|Tim Mueller of Tim Mueller Photography|
Talk about a departure. It’s hard to imagine Anna Laura Edmiston anywhere but center stage, singing and playing rhythm guitar with Feufollet. It has defined her since she joined the upstart wunderkind Cajun band as a fresh-faced 16 year old. A decade later, the vocalist is on the cusp of a radical realignment of her career, recently completing her studies to be a doula — yes, a doula — and having just signed a contract to perform as the vocalist for Cavalia: Odysseo, a sprawling, Euro-style theatrical circus production featuring more than 50 horses and an international cast of performance artists and musicians. Created by one of the founders of Cirque du Soleil, Cavalia: Odysseo will whisk Anna Laura around the major cities of the U.S. and Canada over the next few years.
The daughter of Lafayette public school French Immersion teachers, one of whom is French Canadian, Anna Laura has always had one foot in the Francophone world. But with Cavalia: Odysseo, she’ll be singing in Italian.
Her split with Feufollet was amicable and had been gestating for months before she finally decided to cut the cord and head in a new direction. IND Monthly caught up with Anna Laura via email as she set off on her new adventure.
When did you join Feufollet and how did it come about?
Tell me about the early years of the band.
It was one of those things that was absolutely meant to be. My mom ran into Chris and Michael Stafford’s aunt at a French Immersion function and she mentioned to my mom that the band was looking for a female vocalist. My mom came home that evening telling me that this was my perfect opportunity to fulfill my childhood dreams of singing professionally, telling me, “Give it a go! You never know where this is gonna take you!” and man was she right.
I was 16 when I joined the band; everyone was in their teens at that point. With the new edition (being me), we all had to decide who Feufollet was, what we all represented as a band, and what sort of creative direction we were going to take. It was a weight a lot lighter for me to bear I think, being the newbie and all.
How was the transition from being a sort of kids’ Cajun band to an adult band with serious musical aspirations? When did the group know it was onto something and was growing into a serious thing?
I somehow feel as though I didn’t really experience a transition from a kids’ band to an adult band. Maybe the other guys felt it more, having been there from the very beginning. But from my perspective, Chris Stafford and Chris Segura have always both had an unstoppable eye for innovation and an incredibly strong force of creative direction — the kind that never looks back — and I love that about them. In my eyes, their age, be it when they were kids, or as adults, has never been what has defined them as musicians. So maybe that’s why, if there was a strong transition that occurred during my days in the band, it went way over my head.
What are you doing now? Give us some details about what’s coming up for you over the next few years?
Right now, I’m at the very beginning of my career as a birth doula, which is a nonmedical person who assists a woman before, during or after childbirth, as well as her partner and/or family by providing information, physical assistance and emotional support. I’ve been attending workshops and doing lots of reading for the past couple of years. I’ve had the continued help and support of other local Lafayette doulas: Jenny Thompson, a childbirth educator with MotherBirth, and Lacey Hebert, who’s a doula as well as a mid-wife apprentice.
The natural birthing world has always fascinated me, since I was a small child and now, as an adult, as a woman, I want to fulfill my passion toward this line of work — a line of work that puts the birthing experience back into the hands of the mother. As doulas, it’s our job to enable women to feel empowered before, throughout and after the moment of birth by helping them feel educated, informed and excited about the whole process. I’m drawn toward this need to contribute to that empowerment in any way I can.
With all that said, I guess that, for right now, life has another plan for me, because I’ve actually just signed a contract to be the next singer in a circus production called Cavalia: Odysseo. This opportunity presented itself very quickly in the midst of my pursuing a career as a birth doula, but I just had to jump on the opportunity. Cavalia is a production centered around the beauty of horses and equestrian artistry, if you will. The show travels throughout North America, setting up shop in cities such as Miami, Atlanta, Toronto, Montreal, etc., with over 50 horses and some 200 or so employees, artists and musicians.
Hmmm, why the circus? Why not? It’s of course completely different from any experience I’ve had so far in my professional career as a singer. I’ll be interacting with horses, performing under a tent almost the size of a football field, singing in Italian with in-ear monitors, wearing stage make-up — all things that will take some getting used to — but my dad always told me, “Anna Laura, if you’re scared to do it, it’s probably a sign that you should do it.” I’ve always used that as my motto, and if I look back at the past 10 years I’ve spent with Feufollet, that motto has been really good to me. Taking risks and trying out new things has always brought me happiness and fulfillment, one way or another.
How has being in Feufollet for the last decade prepared you for this next chapter?
I can’t even begin to list everything that the experience of being a part of Feufollet has brought me in my life, professionally, emotionally, spiritually. If I had to narrow it down to a few thoughts, I would say that it’s brought me many opportunities to see the true value in everything that comes my way. It’s not about accomplishments, or recognition, it’s about the people you meet, the relationships you build, and seeing every moment as an opportunity to learn more about yourself, no matter what it is you do for a living or in your day-to-day life.
Was leaving Feufollet hard?
Leaving Feufollet was hard, in a sense. The guys were incredibly patient and supportive during my long decision-making process, which was the hardest part I think: taking the time to really evaluate where I’m at in my life, what does this decision mean to me, where do I want it to take me?
My decision to leave the band was a long, thought-out one that, to this day, simply feels like a natural evolution of my life, a transition from one chapter to another. Having given it a lot of thought, I’m at a point in my life where I’m ready to try out other things, open other types of doors, and the guys in the band, whom I consider to be my family, are incredibly loving and supportive of that.
If you could give your 16-year-old self a piece of advice what would it be?
One piece of advice? Accept responsibility for the lessons in life that are yours to learn, and no matter what they are, get over yourself, you can handle it!