Laura Shay
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Laura Shay

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Band Pop Singer/Songwriter

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"Live Performance Review from Grape Street Philadelphia"

Laura Shay has a great album, To a Place (2005), whose songs I've heard broadcast. While the album gives you a finely produced, full-band treatment of her songs, her live solo show gives you a physical dimension that not a lot of performers have. She practically dances from behind her electric piano, and it has lead to a motion that has become a signature for her: she inevitably gets her long hair over her eyes and has to flip it out of the way by whipping her head up and back (after all, both her hands are occupied on the keys). You can sense that she's a passionate performer on her album, but it's another thing entirely to see it.

Known primarily for her piano work, Laura also accompanies herself well on acoustic guitar, and will incorporate both into her live shows. One of her most poignant songs, and also my favorite of hers, is one such tune for which she prefers the guitar: "Anyway," which also closes her album. She'll sometimes joke with audience members about her material being too depressing, but I don't get that from her music. She handles a lot of introspective and sobering themes, but not in a fatalistic or demeaning manner. Even when she plays a slower song ("The Motions," for instance, performed on her more customary piano), I don't get the feeling that I'm witnessing someone who thinks life is a downer. Of course, it could be her stage presence that does it, too. It's darn-near impossible to see Laura Shay and not come away with a sense of something positive -- albeit anchored in realities of life -- from her songs.

- Dom - Philadelphia Singer/songwriter


"Live Performance Review from Grape Street Philadelphia"

Laura Shay has a great album, To a Place (2005), whose songs I've heard broadcast. While the album gives you a finely produced, full-band treatment of her songs, her live solo show gives you a physical dimension that not a lot of performers have. She practically dances from behind her electric piano, and it has lead to a motion that has become a signature for her: she inevitably gets her long hair over her eyes and has to flip it out of the way by whipping her head up and back (after all, both her hands are occupied on the keys). You can sense that she's a passionate performer on her album, but it's another thing entirely to see it.

Known primarily for her piano work, Laura also accompanies herself well on acoustic guitar, and will incorporate both into her live shows. One of her most poignant songs, and also my favorite of hers, is one such tune for which she prefers the guitar: "Anyway," which also closes her album. She'll sometimes joke with audience members about her material being too depressing, but I don't get that from her music. She handles a lot of introspective and sobering themes, but not in a fatalistic or demeaning manner. Even when she plays a slower song ("The Motions," for instance, performed on her more customary piano), I don't get the feeling that I'm witnessing someone who thinks life is a downer. Of course, it could be her stage presence that does it, too. It's darn-near impossible to see Laura Shay and not come away with a sense of something positive -- albeit anchored in realities of life -- from her songs.

- Dom - Philadelphia Singer/songwriter


"Featured Review on Soundaffects.net"

Even an old soul has to come of age. With descriptive lyrics accentuated by smoky vocals, Laura Shay's second full length CD, To A Place, shows that she is a woman with stories to tell, places to go and dreams to realize. Opening the album with On and On, Shay sets the emotional tone for the flow of the next twelve songs. The message is clear--- on whatever path life takes us, there are reasons that defy reason and passions that pull us along through the challenges of the day. Between the whispers and screams and everything in between, one word remains: continue. So I put my little smile on / It makes me sweet, negates what's wrong / And you don't give a damn about my songs / That’s what keeps me going on and on and on.

The song Toronto details a road trip with friends and the discovery that travelling always changes us. Tell me how can I go back to what I know / After I've seen Toronto, Shay asks. Cresendoing the discovery process of self-empowerment, in Better Land Shay sings I wanna run through graveyards and I wanna wake the dead / I wanna forget the bullshit that I've been fed / I wanna turn reality into pretend / If you don't like it you can say you knew me when. Intimate, confessional and universal, You Take Me flows into the space where love and only love makes all things beautiful and safe. Because you take me / To a place where I can breath easily / To a place where I can see what's ahead of me / To a place where I can be anything. As she turns her attention to an inner life that is as equally as expansive as her dreams and passions are strong, Shay confides in Tired and Torn that her strength comes in many shapes and sizes--- including, paradoxically, vulnerability. My veil is wearing thin, my skin is not as thick as I pretend / Tired and I'm torn / My voice is softer than before / Only words, pieces of these thoughts that are not heard.

