“Music pulled me in when I was very young.”
When Laura Mann was eight years old, most of her dreams included a guitar. When her mom got her that guitar her dreams became a reality. Learning to play her first instrument was serious business. “My Mom and Dad understood that,” she says, and her Mom made sure her daughter was at her lesson every week from then on.
“My mom loves music as much as I do. She’s my biggest fan,” Laura laughs.
Her beloved Grandfather’s encouraging words made her dream seem even more possible. Every year when her family went to Florida to visit her Grandparents for Christmas, Laura remembers, “Grandpa and I would play together. He was a professional musician. He had a great voice and played the drums and mandolin in a Swiss Band.”
On one visit, Laura vividly remembers a trip to a donut shop. After she and her Grandpa picked their favorite donuts, they sat down at a corner table by the window and “he told me to never give up on my music.”
“I started listening to Linda Ronstadt, Carly Simon, Le Chic, Michael Jackson, the Bee Gee’s and the list goes on. I’d buy charts to play guitar and sing to my favorite artists all the time. My Mom is my biggest inspiration. She brought me to lots of concerts including James Taylor and Gordon Lightfoot. We still get together for concerts and theatre all the time. My Dad has a good voice and would sing Johnny Mathis songs around the house,” Laura laughs.
Always practicing guitar and singing, it wasn’t long before Laura was performing. She auditioned and was chosen for every Chorus and Choir in Elementary School and High school – if there was a Solo to be sung in a school concert, it was almost always Laura singing it.
Her radio “debut” came in High School when a fellow student, Andre Gardner (now one of the top DJ’s on WMGK in Philadelphia) and Ted Steinmatz a Science teacher, started a morning radio show. Laura sang an original composition, which had never been done before.
Andre Gardner remembers, “I first saw Laura perform at an evening concert at our High School. We’ve all seen that image. The slightly awkward, nervous teenager slowly walking up onstage at a school function, and them gingerly working their way through their routine. A few mistakes later, they’re done, and polite applause ensues. This wasn’t the case with Laura. I remember her confidently walking up to the stool, sitting down alone onstage, with her acoustic guitar, and watching and listening to her proceed to give a flawless, stunning guitar/vocal performance. There was no apparent nervousness. But there was a loud applause. And long. She killed it. I knew right away there would be many more performances like that in the near future.”
Laura always knew music would be part of her life. “God has given me this instrument of peace which I’ll never take for granted. I feel very blessed.”
She discovered the joys of singing harmony in school and the first time she performed Handel’s Messiah she was blown away. Not content to just sing the notes, Laura studied to learn more about Music Theory and Composing.
When she was just a junior at Shawnee High School in NJ, Laura saw an ad in the paper. A local band was looking for a female vocalist to join them. She begged her mom to let her go. The audition led to her first real gig with a real band – Elysian Fields. Primarily a cover band, Laura sang songs from artists such as Joni Mitchell, Pink Floyd and Renaissance, among others, but also got a chance to perform her own original music on stages in Philadelphia and around New Jersey.
As Laura was finishing high school the band broke up and she began to sing solo at coffee houses and concerts. At an outdoor Concert in Medford, New Jersey, Laura met Mike Vesper, a drummer. Mike was a friend of Robert Hazard, who was putting together a rock band and was looking for a lead singer. After hearing Laura, Robert Hazard and Mike Vesper asked Laura to join them and went on to form a band called Laura and the Lifeboys.
Laura and Mike would write most of the songs and work on arrangements with the help of Robert.
“It was the beginning of my long, wonderful, and sometimes tumultuous, relationship with Robert,” she recalls. “He was my mentor and he worked hard on our behalf to offer advice and help produce our sound. We would practice almost every night and I loved it.”
Laura would drive from Medford, N.J to 3rd and Brown Streets in Philadelphia. Formally called “The Opera House”, musicians fondly refer to it as “3rd and Brown” – a rundown old warehouse where local bands could rent rehearsal space. “I loved playing with my band. Those were really fun days,” Laura remembers.
Laura and the Lifeboys became a popular act in Philadelphia in the ’80s. Laura remembers “I couldn’t believe we were an opening act for The Ramones. And I sang back up on Robert Hazard’s record ‘Darling’ which was released in 1986.”
One day, out of the blue, Robert asked Laura if she would like to audition for Star Search, a precursor of American Idol. She agreed and they drove to NYC for her to audition. She made the cut and was flown to LA for her first live TV appearance with Ed McMahon.
Laura sang a song Robert Hazard wrote for her called “You’re the Reason I”. Cyndy Drue, an accomplished DJ from Philadelphia while on WMMR Street Beat remembers, “When the Songwriter of ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’ writes a song for you to sing- that’s a major vote of confidence of your talent. Robert Hazard wrote, ‘You’re The Reason I’ for Laura Mann to sing, and it was always one of my favorite songs to play on Street Beat on WMMR. Laura continues to share her talent with us by creating her own original songs.” (“You’re the Reason I” is on her 2010 CD “Bowtie and Rose Tattoo“.)
