The Late Bloomer

  • Laurence Elder

    Laurence Elder

    I’d like to introduce you to one of our newest clients, Laurence Elder, a jazz singer/songwriter whose musical journey is both impressive and inspiring – especially considering it almost never began. Growing up, he was kicked out of five schools and ran away from home. In his teens, Laurence developed a taste for drugs, and admits to having committed vandalism, arson, shoplifting and car theft.

    TM: Your parents thought you’d either be dead or in jail by the time you reached 18. What happened? How did you manage to beat the odds?

    LE: In my late teens I started turning my life around and music was a big part of it. I quit smoking, drugs and drinking by the tender age of 21 and enrolled myself in a music conservatory with no prior musical training, eventually earning a Master’s degree in music from the University of Miami. I also became a marathon runner and triathlete, as well as a personal trainer. My transition from journeyman jazz pianist to singer-songwriter came late as well – I didn’t really find my voice and start singing until I was about 36, and this is when my career really started coming together. So there is a real “late bloomer” theme that runs through my musical journey.

    TM: Who are your biggest musical influences any why?

    LE: There are so many, and different ones at any given point in time. But at this point in time I feel like I am the most well-rounded and focused and defined as an artist as I’ve ever been – and the short list of influences I would cite for the musician that I am today are Sting, Bruce Hornsby, John Mayer, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon.

    Sting because he is such a brilliant songwriter, and also for his ability to magnetically seem to attract the best possible musicians to bring his music to life. This is what makes a great bandleader. Also for his ability, a lot like Miles, to have many musical incarnations throughout his prolific career while somehow staying relevant.

    Bruce Hornsby again for great songwriting, and for his rich harmonic vocabulary and piano voicings, which have a direct influence on my sound. Also because I resonate with other piano-playing/singer-songwriter bandleaders, like Bruce, Elton John, Billy Joel, Ben Folds, etc.

    John Mayer – again for great songwriting – and also the ability to successfully straddle the fine line between huge commercial success and still maintaining artistic depth and integrity – he’s completely nailed it. His guitar voicings and sound are very clean and modern, and richly support his songs.

    Stevie Wonder – wow what can I say? He’s one of the great masters that has more talent in his little pinky than most musicians will ever have in their entire body. He changed music and songwriting and the way musicians approached their craft. He created the soundtrack for my generation and future ones to grow up with.

    Paul Simon – the quintessential singer-songwriter, and again, much like Miles and Sting, an artist with multiple musical incarnations and a prodigious body of work. I grew up listening to Simon and Garfunkel, and was still working odd construction jobs when the brilliant Graceland hit the airwaves. Paul Simon still remains a vital and towering force in music – someone we can all look up to.

    TM: Which contemporary artists do you listen to?

    LE: Gavin DeGraw, John Mayer, Jamie Cullum, Ben Folds…

    TM: Describe the process of making your first album, “Surrounded”

    LE: It was an incredible learning process. I became a producer by default and necessity. Once I realized I had strong material and enough to fill an album, I set out to have the production be at a level that would truly serve the music. With the help of the great drummer Carlomagno Araya, who also co-produced, we raised the bar high and kept it there, from the choice of musicians (including Grammy winners Peter Erskine and Paquito D’Rivera), to the type of mics and preamps and processing we used, to the painstaking mixing process, to having it mastered at Gateway Mastering, one of the best facilities in the world. Gateway is run by Bob Ludwig who has mastered artists as diverse as Def Leppard, U2, Madonna, Radiohead, Nirvana, and Bruce Springsteen, to name a few.

    TM: What’s your favorite track on the album?

    LE: That’s a tough one – it’s hard for me to have a favorite “anything” because usually anything that I would have a favorite “something” of usually has close cousins that rotate, alternate and compete for the “favorite” spot. That said, if I were stranded on a desert island and could only listen to one track ever again, I would have to pick “The Ocean.”

    TM: Do you write your own songs?

    LE: YES! But from time to time I really like doing a cover or two. The one cover on “Surrounded” is of Elton John’s “Rocket Man,” and it’s a very different treatment of that tune. To me it’s a great compliment when people say you did a cover and made it sound like one of your own songs, and I get that a lot.

    TM: Where’s your favorite place to perform?

    LE: Gravity Lounge in Charlottesville, Virginia. It has a nice intimate vibe and people really come there to listen. Charlottesville’s a hip college town with a great music scene.

    I also have gigs coming up at Washington DC’s Blues Alley (May 27) and NYC’s Blue Note (July 12), and somehow I have a feeling that they might become my favorite new places to play.

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    This entry was posted on Monday, May 12th, 2008 at 4:22 am and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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