Jazz is about the spaces between the notes. It is about what happens when you listen to the rhythm, gaps, and cracks inside you. Because that is where life happens when you are brave enough to free-fall; in the life of Jazz Vocal Artist Laurie Fagen, her love is to put her spin on the tunes of the Great American Songbook of jazz.
Laurie's story began on a sheep farm in Earlham, Iowa, a small town outside Des Moines. Growing up on the prairies of middle America, she loved singing in the school chorus in 5th grade; however, it was in high school Laurie found she had a good ear for harmony, so although she was a soprano, she chose to sing the alto parts, "because it was more fun and I could easily read the sheet music." Laurie performed in various school plays, saying, "When I played Guinevere in Camelot, that’s when I decided I wanted to become an actor.” A real boost in motivation came when she was named the Outstanding Vocal Musician and Outstanding Instrumental Musician her senior year. That sealed the deal!
Laurie spent the first two years of college at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, where she studied theatre and performed in the new Fine Arts Center at the school. “My most fun role was playing Electra in Gypsy, where I had a featured song, You Gotta Have a Gimmick.” Although this was a lot of fun, Laurie began to realize a number of her friends were returning from seeking their fame and fortune on the stage to work in bars or sell insurance. Laurie commented, "At this point, I decided to lay out of college for a year and reevaluate what I would do. I moved to Los Angeles, California, with a girlfriend and worked in side jobs and ran lights for a small theatre, but nothing clicked. A friend was pursuing a degree in radio and television which sounded perfect to me.”
“The highlights of my performing career were writing, producing, and performing with live musical productions.”
Laurie enrolled in a Bachelor's degree program with the Mass Communications Radio & Television department at Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona. "To support myself, I worked as a singing waitress at Granny’s Boarding House in Scottsdale where we sang old 30s and 40s songs.” "It wasn't until I had a firm footing in television while working for the city of Phoenix, where I founded The Phoenix Channel, that I started to do community and professional theatre." At Third Street Theatre, Laurie sang and tap-danced in the chorus for Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. She performed in roles at Phoenix Theatre, Actors Theatre of Phoenix, and lunchtime theatre at the Herberger. Laurie recounts, “The highlights of my performing career were writing, producing, and performing with live musical productions,” such as Boa Babes, a story based on my 40-year friendship with four girlfriends. We performed the show at a Mesa Encore Theatre, at the Herberger Theater, and for large private parties.”
When asked how she decided to focus on Jazz, Laurie said, "I played alto and tenor saxophone in the high school jazz band. It wasn't until a couple of decades later when my pre-teen son was learning guitar, and he was playing the Great American Songbook tunes, that I realized I loved those tunes and decided to try to sing them." At this point, Laurie realized she needed to get into shape for this task. In time she was singing classic jazz in downtown Chandler, Arizona restaurants where her late husband would book their son and his bandmate with Laurie. The gigs would grow into an eight-year performance schedule at the San Marcos Resort and La Stalla Italian restaurant in Chandler, and she was a featured entertainer at the Mayo Clinic Hospital and concerts at the Tempe Center of the Arts. When asked who she admires as a performance artist, Laurie Fagen says, "Barbra Streisand is a major influence; I learn a lot of styling from her. I also love Celine Dion's voice, Diana Krall, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, and others." In the life and times of Laurie Fagen, the beat always goes on in the genre of jazz and song.