Harry Potter enchants vlogger, crafter, wizard rock star

Harry Potter has cast his spell over much of the world, but Lauren Fairweather’s enchantment with J.K. Rowling’s beloved book series has manifested itself in remarkable ways.

When it comes to creativity, self-expression, and passion for her chosen fandom, Lauren is something of a magical creature, a fantastic beast, if you will. She’s a YouTube star (her channel has more than 90,000 subscribers), a crafting/making/DIY wizard, and a singer-songwriter who is basically a rock star in a unique subgenre of Harry Potter-inspired music.

As a member of wizard rock band The Moaning Myrtles (yes, wizard rock is a thing and it’s apparently here to stay) and as a solo artist, Lauren has spent more than a decade touring; playing Harry Potter-themed concerts, festivals and fan conventions, such as LeakyCon; releasing albums (like her recent, crowd-funded With You, Whatever Happens), and become a celebrated member of an enthusiastic community many Muggles aren’t even aware of.

Did I mention she also has an Etsy shop, Fairweather Friends, where she stocks the handmade plush toys and cute characters she used to sell at The Moaning Myrtles merch table? Or that she’s friends with John Green?

A self-described maker and artist since childhood, Lauren was initiated into Rowling’s wizarding empire after her grandmother purchased the first three books in the series for her. In 2005, she and a friend went to their first Harry and the Potters show and decided to form their own band featuring songs entirely from the perspective of bathroom lurker Moaning Myrtle. 

Lauren remembers when the Harry Potter fandom gathered to read fan fiction, ship characters, and discuss theories on the pre-social media internet. Nearly 20 years later, connecting with other fans through music and events still “feeds my soul,” she said. 

You can learn more about Lauren at laurenfairweather.com.

You’re a creative video blogger, craft maker, graphic designer and singer-songwriter. Much of what you create and produce revolves around Harry Potter. Basically, you’re a celebrity in the Harry Potter community. What’s that feel like?

It’s a really great way to meet people who love Harry Potter as much as I do! Growing up, I didn’t have a lot of friends who loved the series on the same level I did, so finally becoming part of a community that is just as excited as I am to talk about theories and sorting has been a lot of fun for me. I also get invited to perform at Harry Potter related events all over the world, which is an absolute blast!

I read that you’ve been a “maker and artist” since you were a kid and that for as long as you can remember, you’ve “had this need to create every kind of craft (you) can get (your) hands on.” Tell me more about your creative childhood and where that urge to make comes from.

I’ve always been the kind of person who comes up with ideas and figures out how to make them real. When I was little, I’d make costumes out of other clothes and items I found around my house or I’d build a pretend car out of cardboard before my parents could recycle it.

Part of it came from wanting something I didn’t have and not having the money to buy it, but beyond that, I’ve always experienced so much enjoyment out of the process of figuring out how to make something and watching it come together.

A lot of your work is inspired by J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter franchise. When and how did you first discover that world?

My grandmother heard about the series back in late 1999 and bought me the first three books, thinking I’d like them. I’d say that is probably an understatement. By the time I was old enough, I was exploring online fandom and convincing adults to bring me to midnight release parties.

You’re a Hufflepuff. What Hufflepuff qualities do you see in yourself? 

Being hard-working and determined serves me well in all of my creative endeavors since I’m constantly learning and practicing to improve my craft. I also love my friends pretty fiercely and would do anything for them, often standing up for them without question even though it’s tough for me to stand up for myself.

So many people have become lifelong Harry Potter fans. Why do you think the series has sparked so much fan devotion? What’s kept it alive for you, personally? 

I think the depth and relatability of the characters really pulls people in and the fact that so many of us have grown up alongside them gives readers a bond with the series that doesn’t always exist with other media.

While the books were still being released, I was incredibly excited to find out what would happen to the characters I love so much. I also really enjoy stories that take the struggles of our world and put them into a well-developed fantasy universe — there’s something about seeing real-life problems displayed in a new light that makes them easier to deal with.

For me, the fandom itself is what has kept my interest in the series going over a decade after the last book was released. There is a seemingly endless amount of fan creation inspired by Harry Potter that I’m still finding and getting to spend time at events with other fans just absolutely feeds my soul.

