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Interview


A tall, blue-eyed blonde walks up to the microphone, guitar in hand and confidence in her soul. Skillfully she launches into a set of hot modern blues that brings to mind a cross between Stevie Ray Vaughan and Bonnie Raitt.

"I feel blessed. I don't take any of this for granted, I take it all in, I enjoy every good thing that happens and appreciate it," Laurie Morvan said.

The Long Beach resident fronts the Laurie Morvan BAnd and has plenty to be grateful for, such as her March release, "Cures What Ails Ya" (Screaming Lizard Records). The 12-track effort features appearances by jazz pianist George Duke, Bonnie Raitt bassist James "Hutch" Hutchinson and Grammy-winning drummer Tony Braunagel and has been getting the band a lot of attention. The group spent the first weekend of July as the Blues Breaker Band on the House of Blues Radio Hour hosted by Dan Akroyd and they've also been gigging continuously throughout California.

Morvan grew up in Illinois and played flute and drums during high school. In her late teens, a friend introduced her to the guitar, which quickly led to writing songs and singing.

"I played in rock and roll cover bands, that's how I learned to play guitar. I'd go home every night, listen to whatever song we were learning for the band and learn the guitar parts, and learn how to sing it and get ready to perform," Morvan said.

The same friend turned Morvan onto the music of Stevie Ray Vaughan. She immediately realized that the blues was her calling. But before embarking full-bore on a music career, Morvan obtained a degree in electrical engineering from the Univerity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

A move to California would take her a step closer to a musical future, so Morvan landed a job in aerospace in Los Angeles, which she later quit to tour.

"Even as a young kid I knew I loved music, but I knew that to record records it took money and if some job is going to take me away from music for part of my day, then I'm going to make money. I'm not going to deliver pizzas," Morvan said. To finace her recording now, Morvan teaches math at Cypress College.

Morvan penned all the songs for "Cures What Ails Ya." "I put my guitar on and I start free-form playing and there will be a song, I feel it coming in the back of my head is the best description I can give. I can feel it coming, I'll have a mood or an idea or a concept and bam - the music and the lyrics all come together usually," Morvan said.

When she's not performing or writing, Morvan is rehearsing, working on booking and doing all the other duties that go with running a band. Her only real break is the one week she spends each summer in the Sierras backpacking with friends.

Despite her talent, Morvan still has to deal with being a woman in a male-dominated industry. She takes club snubs and being ignored in music stores in stride.

"You have to choose, as a human being, either you're going to be mad about that kind of stuff or you're just going to go, 'My job is just to work hard and when II get my opportunities and the light shines upon me I'm going to make sure the light is illuminating something worthy of people's attention.' That's the path I've chosen," Morvan said.
San Gabriel Valley Newspaper Group, July '07


Laurie's Corner
 Welcome! This is Laurie's little place to share information with all the LMB fans on a more personal basis. It's a sort of random collection of her thoughts, ideas and interests.
       
Laurie Morvan Band
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Songwriter Notes

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LMB Videos

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Laurie's Bio

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Laurie's Film & TV Credits

 

 
  The Guitar Solo - examples from Laurie's songs    
   

 

       
     
 Laurie's Songwriter Notes

The graphic at the above right is an actual photo of the pages where I wrote "Where Are The Girls With Guitars" which is on our brand new CD, Cures What Ails Ya. I wrote this song exactly one week before we recorded. I taught it to bassist Pat Morvan and drummer Tony Braunagel in the studio shouting out changes as they made a few quick notes and then we blasted through it in one take. It might be hard to see in the graphic but I write the bulk of the song in its more or less finished format on the right hand page. I use the left hand page to jot down the various lyrical or musical ideas I get but don't actually know where they will fit in the finished song at that exact moment.

Writing music is genuinely one of the greatest joys in my life.  I call it my "cheap therapy."   It is the vehicle by which I exercise my demons, lament my trajedies and give voice to my triumphs.  Many people have said that they feel like they have gotten to know me through my music.  I can dig that!