Years later Laura and the Lifeboys broke up and soon Laura and Robert started a new band. Laura was looking for a new sound in which she could really play her guitar and add some strings. “I met violinist Caryn Lin and asked her to somehow use sound effects on her violin,” Laura recalls. “We had a lot of fun messing with different sounds and soon after she bought an electric violin.”
It was the sound Laura was looking for and the incarnation of her new band, Laura Mann. The band took off and enjoyed many successful gigs in local venues until personality conflicts within the band caused them to break up.
Caryn Lin and Laura Mann continued as a duo for a while, but eventually went their separate ways. Around this time, Laura Mann and Robert Hazard went their separate ways as well.
Laura began working with Robert’s manager and friend Bill Eib. Bill encouraged Laura to sing solo which lead to her sharing the stage with such legends as Warren Zevon, Dave Mason, Al Stewart, Bobby Caldwell, and Kenny Rankin to name a few.
In 1994, Laura Mann released her first self-produced CD “Like a Lamb Among the Lions.”
In 2002, after the release of “I’ve Got You”, Laura says, “I decided to take a hiatus (she laughs) and get my life back on track to lead a healthier lifestyle after a damaging relationship and a bad break up.”
She began researching Holistic living and studied to become a Certified and Licensed Massage Therapist with focuses in Medical Massage, Swedish Massage, Thai Massage, and more.
Laura quickly realized massage therapy was her second calling. “I love doing something to help others feel better and, really, that was always the joy I got out of performing. Lifting people up in turn makes me feel better,” Laura says.
She found an energizing contentment with this new career. Then came a new marriage, a new home and life was good. “I feel better than I ever have and have made peace with myself and others. I’m enjoying this new chapter in my life.”
But leaving music behind was not an option. She knew she needed the joy of making music in her life and wanted to be in a recording studio creating, singing, and producing. So she continued to create and perform when she wanted to…it was nearly perfect.
In 2010, “Bow Tie and Rose Tattoo” was released. But life is full of twists and turns…
A recent bout with breast cancer has left a profound affect. Now cancer free, Laura has refocused her massage therapy career to include the intricacies of Oncology Massage. At the same time the idea of singing, recording and performing has taken on a new intensity. “Music is an integral part of who I am,” she says.
In 2016, Laura went back in the studio to record new songs, and a new treatment of a song she wrote in 2005, on self titled CD, “This Time.”
Michael Tearson, a 50-year veteran of the radio industry comments on Laura Mann’s new CD “This Time”: “‘The Child’s Got Wings’ stuns me. Set in fall as the green is beginning to fade, accepting inevitable change limned by the metaphor of changing seasons is hardly new, but Laura has spun a fresh, emotional twist and spin on it. It makes my achy heart soar. ‘This Time’ is an intimate song of holding onto a love. The song strips emotion to the barest bone, and Richard Hotchkiss’ cello rips at the heartstrings as it cries. Laura’s singing taps into genuine beauty, especially her wordless singing late in the song. There is a maturity and the feeling of life lives infused in her songs which draw depth and gravitas from that.”
The most recent release from Laura is a rough live version from Milkboy Studios in Philadelphia called “Peace and Freedom Calling.”
Laura wrote this song for a performance at the “Concert for Peace Day” on the Gazella Ship in Penn’s Landing. When artists Frank Seder and Turo Pashyun heard Laura, they wanted her to be a part of a special event celebrating Switzerland’s 700th Anniversary. Always up to travel (especially having relatives there) Laura packed her bag, headed to Switzerland and performed “Peace and Freedom Calling.”
“It was an amazing day. I was sharing the stage with performers from all over the world,” she remembers.
“I’ve never recorded Peace and Freedom Calling until now. It’s Time. The world is in a sad state right now. We need to stop the violence and make peace with one another.”
Reflecting on the new release, Laura says, “My music is changing.”
There’s lightness to some of the new music reflecting the joy in her life. But the voice, the lyrics, the intensity are there. Laura’s songs draw listeners in, taking them along new paths they will want to walk along with her.
Laura sang a song Robert Hazard wrote for her called “You’re the Reason I”. Cyndy Drue , an accomplished DJ from Philadelphia while on WMMR Street Beat remembers, “When the Songwriter of ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’ writes a song for you to sing – that’s a major vote of confidence of your talent. Robert Hazard wrote, ‘You’re The Reason I’ for Laura Mann to sing, and it was always one of my favorite songs to play on Street Beat on WMMR. Laura continues to share her talent with us by creating her own original songs.” (“You’re the Reason I” is on her 2010 CD “Bowtie and Rose Tattoo“.)