gorgeous pop music with operatic vocals
musical explorations of love and longing
click on image to visit artists' website
Laura Turner is about to take the world by storm with her stunning debut album Soul Deep. We first heard the music in May on a United Airlines international flight when we initially thought that it was from Sarah Brightman's then forthcoming album Harem (review). A quick study of the airline's monthly entertainment guide showed the tracks were instead from a new Curb Records artist named Laura Turner. The label arranged our interview with Laura in early July. You are about to read the very first independent feature article published on her music; it includes an in-depth interview and an album review.
Laura's album will most certainly attract Sarah Brightman fans. Those that listen to contemporary crossover music by Emma Shapplin (review), Izzy (review), Filippa Giordano (review) and Sasha Lazard (review) will adore Soul Deep as well. Originally scheduled for release in June, the street date was pushed back to August coincident with a delay of Sarah Brightman's (middle eastern flavoured) Harem from March to June. This good move by Curb, whether intentional or not, has given Soul Deep the space to stand out after the initial wave of the Harem has passed.
Musical Discoveries: Where are you from and where did you grow up?
Laura Turner: I am originaly from Houston, Texas. I grew up in the city but spent the summers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming on my family's ranch. I now reside in Jackson Hole and am loving it, as it is after all God's Country.
During high school you performed in musicals and had some voice training. What came next?
I graduated from a performing arts oriented high school. I did lots of jazz and pop dancing as well as ballet technique. I experimented with different types of music--everything from Broadway to R & B and jazz, country, and of course, classical music. It was not until my sophomore year in high school that my parents allowed me to have classical voice lessons.
Why was that?
My mother had consulted with different teachers about this matter due to the fact that she realized that I had been gifted with an uncommonly clear voice and she wanted to make sure that she was a good steward of it. They advised her that it would be best to wait on the classical training because young voices tend to get overloaded with pressure on the vocal chords, which could lead to unwanted heavy vibrato as well as vocal wobble, that is, unevenness in the vibrato itself. To this day I am very grateful for her protection as I have seen and heard of this happening in young voices today.
Please tell us about the time you spent outside the USA.
During the time I was studying for my bachelors of music in vocal performance, specifically between my junior and senior year, I studied in a master class in Siena Italy at the Chigiana School of Music.
What was it like?
I loved every minute of being in Italy! I was able to travel through Tuscany then through London on my way home. Europe is wonderfully exciting and being the birthplace of classical music and opera, it was inspiring for me to experience that part of the culture.
Would you call yourself an opera singer?
Though classically trained, I don't consider myself an opera singer. Soul Deep is a pop record with classical voice threaded through the music. I have a little over a three-octave range.
What do you do to take care of your voice?
Lots of vocal exercises, plenty of water, and herbal tea!
We know you dance but do you play any musical instruments?
I play the guitar as well as piano.
Which artists have been some of your biggest inspirations?
Pat Benatar, Aretha Franklin, Linda Ronstadt, Kate Bush--each one of these artists has outstanding vocal ability and their music spoke to the soul.
Who do you find yourself listening to nowadays?
I listen to many different genres. I love Creed, Sheryl Crow, Pink, Jewel, Vanessa Carlton, Norah Jones, Enya, and Nelly when I want to dance! I really like a lot of the artists out there. I think this is a very creative time and the artists are able to express themselves in their own way.
I believe that the listeners love listening to such a wide range of music. It's fun to have a choice. Norah Jones for a dinner party, and Nelly for after the party! People are enjoying the freedom of different styles as each creates its own mood and atmosphere.
Have you heard much of Sarah Brightman, Emma Shappin or Filippa Giordano?
I have listened to Sarah Brightman and really enjoyed Eden. I recently picked up a copy of her latest CD, Harem. I think she has a lovely voice. I have not listened to Emma Shappin or Filippa Fiordanno enough to comment on their work.
Have you made any recordings that precede Soul Deep?
I have done quite a bit of demo work in the studio. Other than that I have not.
What pulled you from opera to the direction Soul Deep has taken?