A songwriter's willingness to be vulnerable is both her most important tool and most frightening responsibility. It can be a difficult thing to accomplish because you are exposing your own weaknesses and hurts and trying to convey it all in a way to which others can relate. You may wonder why anyone would want to do this. I have to admit, sometimes I wonder about that myself! For most songwriters, myself included, sharing the inner workings of my world is truly an attempt to reach out to others who may have had a similar experience or feeling and connect with them.

At the same time you can't take yourself too seriously...let's face it, you can't always be so darn vulnerable. Sometimes life is incredibly wonderful and filled with joy, when everything is going your way and you can't imagine that it could get any better. So sometimes ya gotta puff out your chest and crow! A supersize dose of rock & roll swagger every now and then is good for the soul!

I have written songs during every stage of my life, during every possible emotion: inconceivable pain, unabashed happiness, abject boredom, humiliating contriteness, innocent wonder, playful curiosity, self-righteous indignation, helplessness, foolishness, hopelessness, hopefulness....

I know that I am not unique for having experienced all of these emotions. As individuals we have all led different lives but there is so much common ground upon which we tread. It's my hope that we can just walk that path together from time to time through my music.

Thanks for sharing my music...with apologies to the Hokey Pokey, that really IS what it's all about!
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What's in Laurie's current iPod playlist right now?

Laurie's current iPod playlist

Bonnie Raitt - I Will Not Be Broken ( I find myself wanting to hear this song every day right now!)

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Laurie Morvan's Bio

It could have been a disastrous beginning.  Laurie’s womanizing, alcoholic father walked out on her mother and her when she was five years old.  They were living in a little white house on Bittersweet Lane in New Lenox, Illinois.  While it was a great struggle, and money was always in short supply, Laurie’s mother was a hard worker who never accepted charity, and they managed to live a simple life in a series of too-hot-in-the-summer and too-cold-in-the-winter upstairs apartments in Joliet, Illinois.  Her mom eventually met a wonderful man, fell in love and married.  Things got quite a bit easier then, with two incomes in the household, and they even managed to buy property in a rural town called Plainfield upon which the family built a house with their own hands.  

Laurie grew up surrounded by all kinds of music.  Her step-father, who Laurie considers to be her “real Dad”, was a hard core country fan.  Her mom listened to the lighter side of rock and pop, and Laurie was a typical midwest teenager who listened to all kinds of rock, pop, country, R&B, even disco.  She absorbed it all…although she does remember her Dad actually banning her Kiss albums from the house!  The one thing that was missing from that period is the blues.  Even though Chicago was less than an hour away, in their tiny little microcosm of small town Illinois, Laurie was completely in the dark about the musical form that would soon shape her very existence.

Laurie’s best friend Brendan had an acoustic guitar. In the high school band, she played flute during concert season and drums during marching season, but this was totally different.  Being curious, she gave it a try.  She thought the guitar was “the greatest thing ever” and wrote her first song after learning only three chords. She was a busy kid in high school, as Laurie was also an accomplished athlete earning a total of 12 varsity letters during her four years and was eventually inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame. 

At 18, she went off to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to get a degree in Electrical Engineering. She also attended the U of I’s Institute of Aviation, earning private, commercial, instrument and multi-engine pilot's licenses.  Her sophomore year, she was running out of money fast and missing playing sports. She tried out for the volleyball team and won a full-ride volleyball scholarship.  She now had a way to pay for her education and loved playing volleyball.  She would always bring her acoustic guitar along on the team’s road trips and it was quite common for her to get the whole team singing while they were waiting for delayed flights to and from their games.

Laurie eventually bought herself an electric guitar, a beautiful, white Les Paul Custom with gold hardware and an ebony fretboard, which she says, “took everything I had and then some to buy.”  Years later, it was sold for rent money back home while she was out on the road somewhere.  Laurie laments that she still misses that guitar.  