In Do You Know Who I Am Laura Shay charmingly wonders if the object of her affection from afar knows something more than just whether she is alive--- that she has the same drive that he does. Beneath the details that give a nod to Shay’s native Philadelphia, it is a tale of the eternal quest to feel equal to those whom we admire. Beginning with gentle piano, Make Our Own Damn Rules, a song whose title alone could be Shay’s theme, builds into a place where restlessness and faith meet on the breeze. With lyrics that conjure the pivotal scene in the movie Thelma and Louise, the song soars as it leaps into the unknown. I wanna leave this place and start anew / Forget the world, just me and you / Oh we'll leave the past and all we knew / Yeah we'll live and we'll love and we'll make our own damn rules. Our degree of self-empowerment is deeply and often subtlety united with our degree of self-acceptance. In Learning, Shay offers I'm learning to fly, learning to stand / I'm learning to use my voice and my hands / Learning to be happy with me. Closing the album, Shay’s gaze peeks from behind the veil and wearing her flaws as badges of humanity, she muses I can be so artificial / I can be so temperamental / I can be oh so hard to handle, I know / Will you love me anyway? As she wonders if love can be unconditional and everlasting in a temporary world, Shay’s clear voice floats to a place where sometimes, the questions we ask are as insightful as the answers.

- Lauren Jonik


"Featured Review on Soundaffects.net"

Even an old soul has to come of age. With descriptive lyrics accentuated by smoky vocals, Laura Shay's second full length CD, To A Place, shows that she is a woman with stories to tell, places to go and dreams to realize. Opening the album with On and On, Shay sets the emotional tone for the flow of the next twelve songs. The message is clear--- on whatever path life takes us, there are reasons that defy reason and passions that pull us along through the challenges of the day. Between the whispers and screams and everything in between, one word remains: continue. So I put my little smile on / It makes me sweet, negates what's wrong / And you don't give a damn about my songs / That’s what keeps me going on and on and on.

The song Toronto details a road trip with friends and the discovery that travelling always changes us. Tell me how can I go back to what I know / After I've seen Toronto, Shay asks. Cresendoing the discovery process of self-empowerment, in Better Land Shay sings I wanna run through graveyards and I wanna wake the dead / I wanna forget the bullshit that I've been fed / I wanna turn reality into pretend / If you don't like it you can say you knew me when. Intimate, confessional and universal, You Take Me flows into the space where love and only love makes all things beautiful and safe. Because you take me / To a place where I can breath easily / To a place where I can see what's ahead of me / To a place where I can be anything. As she turns her attention to an inner life that is as equally as expansive as her dreams and passions are strong, Shay confides in Tired and Torn that her strength comes in many shapes and sizes--- including, paradoxically, vulnerability. My veil is wearing thin, my skin is not as thick as I pretend / Tired and I'm torn / My voice is softer than before / Only words, pieces of these thoughts that are not heard.

In Do You Know Who I Am Laura Shay charmingly wonders if the object of her affection from afar knows something more than just whether she is alive--- that she has the same drive that he does. Beneath the details that give a nod to Shay’s native Philadelphia, it is a tale of the eternal quest to feel equal to those whom we admire. Beginning with gentle piano, Make Our Own Damn Rules, a song whose title alone could be Shay’s theme, builds into a place where restlessness and faith meet on the breeze. With lyrics that conjure the pivotal scene in the movie Thelma and Louise, the song soars as it leaps into the unknown. I wanna leave this place and start anew / Forget the world, just me and you / Oh we'll leave the past and all we knew / Yeah we'll live and we'll love and we'll make our own damn rules. Our degree of self-empowerment is deeply and often subtlety united with our degree of self-acceptance. In Learning, Shay offers I'm learning to fly, learning to stand / I'm learning to use my voice and my hands / Learning to be happy with me. Closing the album, Shay’s gaze peeks from behind the veil and wearing her flaws as badges of humanity, she muses I can be so artificial / I can be so temperamental / I can be oh so hard to handle, I know / Will you love me anyway? As she wonders if love can be unconditional and everlasting in a temporary world, Shay’s clear voice floats to a place where sometimes, the questions we ask are as insightful as the answers.