You are a part of a unique subgenre within the Harry Potter fandom known as wizard rock. For those who aren’t familiar with wizard rock, could you explain what that is?

Wizard rock is a community of Harry Potter fans who write original music across all genres that is inspired by the Harry Potter series. Some folks write from specific character perspectives, some write about the series itself, and others are more loose in their interpretation. This music is usually posted online and sometimes performed live at libraries, clubs, living rooms, basements, and fan conventions all over.

The term “wizard rock” was coined by the band Harry and the Potters in the early 2000s, there were hundreds of bands listed on social media by 2006, and the movement has continued to grow and change ever since.

When and why did you begin writing and singing songs specifically about Harry Potter? 

In late 2005, I took my best friend Nina to a Harry and the Potters show (my second time seeing them) and we were so inspired and excited by what they did that we decided to start a band called The Moaning Myrtles. We sing songs exclusively from the perspective of the bathroom ghost by the same name, and I eventually started writing solo music under my own name from a wider variety of perspectives, including my own.

There’s just something about the vibe at wizard rock concerts that I still can’t get enough of. People walk in alone, start a conversation about someone else’s Gryffindor tie, and leave with a whole group of new friends. It was and still is a very warm environment where unlimited enthusiasm is not just accepted but encouraged and rewarded and I personally find that to be very rare. When I was younger, that sort of excitement about a book series was odd and I quickly learned to read the room before I let that out willingly.

The idea that I could contribute creatively to a scene that provided spaces like that immediately became very important to me, and I’ve been performing Harry Potter-inspired music at wizard rock concerts ever since.

How did you become a part of the burgeoning wizard rock scene? 

As The Moaning Myrtles, we started recording our song and posting them on MySpace, where the early scene was growing the quickest, and shared our page in a wizard rock group there. People found us and started asking us to schedule local shows, so we did. We were invited to do podcast interviews and booked shows at local cafés and libraries, and as word got out we started agreeing to travel to perform at bigger events like wizard rock festivals and Harry Potter fan conventions.

You’ve performed with some of the biggest bands in wizard rock, like Harry and the Potters, Tonks & the Aurors, and Draco and the Malfoys. Is there still a thriving wizard rock scene?

Yes! I perform pretty regularly as Lauren Fairweather, but we did a mini The Moaning Myrtles reunion tour in 2017 with Harry and the Potters, Potter Puppet Pals, and Draco and the Malfoys.  The best way to find out when shows are happening near you is to follow as many current bands as you can on social media and keep an eye out for when they announce tour dates.

In the last year alone, I’ve seen new wizard rock albums out from Tonks & the Aurors (“HUFFLERIOT”), Harry and the Potters (“Lumos”), Hawthorne and Holly (“We Are The Wizard Resistance”), Ashley Trix and the WZRDs (“W.Z.R.D.”), Grace Kendall (“Sad Songs for Sad Girls in Hogsmeade”), and Totally Knuts (“Sparks, Cats, & Tea Leaves”), off the top of my head.

Grace Kendall releases a yearly sampler of new wizard rock songs every year that anyone can submit songs to (as long as they were written and recorded that year) and it’s free to download if you’d like to learn about some bands and solo artists that are currently releasing music inspired by Harry Potter! You can find that at wizardrock.bandcamp.com

Also, if you live anywhere near Rhode Island or are willing to travel, there is a wizard rock house show series run by Brian Ross from Draco and the Malfoys that he hosts four times a year. People have legitimately moved to New England so they’re close enough to attend them year-round.

Can you share with me what you remember most about what it was like in those early days of the Harry Potter community/fandom? I feel like that community is still very much alive, but it’s changed dramatically with the growth of the internet and the fact that practically everyone you meet loves Harry Potter now. 

I got into online fandom back in maybe 2001, years before wizard rock started, and back then, my experience of fandom was pretty different. I read fanfiction and discussed theories, ships, and canon on fan forums, but for me, pre-social media internet was largely pretty anonymous and didn’t cross over in real life spaces for me until I was older.

In contrast, I just got back from LeakyCon Dallas where 10,000 Harry Potter fans gathered to discuss the series, dance along to wizard rock, take pictures with Tom Felton, and get Harry Potter tattoos in a huge room with booths full of fan-made art and other products.