After graduating from college she took a job in aerospace and moved to Los Angeles, joining a rock & roll cover band as a rhythm guitarist and vocalist.  It didn't take very long before she wanted to play lead guitar.  Once she started, she progressed quickly due to her ability to practice for long, long hours and never get bored.  “The guitar is so fascinating to me,” says Laurie, “an unending source of inspiration and wonder, something no mere human could ever master.”  It was then that she got her first Stratocaster:  “It was red and shiny and sexy, and I was home baby!”  She quit her engineering job, never to return, and joined a road band as its lead guitarist/vocalist, doing Top 40 covers.  They traveled around California and Nevada playing 5 nights a week in clubs, casinos, hotels, and every dive bar that would have them.  Laurie would play guitar 4 to 5 hours every night at the shows and practice 3 to 4 hours every day in her hotel room.  She was ravenous about that guitar.

In the very early stages of developing her guitar style, Laurie learned from the world’s greatest rock & roll players, nourished by the musical smorgasbord of their recordings.  She couldn't get enough!  All that intricate, detailed studying paid off, giving her the dexterity and vocabulary which allowed her style to develop organically its own unique voice.  To Laurie, playing lead guitar is “a lot like doing a life-long dance of seduction with your true love.  It's just as important to know when to shut up and listen as it is to hoot and holler, when to tease and when to please, when to be tough and when to be tender.”

Her musical performances were rooted in guitar-driven blues rock and southern rock as she was playing lead guitar and singing in a power trio.  When she was introduced to the music of Stevie Ray Vaughan her whole life changed.  She fell head-over-heels in love with Stevie's powerful, electric blues!  He was also the gateway through which Laurie was introduced to a world of blues history she'd never been exposed to before.  She says, “It was like being turned loose in an infinite, beautiful new universe!” 

Once she started creating her own brand of red hot blues rock, she realized quickly that this was what she was born to do.  Her guitar playing style sprang forth as an evolutionary leap into life from that primordial soup of electric blues, rock, and country she was listening to.  She says, “Nothing had ever felt so real, so visceral, so expressive, so passionate, so sexual, so nurturing, so spiritual, so painful, so healing, so thrilling, so demanding, so all-encompassing and so perfectly suited to me.  I genuinely feel most complete with my guitar in my hands and I don't expect that will ever change.”

The next step was to begin recording her own music.  Recording was expensive so that meant raising funds which in turn meant having to work at something besides music while still pursuing music.  A terrible and painful sacrifice, but there was no way to get around it.   Laurie got a Master's Degree in Applied Mathematics and taught college math classes to raise recording money.

Her first album was Out Of The Woods in 1997, and the band was called Backroad Shack in those days.  Laurie wrote all 10 songs.  Second, in 2004, came Find My Way Home, where Laurie wrote 8 of the 11 songs and a name change to the Laurie Morvan Band.  Her third CD, Cures What Ails Ya, was released in March of 2007, and came close to capturing the raw power, dynamics, versatility and passion of a Laurie Morvan Band live performance. Laurie wrote all 12 tracks on this one.

The release of that third CD was a turning point for the band, and a real highlight for Laurie was when Guitar Player magazine interviewed her for a two page feature article in their October 2007 issue.  Next came an interview with Vintage Guitar magazine, a feature spot on Dan Aykroyd’s House of Blues Radio Hour with Kickin’ Down Doors chosen as the Blues Breaker Song of the Week, and a flood of great reviews and articles in DownBeat, Blues Revue, Modern Guitars, and others.

In February of 2008, the band advanced to the finals of the International Blues Challenge held in Memphis, TN.  Their CD Cures What Ails Ya also made it into the finals (top 5) of the Blues Foundation’s Best Self-Produced CD competition. Out of 160 acts that fought their way through their own regional competitions and made it to Memphis, the Laurie Morvan Band was the only one to advance to the finals of both the live band and CD competitions. Through the exposure of the IBC they were able to make connections for touring in the Midwest, something they do regularly now.

