We caught up with Lauren Laverne – DJ, presenter and judge in the Mr & Mrs Smith Hotel Awards 2018 (she’ll be sizing up the properties in the Best Pool with a View category). Here, she talks us through her most memorable experiences with music and travel.
My first music memory abroad was watching a 10-hour musical passion play in the Bavarian town of Oberramergau. It was in German and I was 10 years old. I would describe the experience as character building. It followed the template of my formative family holidays: a long, uncomfortable journey, followed by a cultural experience. This usually meant walking around damp cathedrals enveloped by the smell of my rubbery raincoat. It was only when I got older that we started going abroad.
I love listening to local radio stations when I travel. I can always follow the music, even though I don’t speak the presenter’s language. I have a little daydream about what I’d play and what life would be like to do my job somewhere else.
My most memorable street party was the Easter procession in Granada. I was a teenager and I’d hardly been anywhere. I was flown over to Spain to play a festival with my band, Kenickie. We’d been out walking around the Alhambra and suddenly found ourselves in the middle of this intense religious festival. Everyone was wearing capirotes hoods and the streets were packed with people singing and carrying religious icons and candles. I’d never seen anything like it.
Notting Hill is my favourite carnival. It’s Europe’s biggest and best, with amazing music and a fascinating history of its own. It’s London’s own story in microcosm. Notting Hill has changed so much over the 20 years since I’ve been in London, but I love that once a year carnival brings back the old spirit.
Glastonbury Festival has a specialness you can’t confect. I’ve been to many other festivals around the world – from Sónar in Barcelona to SXSW in Austin – but Glastonbury is the original and best. I think that’s because of its history. Even as it grows into a global event with huge stars on the main stages, it remains intrinsically alternative: embracing art, politics, music and culture in a way that no other event could.
The last time I chilled out on holiday was in Ibiza in the mid-noughties. Having two full-of-beans kids, I don’t often get the chance. This summer, I spent a couple of weeks in the south of France, tucked away with friends and family, in a little village near Bordeaux, surrounded by countryside that looked like a Van Gogh painting. The kids played and the grown ups cooked, chatted and listened to music. I took a few podcasts out on a walk. The stars were the brightest I have ever seen.
My club career is currently on hiatus, but I plan to resume it when I’m 65 and can channel the spirit of my all-time hero, Studio 54’s ‘Disco Sally’. They’d better have invented a club as good as that again by 2043.
My ultimate pool-side playlist is Angelo de Augustine, Rostam, Moon Diagrams, Phoebe Bridgers and Sir Was. I like to keep it chilled.
I love discovering music when I travel – it’s one of the greatest things about it. There’s a lot of classic and alt-country that I love, but shiny, mainstream country was certainly not the most natural oeuvre for me. That was until I got stranded in Houston on the way to Austin and decided to drive. I listened to the biggest country stations along the way and experienced the music in its own environment – author Greil Marcus called it ‘the old, weird America’ – then it really made sense.
One of the great things about travel is that you can hear music in its birthplace and get a different perspective. You can buy a great Séga compilation anywhere, but to hear it in Mauritius, having seen the landscape and understood everything which fed into the music, is a rich experience. I had a friend who heard Sigur Rós for the first time when he was driving across a glacier in Iceland. I was quite jealous of that.
My most lasting music memory abroad was Benicàssim Festival in 1998. I fell asleep on the bass amp at the side of the stage as Mogwai played – it had been quite the weekend – and there my tinnitus began.
The winners in the Mr & Mrs Smith Hotel Awards will be announced on 17 January 2018.