I love the opera as well as pop music. I really don't consider that I have been pulled away from opera as much as I have combined the two, enabling me to sing in the two styles that I truly love.
I love to go from a cool pop lyric and sing it soulfully then when the mood is right and the music lends itself, to break out into full classical voice. It feels good to be able to do both, and now I am grateful that we have created music in which I will never have to give up one or the other.
So how would you characterise the material?
I believe it is a sucessful marriage of pop and classical music. One may call it popera. This record is rich with soulful melodies and lyric content, as both are very important to me.
Where have the inspiration for the music and the lyrics same from?
I chose most of the songs because they spoke to me and I liked the way they made me feel when I listened to them. I have co-written two songs on the album--"The Will of the Heart" and "Baby Sleep." Kurt Howell, one of the producers on the album, co-wrote "Soul Deep." When I heard this song I loved the unusual melody and the great lyric. I think each song on the album has something to say and takes the listener through an interesting journey.
Who else worked with you on the project?
Kurt Howell and David Huff are the producers on the album. They played keyboards and drums through the entire record as well. I was fortunate enough to have producers that brought an 'A team' of musicians together to create a unique sound.
Please tell us about the writing and recording process.
It was an amazing experience for me as I was finally able to put together my musical dream. Kurt and David played an intricate part in weaving this music together. They each have their own studios in Franklin, TN. We would begin at David's with each song. A frame of the song would be built on keyboards then a cool sounding groove would be added.
Once the groove was established each producer would take the ball and run with it with their respective expertise. Once the groundwork had been laid, a mock-up of the string arrangements were done so that they could later be recorded in Ireland. Most of the vocals were recorded at Kurt's studio, though some were recorded in Jackson Hole, WY.
Kurt and David packed the necessary gear to record vocals and traveled to Jackson where we set up a vocal booth in a sauna, and studio in the living room of one of the houses on the ranch. It created an awesome, inspirational atmosphere!
The "Soul Deep" video is very dramatic and richly produced.
The video was shot in Australia on a deserted beach about 400 miles north of Sydney, where the desert meets the ocean--very magical. I was suspended in the air for hours--very exciting! The aborigines were from the local tribe and were not actors.
The shoot was a 5-day affair with three weeks in post-production. The video director, Mike Lipscombe, is an award winning director, having directed many artists including Anastasia, Brian Adams, Jewel, Tori Amos, Tom Petty, and Faith Hill. Working with Mike was an amazing experience.
Will there be further videos to support the album?
I certainly hope so. It is my intention to continue to make videos. They are a blast to make and they are also an extension of the music. They provide a visual backdrop for the music, but also stand on their own as artistic statements.
Will there be a promotional tour of live dates?
I'm currently working on the pre-production for the live dates. I want to ensure that the production does justice to the music, and that the audience comes away from my concerts having experienced something very unique. I have no touring plans for 2003.
Tell us about the backing vocal work.
The producers and I had discussed many times that we wanted to thread the classical voice throughout the entire record wherever possible. It took lots of fun experimentation. I also love the soft layering of background vocals. We thought it added a very intimate, warm sound.
How did you decide to sign with Curb and how have they been to work with?
My manager was in discussion with several labels including Curb Records. Mike Curb is a legendary figure in the music business and when he heard my music I believe he recognized what I was trying to achieve. Mike's passion for music combined with the great team at Curb made the decision an easy one! Not to mention that they have a great track record for breaking new artists. I am thrilled to be with Curb, they have been wonderful to work with and I am looking forward to a long and prosperous relationship with them.
Do you think the internet will be an effective way to get the word out?
The internet is so important for a variety of reasons. Websites like Musical Discoveries play a significant role in exposing both new and established artists. The internet and my website (www.lauraturnermusic.com) is an integral part of the mix. I really want to connect with future fans in several ways and the internet will help me do that.
The album was originally to be released in June. Can you say why it was put back to August?
We needed time to set up the release very carefully, as I'm a brand new artist and the genre is somewhat new as well. We all felt that we would create our own pressure and not be pressured by impending release dates. Best foot forward!
