Celtic singer returns home
While many aspiring young artists dream of becoming as big as the Beatles or perhaps the next Madonna, Rose Laughlin was inspired to pursue a form of music that is less mainstream. While attending the Seattle Irish Festival she found her calling - singing.
Laughlin grew up in Seattle, graduating from West Seattle High School. In her 20s she wrote songs, in addition to working as an executive assistant and for a time a travel agent.
"I found myself always coming back to it (music) ... I was never far away from it," she said.
However, she admits that she has no real talent for writing. Her inspiration had to come in another form.
While watching a performance at Kells Irish Pub and Restaurant in 2000, Laughlin found her mentor. Celtic singer Oliver Mulholland was performing. According to his Web site, Mulholland has been playing music for over 30 years, first in Ireland and now in Seattle.
"I found that there was a whole world of music that I didn't know about," Laughlin said. Celtic music provided her with what she needed. The genre consists of traditional songs that have been passed down for so many generations, by so many artists that they are no longer attributed to any one person.
"This kind of music either captures you or it doesn't," said Laughlin. She said that traditional Celtic songs are like stories; they are poetry that you sing.
"I come across these traditional songs that I reincarnate," said Laughlin. Each performer chooses how he or she interprets the story through singing. The artist does this with "ornamentation." Laughlin said this technique refers to how each singer interprets a song artistically; for example, singing a word or line with extra vocal flux or emphasis.
Laughlin considers herself a folk singer first and foremost, getting some of her inspiration and songs from other folk artists. "The whole folk tradition is about sharing," she said. She also comes across traditional songs from resources like the Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, a project dedicated to documenting and preserving traditional folk songs and music.
In order to pursue her music further Laughlin moved to Chicago in 2003, lured by the Irish musical tradition there. "I needed a change in my life," she said. According to Laughlin Chicago is the hub of Celtic music in the United States. Her mother's family is from Chicago and Laughlin is mostly of Irish decent. The transition wasn't difficult. "I planned on living in Chicago for around two years, I stayed for four," she said.
Friends and family have been very supportive throughout Laughlin's musical journey. Jack Murray, a friend she made while in Chicago, gave her 30-plus records, a huge collection of traditional music.
While in Chicago Laughlin had the opportunity to work with some of the musical leaders in the Celtic genre as well as hone her craft. When she first moved there she also volunteered at the United Methodist Home, a living center for the elderly. She would sing and entertain the people there and also performed at open mic sessions.
Laughlin's second CD was recorded in Chicago. There she met Michael Kirkpatrick, a fellow musician. He is a guitarist, composer and musician and is on her CD, aptly titled, "The Chicago Sessions."
Laughlin finds inspiration from other performing artists as well. She looks up to fellow Celtic singer Susan McKeown, an artist from Dublin who, according to her Web site, sang lead vocals and harmonies for The Klezmatics' Grammy winning album.
"I am mostly inspired by female artists," said Laughlin. While she does have a few male artists in her music collection, she is influenced by the music she grew up with. Stevie Nicks, Natalie Merchant and other empowering female vocalists have inspired her.
Laughlin recently returned to Seattle in order to be closer to her family. She continues to perform and follow her passion for folk music. She performed at the C&P Coffee Company recently and also at Seattle's Irish Festival at the Seattle Center, the place where Laughlin first became interested in Celtic music.
"It is kind of like a dream for me playing at Irish Fest. ... I had no idea that I would have this level of success," she said, adding, "It is a great honor for me to be asked to perform."
Laughlin's music can be found on her Web site: www.roselaughlin.com.
Katie Utehs is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.