through the root of Monroe’s folk-Americana of the soulful “Sparrow,” the uplifting “Dream Again” and the celestial renderings of “My Love,” Messages from Aphrodite is a continuous ode to persistence, overcoming fear, and mental healing.
For Monroe, a mental health advocate who founded the Raven Drum Foundation, which supports veterans struggling with PTSD and other effects of combat trauma—Monroe also staged the Big Love Benefit Concert featuring Billy Idol, Wynonna Judd, the Allman Betts Band, and more in 2021—healing and renewal are paramount to the purpose of her music, including the heavier Aphrodite single “Void of Course.”
Backed by a deeper collective of musicians throughout the album, “Void of Course” holds the denser messaging derived from its astrological title, referring to the movement of the moon from one planet to another, and a metaphor for a disconnected love and is rounded out by double drumming from husband and collaborator Rick Allen (Def Leppard) and Beth Goodfellow (Iron and Wine, Allison Russell), guitarist Tyler Bryant (Larkin Poe), along with cello and upright bass by Steve Uccello and Monroe’s steadfast beat on the djembe, a traditional West African goblet drum.
“This song is an expression of anger, fear, desperation and knowing what can heal you but choosing the opposite,” said Monroe. “A pattern of our soul choosing self-love but not being strong enough to stay the course alone.”
Monroe recently chatted about her ongoing mission and messages of human connectedness and mental health, and love-based healing through music, writing, and the story behind Messages from Aphrodite.
American Songwriter: How far back do some of these songs go for you? For some of the older tracks, why were they still resonating with you now?
LM: Several songs on the record were songs I had written over the years that still resonate with who I am and the overarching themes of love and resiliency I write about. I particularly love the song “My Love” that was originally on my first solo album, The Freedom Sessions. We re-tracked and remixed it and brought in Greg Leiz to add pedal steel. His work illuminated the track with depth and dreamy vibes. It’s one of my favorites on the record.
“If You Want” is another song I wrote a while ago but never recorded, and I feel that the intention of that song is still very relevant. In these turbulent times, it feels essential to check ourselves and ask, “Do I want to live in love or in fear,” especially as we are confronted with some of the darker aspects of change we all are going through. “If You Want” speaks to that as a message from Aphrodite.
AS: “Void of Course” offers messages of healing, self-love, perseverance, etc. How does it tie into the remainder of the album? Is there a common thread between the 11 songs on Messages from Aphrodite?
LM: “Void of Course” holds true to the message of this album and explores the mystical, the hope of healing, and the dark and light facets of love. These are common threads that run through the album in every song. “Void of Course” is an astrological term defining a state of the moon where it appears isolated as it transitions away from one planet and moves toward another. I used this as a metaphor to explore the struggle of being in a relationship, especially an unhealthy one. The lyrics tell the tale of feeling void of connection and wanting to leave a toxic partner but not having the inner power to go through with it.
I thought it was important to explore the shadow side of love, which is painful but has gifts for us to receive. In these darker textures of emotion and pain can live tremendous potential to see oneself and become stronger.
AS: Describe the title. What are Messages from Aphrodite?
LM: I am a mixed media artist, as well as a songwriter and performer. During the time we were making the album, I was doing a lot of painting for the gallery. One of my pieces was Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty. She is also celebrated as a warrior goddess, which really resonates with me. As the songs on the album began to unfold, I realized that the points of view being revealed were mainly from a higher feminine perspective.
Songs like “Gold,” “Sparrow,” “My Love,” and “Void of Course” all hold very clear messages of how to love, how to grieve, and how to be aware of inner struggle and are delivered by a teaching wrapped into a song. I feel connected to so many women who are navigating these kinds of battles, and I wanted to share the mystical voice of the feminine through music to help us honor the higher wisdom in all of us, an energy that I believe is greatly needed in our current times to heal ourselves and one another.
Most of these songs on Messages from Aphrodite carry these messages of love from a higher source of the feminine. In a time when the spotlight is on the struggles of women, and there is an overall rising awareness around mental health and our human quest to feel loved, I felt that Aphrodite could provide the voice to encourage change and self-inquiry into our inner love and loss.
AS: “Void of Course” is definitely harder. Musically, was there something you wanted to approach differently on this album.?
LM: “Void of Course” had an aggressive nature I wanted to preserve in the production. It began with a percussive acoustic guitar and a vocal that soon got its legs with a drum loop my co-producer, Jim Scott, created. We continued to build the song around this percussive element and layered in bass, organ, electric guitars, and backing vocals. I love to set up songs with an instrumental intro when I can, and this song really called for it. The intro cello Steve Uccello played on the song sets up the darker introspective element that sets up the tone for the journey of this track. Unlike the more Americana vibe on the remainder of the record, this one brought out my love of rock which was the foundation of my singing life for many years. Although I wanted this album to feel warm and open, I couldn’t resist bringing the energy with “Void of Course” and my cover of Lucinda Williams’ “Can’t Let Go.” Sometimes you just gotta rock.
AS: What kinds of songs do you find yourself gravitating towards now when writing?
LM: I’ve been writing more percussive-based songs these days with a big focus on drum kit and hand percussion as inspirations. Right now, I have a few that come from singing a capella over drums which I’ve done a lot of when leading drum circles. It frees me up from writing with guitar and inspires me to create differently. I wrote “Run with Wolves” from my last album that way, and it was a refreshing way to write. As I’m writing now, hope, healing and growth are still the messages… holding a torch for whoever needs it.
Photo: Tracy Moyer / One in a Million Media