What are your plans for the remainder of 2003 and 2004?
Obviously the big concentration for 2003 is the CD release in August. I'll be supporting the label's efforts in that regard. We have a couple of listening parties planned and are talking about a brief promotional tour, although nothing's been confirmed. 2003 will be spent promoting Soul Deep, working on the pre-production of the live shows, and writing songs.
The initial plans for 2004 include more videos, concert appearances, song writing and possibly more recording. There are several other activities in the planning stages so I plan on being a very busy person. I'm looking forward to everything. The future looks very exciting!
Soul Deep (Curb Records (USA), 2003) is an album of uncommon construction and incredible depth. The fifteen tracks include a prelude to one number, a postlude to another and a remix of the opening title track that concludes the recording. Turner's own songs--as well as some contributions from some of the industry's best writers, including Diane Warren (Celine Dion, Aerosmith) and Desmond Child (Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, Cher)--feel at once ethereal and deeply sensual.
The formula perfectly blends Laura's training in the classics--layers of orchestral strings, elegant melodic sensibilities--with dance, African, Celtic and Latin-influenced rhythms, chiming guitars, a fat bass under-belly and sultry, atmospheric vocals reminiscent of Sarah MacLachlan and Paula Cole. She clearly draws on inspiration provided by favourites Enya, Kate Bush and Secret Garden.
While the CD will appeal to pop music audiences to a significant extent, the operatic vocal textures throughout clearly place it in contemporary crossover equally well. The album pulls the listener in quickly and doesn't let up until all the tracks have played. Styles and pace vary across the disc as does the texture of Laura's vocal work. Make no mistake, this is a female vocals album; orchestral arrangements work well and the inclusion of classically derived numbers will broaden the audience appeal of the record.
The title track is a celebration of the spiritual aspects of love-making. Laura's haunting, enigmatic mid-tempo take on "My Sacrifice" at once showcases her vocal and dynamic range, finding nuances and subtelties easily missed in the hard-rocking Creed original and the unique gospel choir vocal arrangement works extremely well in the bridge. Her emotional complexity is best illustrated in her own trip-hoppy lullabye, "Baby Sleep." The song has a real sensual groove as well. The acoustic ballad "Complete" includes contrasting sections of soaring vocalise and acoustic guitar. Laura's vocals shine through against the light arrangement of the evocative number "Devoted" while upbeat cinematic instrumentals underscore the accessible number "You're Where I Belong."
The hypnotic rhythms and cinematic imagery of standout track "Illusion of a Kiss" provide a vivid exploration of the intense, and often contradictory, yearnings and fears that accompany the first bloom of love. "Where You Are" is a prayer for fulfillment that reflects on the fundamental self-doubt all of us bring to any substantive relationship. The contrast of the chorus and verse underscore the lyrical themes.
Laura Turner's pure singing power comes to light in "Angel De Madrugada," a lush and gentle duet with Ray Vega that puts her soprano on full display. The Spanish language track demonstrates one more way her classical training prepared her for this opportunity--she is fluent in the operatic languages of German, French and Italian. Clearly the biggest moment for Laura's voice is found in "The Will of the Heart" co-written by Turner with Howell and Tammy Hyler. An inspirational show-stopper that is a hymn to perserverance and self-esteem, it is a testament to positive thining that refuses to gloss over the tough times endured to get to happy endings. That would make it unique in the world of inspo-anthems but Laura's performance of the song takes it into the spine-tingling, hair-on-end regime.
"The Touch" is a latin-beat influenced pop number. Laura's crystalline operatic texture perfectly compliments the rhythm while layers of her soaring backing vocals demonstrate an incredible dexterity. The Ash Howe remix of "Soul Deep" that concludes the album will appeal to some audiences more than the original. It is a vocally stronger and instrumentally richer version that is well placed as the opposite bookend to the opening version.
Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. Laura Turner's debut album on Curb Records certainly deserves further exploration. With lush arrangements, pop sensibility and crystalline operatic style vocal work, it is worth a trans-Atlantic journey and is by all counts a must listen!
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