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Chvrches' Lauren Mayberry goes solo — and we got exclusive backstage access

Lauren Mayberry performs at the 9:30 Club in D.C. on Monday.
Jordan A. Grobe
Lauren Mayberry performs at the 9:30 Club in D.C. on Monday.

Lauren Mayberry has been onstage at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C. before. Many times, in fact.

The lead singer of the band Chvrches has played sold-out shows here — and all over the world. But this one, on Monday night, is different.

The posters and T-shirts don't say Chvrches, they say "Lauren Mayberry."

That's because her bandmates aren't here this time.

"Which is quite sad, but good for everyone to fly the coop for a little bit and then come back together," she says.

This is the first live concert of her new solo career.

And just before the show, All Things Considered sits down to chat backstage with Mayberry about this next phase.

Mayberry at the 9:30 Club on Monday.
/ Jordan A. Grobe
/
Jordan A. Grobe
Mayberry at the 9:30 Club on Monday.

Mayberry has only released one solo track so far, which came out just a few days before the show.

And "Are You Awake" is a slow piano ballad that sounds nothing like the electro-dance-pop of Chvrches.

Onstage Monday night, she keeps that promise.

As she tells the crowd: "There's two depressing slow ones, and then the rest of them have a bit of pep."

Mayberry at the 9:30 Club on Monday.
/ Jordan A. Grobe
/
Jordan A. Grobe
Mayberry at the 9:30 Club on Monday.

Mayberry performs a tight nine-song set — eight originals, and her only cover is not a Chvrches song but, rather, a fizzy rendition of Madonna's "Like A Prayer."

Back in conversation with us before the show, Mayberry is a little bemused by it all.

Mayberry at the 9:30 Club.
/ Jordan A. Grobe
/
Jordan A. Grobe
Mayberry at the 9:30 Club.

This show feels significant. Like a moment people might talk about years from now as the start of something big.

The stage is decorated with bouquets of flowers. The women on drums, guitar and keys join in with tight harmonies.

It's not a coincidence that the musicians on the stage are all women. Mayberry tells us she has spent the last 20 years of her life in bands with dudes. And that required her to code switch.

Sometimes it felt like every interview about Chvrches was about her role as a woman.

Mayberry at the 9:30 Club.
/ Jordan A. Grobe
/
Jordan A. Grobe
Mayberry at the 9:30 Club.

As Mayberry launches this new phase of her career, she knows the question she is likely to get more than any other. And she has a quick answer: No, this is not the end of the band Chvrches.

"Our plan is that we're going to do both," she tells us. "We've re-signed the band for more records. So everyone is confident and comfortable that that's what's going to happen."

As one post about the Monday night show put it: "Lauren Mayberry hasn't announced an album yet, but it sure seems like there's one on the way."

For now, she's on tour across the U.S. and Europe, doing something she's never done before: performing as herself.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Ari Shapiro
Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's flagship afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. He has reported from above the Arctic Circle and aboard Air Force One. He has covered wars in Iraq, Ukraine, and Israel, and he has filed stories from dozens of countries and most of the 50 states. His debut memoir, The Best Strangers In the World, was an instant New York Times bestseller. He is also a frequent guest singer with the "little orchestra" Pink Martini, and he regularly tours the country as a cabaret artist with the actor Alan Cumming.
Noah Caldwell
Sarah Handel