Reached at home on U.S. Highway 101 — she’s a troubadour you know — Laura Meyer heated up fast.
She’s a migratory folk-poet who sings of finding love and finding one’s voice. Ask her about her favorite music, though, and the conversation takes off on an ode to her hero.
Tom Petty, along with his band the Heartbreakers, inspired her when she was a teen in New England.
Their music “saved my life,” Meyer says. She loves the strong women in Petty’s songs, loves his rock ’n’ roll band’s power to bring people together.
Meyer, now a veteran of numerous music festivals with 10 albums to her name, is headed for the Laurel B. Johnson Community Center this Saturday night for another in the Concerts in the Woods series. Admission is by donation to her 7:30 p.m. gig, and all ages are welcome at the community center, 923 Hazel Point Road on the Coyle peninsula.
Meyer hasn’t always been the outspoken traveler she is today.
“I was incredibly reserved growing up,” she said. “I didn’t speak, let alone sing.”
Meyer went to New York University in Greenwich Village, but not for a music degree. In the Gallatin School for Individualized Study, she took workshops in Eastern thought and human energy systems, “things guaranteed to not get me a job,” she said.
Less than a year after graduating, though, Meyer found work: playing the main stage at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival alongside Benmont Tench, one of Petty’s Heartbreakers.
And then she was off, driving across America, then touring Europe, then back to the States for more.
“I’ve been a tumbleweed,” she says, and the word applies to geography and music: Meyer carries an acoustic and an electric guitar, so she can switch from blues to rock to folk to bluegrass.
“My older songs tend to be more folky,” from when she was first traveling the West, awestruck by the high dunes and redwoods. More recently she’s delved into a relationship with one who, as she puts it, “cracked my world open.”
Her latest CD, “Close to Home,” explores the peaks and valleys that followed.
Meyer revels also in the exploration of the physical world. She had a sheltered youth and “was kind of fearful as child,” she recalls.
“The world was a big, scary place . . . I feel like I need to push into that and go places where I don’t know anyone.”
She’s finding this easier now that she’s built a support system of friends and venues. A few of the places she’s played in the last little while: the Lost Dog in Binghamton, N.Y., the Skinny Pancake in Burlington, Vt., New Orleans’ Howlin’ Wolf Den and the Swan Dive in Austin, Texas.
At her Saturday night gig at the Laurel B. Johnson Community Center, she hopes listeners will come “not just for the music, but for the communion of it.
“I really think gathering together is the most important thing,” especially as technology isolates people from one another.
Meyer’s hope, with her music and stories, is to show people what’s possible.
“Life is short. There’s no need to spend it following orders,” she says. “My mission is to show people that, yes, it can be done. We can do what we love.”
Earlier this month, Meyer was lifted up by a concert by guitarist Kaki King at the Rio Theater in Santa Cruz, Calif. It was the first time she’d sat in an audience in a long while.
“It was so nice to get lost in the music,” she said. “I was really tired. I had a lot on my mind.
“I felt like a different person when I left.”
Once upon a time I played classical violin. Music theory sucked the fun out of it for me so I taught myself to play the guitar instead. I used (and still use) weird tunings. It felt good to create - especially to blend words and music - and music became my refuge and my religion.
As soon as I could I started traveling and performing. I knew I needed to get out in the world to evolve as a person and as a writer. Being in unfamiliar towns with unfamiliar people, performing in unfamiliar settings and sleeping on unfamiliar floors offered more opportunities for growth than I ever imagined. Ten years in, I'm still amazed by how much I have to learn.
I just finished recording an album called RISE UP. In a way I consider it my first album, for my intention has always been to uplift and inspire, which I feel this album achieves. Music has finally moved beyond therapy for me. It's now a celebration.
This winter I collaborated with my friend Brady Greig at his home studio in Oregon. Dusty Hanes from Mudpuppy played drums. We met when I was touring through Corvallis last year, and I credit Dave Clark not only for his beautiful harp-playing but for booking me at his venue. This music exists because of that one night.
RISE UP comes out on June 10, 2014, the tenth anniversary of my first show. After ten years I feel like I'm just starting. And I'm so excited for what lies ahead. Thank you for joining me.