Samantha Weigel/Daily Journal
Pianist Laura Sullivan plays new age style music at her home studio in Belmont.
From a small farm town in Northern California to the bright Los Angeles stage lights, Belmont resident Laura Sullivan couldn’t be more appreciative and enthusiastic after winning a Grammy on Sunday for best new age album.
“It definitely takes a village to produce any kind of artistic endeavor,” Sullivan said. “I’m just so grateful, that’s been my overriding emotion.”
It was the first time she’d entered to win a coveted award and her seventh record, “Love’s River,” landed her as the second female soloist to ever win in the category, Sullivan said. As a member of the Recording Academy’s San Francisco chapter for 10 years, she’s developed a network of legendary and talented musicians and along with her friends, family and husband Eric, she’s received tremendous backing throughout the process, Sullivan said.
She composes her own music and, between recording at home, where she lives with Eric and their 6-year-old daughter and working with renowned producers in San Francisco and Vermont, the award-winning album she started in 2011 was fueled with significant support, Sullivan said.
As a modern and broad genre, new age music is intrinsically meant to help listeners unwind, Sullivan said.
“There’s a lot of different styles within new age. But one thread would be peacefulness and relaxing,” Sullivan said.
She cherishes her daughter and is inspired by the gratitude she feels from being a parent, Sullivan said. Her music comes freely and she often begins playing before developing written compositions and assigning song titles, Sullivan said.
“This is going to sound really new age-y; but it just kind of comes to me. We all have access to divine resources,” Sullivan said. “Once something comes to me, I write it down and improve upon it. I impress on it my own emotions and experiences. It comes to me, then I figure out what it’s about.”
She began playing with her mother at the age of 4 before going on to earn a college degree in music. She sings, plays guitar and flute, but identifies as a classically trained pianist who would trouble her teachers when she strayed from precise classical composition. She infuses improvisation and rearranges the melodies of the distinctive genre to make it more modern, Sullivan said.
“It makes it something more accessible to people who wouldn’t normally listen to the classics. But that’s why people like cover songs so much, people naturally gravitate to what they’ve heard before,” Sullivan said.
It’s this musical intuition that’s led her to a successful career in a competitive profession.
“I think being an indie artist, it takes a lot of patience and persistence,” Sullivan said.
Outside of arranging music, she performs and writing underscores for television and radio commercials, she is passionate about teaching and has written a book.
The most effective way to instill musical appreciation is to expose children as early as in the womb, Sullivan said. She incorporates the Japanese Suzuki method of drawing from one’s environment; rote, the practice of playing by ear; and learning how to read music as a comprehensive way to create young virtuosos, Sullivan said.
Her daughter started young and was featured on one of her albums when she was 3 years old, Sullivan said.
“That was my favorite part of the project ... to have captured her sweet little singing voice on that album,” Sullivan said.
Music is a family affair in the Sullivan house and she giggles to announce her husband is now a Grammy-winning producer. Being recognized for her work has been humbling and tremendously encouraging. Now that the chaos of the Grammys has calmed, she’s ready to begin her next album that will be based on classical music but stylized with a new age angle, Sullivan said.
“I want to create more music that is really healing for people and puts them in a peaceful state,” Sullivan said. “I really feel like that’s my calling.”
For more information about Laura or to listen to her music visit www.laura-sullivan.com.
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