From what I’ve gathered, fandom looks quite different depending on which area of it you find and how much energy you’re interested in investing into it. There are so many Harry Potter fans out there who have never come across wizard rock or who mostly stick to one area of fandom very occasionally. We also don’t really get midnight book releases anymore, but we do have a Harry Potter Broadway show and Harry Potter theme parks to visit if you can afford the super high cost and handle being around a lot of confused muggles.

What’s your musical background? How did you start songwriting and playing the guitar?

I started out as a vocalist in elementary school, joining choirs and performing in school musicals. That definitely fostered my love of performing music, and as I got older, I learned that I needed to develop musical skills beyond that if I wanted to continue pursuing music.

The first songs I wrote that I actually shared with the world were The Moaning Myrtles songs, but once I went away to college and saw Nina less often, I started learning how to play guitar and write music on my own.

Where do you draw inspiration for the many, many songs you’ve written about the themes, characters, and events of Harry Potter? 

… Is it unhelpful if I just say, “the Harry Potter books”? I’ve reread them many times and every time, something new hits me emotionally and I write that moment down for the next time I decide to write a wizard rock song. I wrote an entire album about The Prince’s Tale chapter of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. My original copies of the series from when I was a kid still have a Post-it note marking every mention of Moaning Myrtle.

These books have so much in them and there are so many ways to approach them in song form. I don’t really think I’ll run out of inspiration when I go back to them looking for it, but it is fun to know that I can also write songs about other stories I love.

Your lyrics are clever with a lot of inside jokes for the fandom, but they’re also very personal. Could you tell me a little about your songwriting process?

Sometimes I start with lyrics and work to create music that goes along with them and sometimes I hear a melody in my head and try to think up lyrics that fit it. I usually write very slowly, adjusting little things I think I could do better along the way and playing it over and over again as I go to see if anything new jumps out at me. I’ll even change things once I start playing a new song live, because seeing how audiences react to the songs can help me decide if it’s really finished or not.

You also write songs about other favorite books, TV shows, and pop culture themes. What are some of the other fandoms you’ve written about?

I have songs about a bunch of John Green books (Looking for Alaska, Paper Towns, The Fault in Our Stars) since he’s a friend of mine and I love his work. I’ve written about Firefly and The Hunger Games and His Dark Materials, sometimes for my solo work and sometimes for various side projects. My newest song is about SyFy’s The Magicians.

What about performing? Is that something you enjoy?

Yes! There’s really nothing like getting up on stage, performing a song that I’m really emotionally connected to, and hearing the audience sing along. Songwriting can be a bit of a lonely and nerve-wracking process and finding out that other people resonate with what I’ve written feels amazing. It reminds me that I’m not alone.

Your next scheduled performance will be in October at the 10th anniversary edition of LeakyCon Boston. That’s where the first LeakyCon event was hosted. I assume that will be a special occasion for you. What do you have planned for that?

LeakyCon is probably my favorite place to perform and I am super excited to go back again this fall, especially since I am still on a fandom-induced high from their Dallas event in August. I’ve performed at every LeakyCon so far (and GeekyCon, when they shifted to a multi-fandom model for a few years) including the first one in Boston back in 2009 and I’m honored to continue to be invited back to play for the most enthusiastic crowds I’ve ever experienced. LeakyCon London in 2013 was unreal, even though it was one of their smallest events.

For Boston, I’m working on possibly performing with a full band, which I don’t do very often. Typically, I get up on stage with myself and an acoustic guitar, but I’ve been trying to get out of my comfort zone occasionally and I hope it all works out.

You’ve released several albums, including your latest — With You, Whatever Happens — which you crowdfunded on Indiegogo. Tell me about the album and how it felt to put that out into the world. 

With You, Whatever Happens took seven years to write, which is a whole Hogwarts education. I take my time with songwriting lately, and I had been meaning to compile enough for an album for a long time. I had released a handful of the songs as singles over the years, so those got a makeover, which was fun.

And once Steph of Tonks & the Aurors invited me to tour with her last summer, I got the motivation I needed to round out the rest of the album with a bunch of songs from the perspectives of female characters in the Harry Potter series.