- Lauren Jonik


Discography

Bittersweet (2008)
To a Place (2005)
Stories of My Life (2000)

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Bio

Often in life, the most beautiful things spring forth from the tension-- and ultimate blending-- of opposites. For Philadelphia native Laura Shay, her new album, Bittersweet, encompasses just that: walking the fine line between love and loss, dark and light, dreams and reality. Passionate and introspective in her craft, Shay explains, “I'm a singer/songwriter, but I color outside the lines if I want.”

With the October 2008 release of Bittersweet, her third album, Laura Shay has come into her own with a new level of confidence that has translated into a new level of candor in her songwriting and of freedom in her delivery of the fourteen songs on the album. “I'm definitely writing what I want right now. This album is pure me. No one else was involved in the thought process behind these songs. I didn't worry that there aren't enough "upbeat" tunes on this, and I didn't worry that some of the songs are six minutes long,” Shay says. With the same kind vulnerability and openness reminiscent of some of her musical influences, Shay credits Tori Amos and Stevie Nicks as “two of the most powerful people I’ve ever seen on stage. The minute I heard Tori Amos, I knew that's what music was supposed to be-- raw emotion through song. I'm a big Ryan Adams fan, too. The man blinks songs. He's a wonderful songwriter.” Of her own creative process, Shay’s describes her songs as her own raw reactions to stimuli around her. “I just let the music play me, and I follow. It's weird hearing the songs back after they're recorded because I'm separated from them at that point, and I can really listen and analyze what I'm saying lyrically, and it's surreal. I never know what the song is really about until after the fact.”

While Laura Shay has been aware of the invisible, but very real, pressure of the music industry to fit into a certain mold, she has actively chosen both to live her own life and create her music on her own terms. “Sometimes, I feel like I should write what people want to hear, and I can't. I'd be faking the orgasm,” she emphasizes. Still in her mid-twenties, Shay had earned a BA and MA from West Chester University in Communication Studies by age 23, and is currently working on a Master's Degree in Speech-Language Pathology with La Salle University, while working full time in the healthcare field. “I feel like I'm not quite in the scene and in the niche as much as some other folks, but at the same time, I don't fully commit to this life because I have about three others lives I'm simultaneously living,” Shay explains, aware of the subtle criticism she’s received for not pursuing music solely full-time. But, her perspective remains on the bigger picture and on the life she’s creating for herself. Beautifully balancing the seemingly opposite worlds, Shay finds both stability and inspiration in the space in between. “I’m happy straddling the line between "real life" and "professional musician." It's a hell of a lot of work, but I think long-term.”

Recorded at Turtle Studios in Old City in Philadelphia, PA, Bittersweet, was engineered and co-produced by Jeff Hiatt, whose input was instrumental in aiding Laura Shay in bringing her songs to life, while remaining true to her original vision. “He is a pretty solid person to work with, and I need that because my emotions can run rampant.” Shay’s bandmates, Dominic Cole (guitar), Andy McGowan (bass) and Michael Litt (drums) all contributed valuable parts to the making of Bittersweet. “They know me very well, and they know me musically. They respect that I had certain ideas of where songs should go, but they also bring their own interpretations to the table and we sort it out. It’s a good relationship,” Shay muses. Other notable local Philadelphia musicians contributed for specific instrumentation that Shay knew would add to the fullness of the sound of the album. These included: Andy Keenan (electric/pedal steel), Krista Nielsen (cello), Nate Gonzales (accordion), Hoagy Wing (percussion), and Patrick Hughes (trumpet). Andrew Lipke, Todd Barneson and Pittsburgh musician Bill Deasy added vocal harmony parts.

When performing live, Laura Shay remains focused on the musical conversation that she is sharing with the audience. “It’s all about feeling something,” she begins before explaining a particular extra touch of authenticity she adds to her performances. “And my shoes have to be off. Because I get so nervous, playing barefoot makes me feel like I'm home at the piano in the living room. It's not a gimmick. It's me trying to feel at home on the stage.” In bringing together the wide array of emotions and experiences that fill her life and distilling them into her music, Shay has created a collection of songs that clearly define her and her sound. In Sound of the Rain, she proclaims: I am dirty, I am clean / I am strong and I am weak / I am bound and I am free / I believe what I don’t see / I am lovely, I am mean / I want war and I want peac