For her fourth CD, Laurie made the decision to work with an outside producer for the first time, co-producing with Steve Savage (Elvin Bishop, Robert Cray).  In 2009, Fire It Up! was released. A classy, blues statement which shows Laurie’s continued growth as a songwriter, producer and guitarist. Laurie wrote all 12 songs on Fire It Up! and on January 23, 2010, it won the Blues Foundation Award for Best Self-Produced CD at the International Blues Challenge.   Once again the band was honored by the House of Blues Radio Hour when You Don‘t Know About Me was selected as the Blues Breaker Song of the Week.

A prolific writer with a seemingly unending source of inspired material, Laurie penned 11 new songs for her fifth CD, Breathe Deep, released June 12, 2011.  Once again, Laurie took the reins of producer, this time co-producing with bandmate and record label partner, Lisa (Grubbs) Morvan.

The driving blues shuffle of No Working During Drinking Hours celebrates having some unapologetic fun in between all the hard work.  Texas-styled  Saved by the Blues paints a picturesque tale of meeting up with Robert Johnson at the crossroads one steamy summer night, and finding blues redemption.  Mojo Mama grooves along on a funky, imagery filled journey deep into a sexy blues swamp.  It Only Hurts When I Breathe burns slow and powerful,  punctuated by beautiful guitar leads and an intimate, vulnerable vocal.  Hurtin’ and Healin‘ highlights Laurie’s clever lyrics which explore the duality of the human condition via the coexistence, and codependence, of the two sides of every coin.
 
Laurie is a powerful, inviting and charismatic performer, whose personal, in between song banter alternates between inspirational and flat out hilarious.  The band’s touring schedule continues to expand, with growing invitations to perform at festivals and special events all across the USA and into Canada such as:  Thunder Bay Blues Fest, Billtown Blues Festival, Ellnora Guitar Festival, Blues by the Bay, Fire on the Mountain, SummerSounds, Monterey Bay Blues Fest, Long Beach Blues Fest, Coloma Blues Live and the Legendary Rythm & Blues Cruise.

Accessible and affable, Laurie spends hours meeting with fans after shows.  She often speaks onstage about her belief that “music is the most healing force in the universe and that we, as musicians, have a sacred calling to get out there and share that love and healing with the good folks in this world.”

Laurie Morvan, Discography
Breathe Deep, 2011, Laurie Morvan Band
Fire It Up!, 2009, Laurie Morvan Band
Cures What Ails Ya, 2007, Laurie Morvan Band
Find My Way Home, 2004, Laurie Morvan Band
Out Of The Woods, 1997, Backroad Shack

 

       
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Laurie's Gear

Electric Guitars

1956 reissue Fender Stratocaster from the Custom Shop ** black w/gold pickguard (this is Laurie's main axe)

1986 Fender Stratocaster - red w/ white pickguard
1996 Fender Telecaster - black w/ white pickguard
1980’s Strat style guitar, custom built by Music Works - blue

** Laurie talks about searching for her new guitar, the '56 reissue..."When I was shopping for a new guitar to record the CD with, I must have tried a hundred different guitars all over Los Angeles for several months. My friend has a vintage 1955 Strat in great shape that sings like a bird and we took it with us everywhere comparing guitars until we found one that could stand up to it. I tried a bunch of different ’56 reissue Strats in several stores and none of them sounded any good…until this one. I played my friend’s vintage ’55 and then switched over to what was to become my 1956 reissue Fender Stratocaster and every head in the room turned because it sounded so good! I knew it was the one for me."

Acoustic Guitars

1972 Martin D-28 acoustic - only leaves the house for recording sessions now
2006 Takamine acoustic with cutaway

Amps    

2006 Tone King Meteor II, 40 watt head & cabinet
(Laurie's main amp,which she used exclusively on the new CD)
1967 Fender Princeton blackface
1993 Fender Twin

 

Pedals:    

Cry Baby Wah Wah
Boss BD-2 Blues Driver modified by Keeley Electronics
Ibanez TS-808 reissueTube Screamer
Boss DD-2 Digital Delay
Peterson Strobostomp Tuner

All connections with George L cables

Accessories     

1980’s era Nady 101 Guitar Wireless (still hangin’ in there!)
Shure PSM 700 in ear monitor system
Boss TU-12 tuner
Ernie Ball Volume Pedal

Picks    

Fender Heavies with custom printing

Strings     

Ernie Ball Regular Slinkies, 10’s

   
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Laurie's Guitar Techniques

I've decided to put up examples of the things that people seem to ask me about most often. I will add more lessons sporadically as my crazy schedule allows....