Years back, I’d met Justin Abel who was helping to run sound at LeakyCon and he mentioned wanting to work on an album with me. So once I had enough songs, I reached out to him and the wizard rock community helped me to raise enough to fully fund production of the album!

I was already pretty proud of what I recorded on my own, but after I asked a bunch of friends to contribute on other instruments and sent Justin all of the pieces, they put so much thought and love into it and I am incredibly happy with how it turned out.

Jarrod Perkins played drums, Brian Ross played drums, Nina Jankowicz and Mike Stein played keyboard, Matt Maggiacomo played lead guitar, Justin Abel sang backup and added additional instruments, and a whole mess of my friends, including my 2-year-old child, contributed gang vocals.

Aside from Harry Potter, what are some of your favorite fandoms?

The Magicians and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Along with being a star in the wizarding world, you’re also a YouTube star. You’ve been video blogging about crafting, your music, and your nerdy adventures since 2006 and have more than 90,000 subscribers. What prompted you to start making videos?

I was already making videos for fun before YouTube existed, but I had no real way of sharing them aside from playing them for friends at my house. So once the platform started up, it seemed like a natural fit to just upload the videos I was making and it evolved from there. I’m inspired by other creators all the time and have tried a lot of different formats and approaches over the years.

What do you enjoy about connecting with people in this way?

I like the way creating video content on YouTube inspires other people to create, whether that’s making videos themselves, writing their own music, or making a craft from a DIY tutorial I posted. I also like to ask discussion questions in my videos for folks to answer in the comments and that way, it doesn’t just stop with me.

Your videos are all about positivity and encouraging people to “wholeheartedly accept (their) quirks” and “unapologetically celebrate the things they love.” Why is this important to you?

For so many years, people told me not to do either of those things. I listened to them for so long and it made me miserable. Eventually, when I developed the confidence to stop caring so much about what other people thought of me, I gave myself the chance to realize that I was happier when I could be fully myself and do the things I loved. For so long, I was waiting for someone to tell me that it was okay to be excited and okay to celebrate that weird music I liked and I decided to be that person for people out there who also needed to hear that.

You also have an Etsy shop, Fairweather Friends, where you sell handmade plush toys, custom pet portraits, felt badges, jewelry, and art. I read that this started after you began stitching plush owls and putting them on your merch table during wizard rock tours. 

That’s true, yes! After years of selling the standard t-shirts and buttons, folks kept telling me they had too many of those items and wanted something new. Since I’d always been a crafter, I thought that starting my own line of handmade products was a great way to bring more of my favorite things into my work.

Crafting and creating is a lifestyle for you. You always seem to be working on a DIY endeavor or some kind of project. Where do you get your ideas?

I make things I like for people like me. Just working on projects I’m excited about puts me in the right headspace to come up with more ideas. Sometimes I’m inspired by stories I love, sometimes ideas come up in conversations with my creative friends, sometimes my audience requests things and I put my own spin on them, and sometimes I just get ideas out of nowhere. It’s not the kind of thing I can predict, but I’ve learned to make sure I write those ideas down so the next time I have a chance to work on a new project, I can see a list of previous ideas and pull from there.

If readers are interested in supporting your various creative endeavors, how could they best do that?

If readers would like to listen to your music, how would they go about that? 

The best place to buy my music is at laurenfairweather.bandcamp.com or at my concerts in physical CD format but it’s also available on digital music platforms if you have a preferred store that you like to use.

What are some of the upcoming things you’ve have in the works as a musician, crafter, and creator? 

I’m hoping to record my song about The Magicians and make a video for that pretty soon. I’m also working on releasing some of my newer handmade products online, since a bunch of them have only been available at in person events like my concerts.

I released two new hand-lettered lyric zines at LeakyCon (which are now available in my Bandcamp merch shop) and I’m hoping to create more zines in that series soon. I’m also designing some new merchandise set to be released in my DFTBA store in time for the holiday season!

I’ll be posting updates about all of my upcoming projects on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook @laurenfairwx and on my YouTube channel,  if you’d like to keep in touch.

Have you been playing Wizards Unite at all?

Yeah! It’s been fun so far. I’m still playing Pokémon Go, so I knew I’d at least give it a try once it came out.

 

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