Father’s Day is quickly approaching and it is a time to reflect on the memories of the fathers and fatherly-figures in our lives. Nashville Music Guide took the time to sit down with singer/songwriter Laura Orshaw to talk about her latest project, Songs of Lost Yesterdays, where she took some originals and personal favorites of days past that showcase her grandfather’s stories and her dad’s musical values and influences.
An interview with Laura reveals as much about her as an artist as it does about the values her father instilled in her musical career. She grew up in a musical family in northeastern Pennsylvania, where she learned to play and sing from her paternal grandmother. Throughout her teens, Laura performed across the Northeast with her father in The Lonesome Road Ramblers, performing classic bluegrass.
“I started recording at 12. My dad and I made a couple of fiddle tune albums in my teens. It really focused on fiddle music. Late teens I started singing more. I have been searching for songs from old-time music and making them more bluegrass-y. I have been making a list for the last 7-8 years of songs that I wanted to put together,” said Laura.
Laura’s focus on Lost Songs of Yesterdays pays tribute to a lot of influences, including a vocal style that originated from old time songs from the 40’s and 50’s country music scene. She has dedicated herself to transforming these tunes for this project by giving them a bluegrass sound. The topics on the album focus on old ideas/stories that are presented in a way that carry a current-day relevance.
Laura has 12 years of experience performing, teaching private lessons, and conducting educational programs and workshops throughout the Northeast. Laura’s passion for teaching is also evident in her professional education. She is a Master’s level counselor at Lesley University as Coordinator for their Expressive Therapies Graduate Program.
“I really have been doing it [music] as a hobby but now that I have graduated and have a good job this album is a snapshot of where I am in my musical career,” said Laura.
Recently, Laura has been living in Boston and for the last four years she has been enjoying the fresh, young music scene that brings talent from across the musical-genre board and she has been gaining inspiration and new collaboration opportunities.
“Growing up in the small rural community was so different because there were no kids to play music with and now that I am in Boston there are more musical opportunities and artists to share ideas with,“ said Laura.
But that doesn’t change how big of an influence her small rural community and family has played on her musical journey.
“It has been really huge that I am very close with my family. Within my family there was just music all the time. My dad always played in a bluegrass band, there was a bluegrass radio show that he did, and dad with his band recorded music in our house,” said Laura. “There was just constant music going on even with local festivals and music events. As a child I thought that it was a normal part of everyone’s life to have instruments and music around all the time. After every meal, there was music and it was a part of life. When my dad was not playing music he worked at a music store. I would hang at the music shop all day during the summers and after school and took lessons in my downtime. “
Laura had the opportunity to experience music in ways that many do not. She interacted musically with adults, which gave her the maturity and confidence from a young age to focus on her own music. It was through family – most importantly the bond that music created with her father – that guided her through these experiences and contributed to her finding her own musical style.
“There are so many moments that I feel are memorable because I was growing through music and my dad was present and supportive of that. Spending hours driving to gigs; performing on stage together and knowing when the harmonies were good and when it was a really energetic show,” said Laura. “Those moments and experiences that we shared is what makes music addictive created a very deep connection with my father. I don’t think that I would have had that strong link to him if we hadn’t started playing music from a young age.”
Another influence in Laura’s musical career and an inspiration for themes in Songs of Lost Yesterdays is patriarchal – her grandfather. While her grandfather never really played professionally as her grandmother and father did, he would sit in and play guitar and sing along with the family.
“He had real support of the music. And his experience growing up in rural Pennsylvania during the Great Depression times allowed him to really identify with the writing and the stories behind old-time/bluegrass music. He would always comment about songs or certain records that told stories that may not have otherwise been recognized,” commented Laura. “He was the inspiration behind my song “New Deal Train” because of the stories that he used to tell about the hard times that he saw when he was young.”
Laura considers her grandfather as a great critic of her sound and music career.
“My grandfather was really surprised about the growth that I have had over the past 5 years. He would come see me perform when I lived close and now he and my parents are proud to see me bringing my music into a larger Bluegrass music community and be able to represent where I am from and my music roots. They are proud of me taking it to the next level,” said Laura.
Laura does a lot of freelance work with Bluegrass music workshops and events in her region. She also works with Boston Bluegrass Union, which has some great music education academies that give children the opportunity to be introduced to Bluegrass. It gives kids a chance to socialize and learn about music in a safe and comfortable environment.
Laura will be jamming and networking at World of Bluegrass 2015, appearances are TBD. If you would like to know more about Laura Orshaw and her new album Songs of lost Yesterdays visit: www.lauraorshaw.com