Creating music in the purest sense, is piecing together notes which are born in the soul, take their first steps in the heart, and are given flight through a musical instrument. Nowhere is that more evident than with instrumental music. Without the aid of lyrics, a composer must channel the life-cycle of the music, and convey to the listener, every emotion experienced during the writing process.
Pianist Laura Sullivan’s new album Love’s River, does exactly that. Nominated as Best New Age Album in the upcoming 56th Annual Grammy Awards, Ms. Sullivan’s seventh album has proven to be the lucky one. The album reached #2 on the ZoneMusicReporter chart, the industry standard for radio airplay of New Age music. As only the ninth woman to receive a Grammy nomination in this category, Laura has already reached a level attained by only a few.
The music of Laura Sullivan is well known and respected within the industry. Her music has appeared on television shows such as “So You Think You Can Dance,” national commercials, and she has written the musical scores for many television shows and feature films.
While savoring her first Grammy nomination, Laura is well aware of her competition. The other nominees in her category are: Kitaro, Peter Kater, Brian Eno and, R. Carlos Nakai and Will Clipman. Combined, these artists have over forty Grammy nominations on their resumes.
While trying to manage life and all that goes along with being a Grammy nominee in the weeks before the Awards, Laura spent some time talking with me about the emotions in being nominated, her writing process and her hopes for Grammy night.
Kath Galasso: In the 27 year history of the Best New Age Album category, you are only the ninth woman to receive a Grammy nomination. While a couple of women have been part of a winning band, the only other female solo artist to win this category has been Enya. Before the nomination, were you aware of how few women had been nominated and actually taken home a Grammy?
Laura Sullivan: I didn’t have the exact stats on that beforehand, I knew that it wasn’t too many. I hadn’t gone in and really checked it.
Your category was not announced on the Grammy nomination TV special, so you had to wait until after it was over to view the full online list of nominees. Where you working that night or were you watching the show?
We had taped the show, and I think I was putting my daughter to bed or something like that, and I got a call from a friend. She was just screaming into the phone… in a good way, so I knew that something was up. Then we checked online and saw that I was nominated. It was very exciting.
Laura Sullivan’s “Wishing on a Dandelion”
The time between Grammy submissions and the actual nomination is totally insane with trying to promote your music, whether it’s in print, TV or social media, yet during that time you still need to focus on your job, which is writing music, and your family. How were you able to get a balance in your life?
Oh my goodness, that is a great question. I wasn’t prepared for the PR end of this at all. For example, we just got a press release out today, and many other nominees had a press release that went out the day after the nominations were announced. So being this is my first nomination, I’m just sort of learning the ropes, and it feels kind of fresh. It’s exactly what you’re saying, you nailed it on the head, I’m trying to balance my family, things like finding the clothing and also continuing to make music. I also write for a publisher in New York, writing TV underscores, so I’ve tried to keep that going a little bit too. Then the promotion of the nomination, and it has been quite a bit.
Is it a little better now that all the ballots have been submitted?
Yeah, a little bit. It’s kind of a feeling of relief I guess, just to know that it’s all done and whatever happens, happens. And I’m really going to be excited and happy for whoever wins. I feel like I’ve already won in a way, just by being nominated. And I’m truly going to celebrate with whoever brings home that little statue.
It’s funny that you say you’re going to be happy for whoever actually wins. I had never been involved in the Grammy process before, and you always hear people say that it’s a thrill to be nominated, but having been involved with the process of getting our (Earth Hertz Records) artists submitted in for the first round, and seeing how much works goes into it, to actually be one of those people nominated… I get it now. I understand how you could feel that way.
Absolutely, yes it’s quite an honor. And the people I’m nominated with, I admire them so much. So yes, I’m overwhelmed with how big a thrill it is and what an honor it is.
Tell me about your writing process. Is the writing different when you are writing for a show, something you’ve been contracted to write specifically for, than when you’re just writing from inspiration?
Yes, it is. I feel a lot more freedom when I’m creating a project that will be my own project, like Love’s River was, in that it’s coming from my own heart, from what I want to express as an artist. I try to make the album cohesive in that the songs go together in some way, but it’s only being dictated by what I want to express, and not by anyone else. And that’s a lot of fun.
I’m always interested as to how instrumentalists title their songs. How do you come up with the titles for your songs?
I think it happens a little bit within the process of writing the music. The imagery that comes to my mind as I’m coming up with the ideas for the melodies and the harmony. Also the events in my life, emotions that I’m feeling are emotions that come out in the music as well.
I don’t think you could have come up with a better title for “Wishing on a Dandelion.” You can almost picture the dandelion blowing away as you play. You have an animated video for it featuring drawings of yourself and your daughter. It is just wonderful, tell me about how it was developed.
Thank you. The video was created by an artist (Robert Capria) in New York and he was really able to capture my feeling of joy in being a parent; that it took so long to conceive. This song is really about my gratefulness, and a kind of celebration of finally being a parent. That video came about in my discussions with the artist, in talking about what that song means, and it comes from sharing photographs of myself and my daughter. He used those to work with.
No, not really. I have in the past, done some music with lyrics, with my own vocals. But I haven’t really worked collaboratively with a lyricist before.
You started playing the piano at age four, I’m sure you were trained in many types of music, when did you realize that your calling was to the New Age genre?
I guess I was in college and playing around on the piano, I would make up my own little compositions. I was talking with some friends about recording an album, I had the idea to do that, and one of my friends said “oh that’s like George Winston, that’s New Age music. And I was like “oh really? Ok.” I had heard his music, but I wasn’t aware that it was called New Age music. I liked the style. As a student, I used to arrange some classical music pieces and do them the wrong way. It was just fun for me to play around with melodies. I was influenced a lot by my classical training, and playing around with classical melodies got me started.
On January 26th, you’re up against some big names in your genre. Of course your hope is to win, but what else do you hope to take away from the experience?
I think I just want to really be in the moment and enjoy being there. This is such an incredible experience to have, I just want to soak it in and just have fun. I’m really looking forward to seeing a lot of friends there, and I’m so happy to have a lot of family close to me there. So it will be fun to share that moment with everyone.
Be sure to catch the 56th Annual Grammy Awards, which will be held on January 26th on CBS.
Kath Galasso @KatsTheory
OurVinyl | Contributor