k.d. lang Explains the "Exhilarating and Excruciating" Birth of case/lang/veirs

k.d. lang Explains the 'Exhilarating and Excruciating' Birth of case/lang/veirs
Photo: Jason Quigley
Call it the Traveling Wilburys for a new millennium: Neko Case, k.d. lang and Laura Veirs have collaborated on an album, simply titled case/lang/veirs (out June 17 on Anti-) aided by co-producer (and Veirs' husband) Tucker Martine, who lent a mellow, percussive, jazzy chamber pop feel to the record.

The union has been three years in the making, inspired initially by both lang and Case contributing to Veirs' last album, 2013's Warp & Weft, and by Case working with Martine on her last album, The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You. But according to lang, the whole thing hinged on one spontaneous email she sent to the other two.

"I had been kind of toying with the idea of a trio or a band for a while now, always wanting to do that, share the stage with other people, collectively," lang tells Exclaim! "I could just never think of the right group of people, or it never seemed to be the right time.

"I met Laura and Neko around the same time in Portland, and one night I just decided to write them an email saying, 'I think we should make a record together,' and they wrote back in about half-an-hour, and it was an immediate indication that it was all systems go."

Lang and Veirs worked on song ideas together at their homes in Portland, with Case coming in from Vermont for three writing sessions over the last year-and-a-half to help finish them off.

"Laura is quite prolific, so she did a lot of the initiating and a lot — most definitely most — of the writing," lang says of the songwriting process. "Neko and I would come in and change bridges or change lyrics. We would then finish the songs collectively." (Some of the songs changed quite dramatically, including "Georgia Stars," which was two songs combined into one at lang's suggestion.)

Though Veirs contributed the lion's share of the songwriting, lang says that the person who ultimately sang any given song (the three take turns) took ownership of it, in a way.

"We worked until we all felt quite comfortable [with a song], although the person who gravitated towards the song became the singer, and they had the ultimate say in how they wanted the song to be."

It was no small feat for three disparate artists, used to writing alone and running their own careers, to come together and work with not one but two writing partners. Compromise and "checking our egos" was involved.

"We all have different writing styles," says lang. "It was at some times very excruciating and sometimes exhilarating. I don't know what to say, it was both exhilarating and excruciating!

"Neko is a genius. You need to give her a lot of space — she works in her own time and doesn't like to be pressured. Which is quite different than the way Laura and I work, which is more structured. The thing that kept us focused was that we all believed in the music and something felt really right about it. It felt joyous at the end of the day."

Lang, who considers herself to be an independent artist working within the major label world, believes that case/lang/veirs' strengths lie in their differences.

"I have a lot of experience in production, so I worked with Tucker quite closely," she says. "With Laura, it was in the writing and with Neko, maybe it's live. But we all bring different things at different times, and we all feel like it's balanced that way.

"I think there is a similarity between us in terms of our approach to life and liberty — forgive me for that — in our daily approach to living. I also think there is a very big difference in terms of how our music sounds, although there's enough similarity that I could see a crossover. And we are on a different spectrum of experience too: Laura is very, very independent and I am very, very music business and Neko is sort of in the middle. And all of those differences actually turn out to be our assets that we kind of weave into an interesting and strong texture."

Check out the project's North American tour dates here, and have a listen to the Case-sung "Delirium" below.