FYI - you'll need some sort of mp3 player, like Real Player, or Windows Media Player, etc. to hear the clips.

Click on the Clip# in the left column below to hear the music sample.

       
Lesson 2 - Basic Shuffle Rhythm      
Music sample coming soon

Many guitarists like to focus only on lead playing, and who can blame them, it's the most fun in the world to play lead guitar! However, what many guitarists miss out on is the absolute joy that comes from creating a big, greasy groove with your bassist and drummer. This lesson is specific to the basic blues shuffle rhythm, something most guitarist take for granted as "simple", yet so many don't do very well at all. It takes genuine concentration to really lock in your rhythm playing with the kick drum and that is the most important element for a guitarist to help create that elusive "perfect pocket"!

Let's use a key of A example. In a I - IV - V progression, that's A - D - E, a guitarist will use the following fingerings:

On the A chord

E--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
B--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
G--------------------------------------------------------------------------------    
D--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A-----------7------7---------9------9---------7------7----------9------9---
E-----------5------5---------5------5---------5------5----------5------5---
Count:    1                2                 3                  4

On the D chord

E--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
B--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
G--------------------------------------------------------------------------------    
D-----------7------7---------9------9---------7------7----------9------9---
A-----------5------5---------5------5---------5------5----------5------5---
E--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Count:    1                2                 3                  4

On the E chord

E--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
B--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
G--------------------------------------------------------------------------------    
D-----------9------9---------11----11-------9------9----------11----11---
A-----------7------7---------7------7---------7------7----------7------7---
E--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Count:    1                2                 3                  4

Next time you are playing with your band, try going through a shuffle without playing any lead (tough, I know!) and really make locking in with the kick drum your entire focus. If at all possible, set up a couple of mics, even if they are just on your guitar amp and the kick drum. Then listen back, or even better, if you can record to computer software you can visually see as well as hear where you are lined right up and where you are not. You might just find yourself amazed at how much you are wandering around the beat, but once you get your rhythm playing synced up with the kick drum, the whole groove opens up! There is so much more room in the musical space!

To me, creating a great pocket is just as satisfying as ripping off a great lead line. I really mean that. It is all part of forging a fantastic, professional sound on stage. Your fans might not be able to articulate to you just exactly what the difference is, but believe me, they'll feel it.

       
Lesson 1 - Chicken Pickin'    
Click here to listen This is the short fill I do after the second line of the chorus in the song Rock Me Right on my Find My Way Home album. I absolutely love to play chicken pickin' riffs!
 

This riff is in the key of E. It uses only your top 3 strings and is exactly one measure (4 beats) long. A note about my picking technique on this one: I use my pick to sound the notes on the G and B strings and my middle finger to sound the notes on my high E string. I always hold my pick between my thumb and index finger. Here is the guitar tablature:

^ = hammer on

E--------------0---------0---------0---------0--------0-----
B------------------0^2------0^3------0^2------0^1--------
G--------0^1-----------------------------------------------    
D-----------------------------------------------------------
A-----------------------------------------------------------
E-----------------------------------------------------------
Count:    1                2                 3                  4

Practice it slowly at first. If you have a metronome, turn it on a slow setting and try to play it evenly, then build up speed. In my mind, it's always better to play something correctly every time, and let the speed come naturally. In no time you'll be able to play along with the Laurie Morvan Band!

This figure can be moved up and down the neck so that it can be played over virtually any chord. You won't have the open high E string anymore, so you will have to use the index finger of your fretting hand to act as a capo.

 
 
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