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Former resident comes home for performance

Herald News - July 11, 2004, Artworks section
By Denise Baran-Unland
   
The Herald News


When Laurie Morvan, 43, of California was in the fifth grade, she joined a Joliet community band for elementary school students and decided to play drums.  But her mother, Rita King of Plainfield, then a single mother living in an apartment building, talked her daughter into learning the flute instead.  It was a good call, Morvan said, because learning a melodic instrument gave her a good musical start. And Morvan eventually did play drums in the marching band at Plainfield High School.

Now Morvan is the founder, lead vocalist, lead guitarist and songwriter of her own band, The Laurie Morvan Band, which plays a blend of rock, blues and pop and has just released its second album, “Find My Way Home.”  That band will play for the first time in Morvan’s hometown from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday at Gruben’s Uptown Tap, 512 Lockport St., Plainfield. For more information, call (815) 436-9395.

Other band members include Pat Morvan, bass and backing vocals; Carolyn Kelley, keyboards, flute and backing vocals; Lisa (Grubbs) Morvan, keyboards, violin and backing vocals; and Tony Barach Dennis, drums. All members are from California, are college graduates and range in age from nearly 40 to 50, the same as the band’s fan base.

Morvan has a master’s degree in applied mathematics and, since 2001, has been a math instructor at Cypress College in Cypress, Calif. She teaches calculus, trigonometry and geometry. “We don’t subscribe to the myth that musicians have to starve for their art,” said Morvan.

Morvan, who was inducted into
the Plainfield High School’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2000, said coming home to share her music will be exciting for her. At Plainfield High School, Morvan played volleyball and basketball for four years and participated in softball and track for two years. She won awards for sports as well as for academics and music.

During her sophomore year at the University of Illinois (Morvan earned a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering and graduated with honors in 1984), Morvan bought her first guitar - just because – and began writing her own songs.

In 1984, Morvan began working at TRW Aerospace in Redondo Beach, Calif., and joined her first cover band, playing her guitar for hours at night after work. In 1986, Morvan married bassist Pat Morvan. Three years later, she left her engineering job for a full-time musical career, playing everything from clubs, casinos and “seedy, little backwoods bars” all over California and Nevada.

But when Morvan decided she wanted to write and produce her own songs with her own band, she went back to school, got her teaching credential in math and became a high school math teacher. Teaching not only provides Morvan with a steady income while she’s pursuing her musical dream, but it allows her to help young people excel, something Morvan is as passionate about as she is “rockin’ it out” on stage. “It’s just something I really enjoy,” she said.

In 1993, Morvan formed Backroad Shack, and in 1995, she and Pat divorced, yet they remained close friends and fellow band members. In 1997 Backroad Shack released its first full album, “Out Of The Woods.” In addition to playing at the local establishments, Backroad Shack has opened for The Fabulous Thunderbirds and for Rick Derringer, were featured on Channel 7 Eyewitness News, did a one-hour cable television concert and interview show called “on Cue” and performed at B.B. King’s Blues Club.

In May 2004, Backroad Shack officially changed its name to The Laurie Morvan Band, a name that record producers and agents have an easier time remembering, Morvan said.

Morvan writes the songs that her band performs, and, although they all contribute to their own musical parts and the backup vocals, Morvan always has the final say. “I usually write about what’s going on in my life or things I’m thinking about,” said Morvan. “There used to be a joke in the band if I hadn’t written a song in a while, ‘Take Laurie out back and beat the crap out of her so she can write a song.’”

So far, fans do not seem to prefer any one particular song. Some people, Morvan said, prefer the introspective songs and ask for them, while others lean toward more “rock-in-your-face” type music. Morvan said the most gratifying part of being in the band is receiving feedback from her fans, telling her what a particular song meant to them. “That, to me, is a cool thing, to make that connection, when they say, ‘That song helped me through a bad time in my life.’”

Favorite artists: “Stevie Ray Vaughan and Bonnie Raitt. I’m a fan of great lyrics. Sometimes their music is just fun, and other times, it takes me where I need to go.”

Goal: “We’re hoping to find distribution for our album and get it into the stores nationwide. There’s some SRV and BR fans out there who want some gutsy, passionate music, and it’s our goal to find a way to get it for them.”

Words of Wisdom:
“You’ve got to have a thick skin, and you need to do it. If you’re not dedicated to it, it will be a hard thing when people tell you that you’re not going to make it and doors close in your face. If you don’t believe it’s great, that will come through when you try to sell it.”

 

 
 
 
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