Dana Lauren: Songs From Her Heart
Dana Lauren in the Studio with Christian McBride
A big break occurred by serendipity when, on her 18th birthday in 2006, she attended the Newport Jazz Festival with her mother. They were enjoying a performance by Sandoval and wanted to get a CD from the artist afterward, at a booth where he was autographing them. The line was too long, so they went to another stage at the Fort Adams State Park venue to see another performance. One their way out of that, there was Sandoval, speaking with a security guard.
Lauren fondly recalls, "So my crazy mom said, 'Let's go over talk to him.' I was, like, 'Oh my god, mom. No. Leave him alone.' I'm sure he just wanted to relax. But we walked over and he started joking with me .. My mom goes, 'She's a jazz singer.' I'm like, 'Oh my god. I'm so embarrassed.' I'm sure he gets that all day. 'I'm a singer, I'm a trumpet player, I'm a drummer. Listen to my CD.'"
She told the trumpeter she was a student at NEC, and he responded that he had a gig at Sculler's in Boston that fall. They exchanged phone numbers and Lauren figured that's where it would end. But that same afternoon, "we were watching Al Jarreauand George Benson play, and he called me. I looked at my phone and said, 'Oh my god. He's actually calling me. This is insane.' So I answered the phone and he gave me the dates at Sculler's. He said I could bring two songs and to make sure I brought the music. He said 'I'll call you when it gets closer.' That was it."
The gig went down as planned and there was the college freshman playing a major jazz club. "A lot of my faculty, my teachers, hadn't had the chance to play at Sculler's yet. So that was a little crazy. I remember talking to Dominique [Eade] at one point and saying, 'Do I really deserve this?' I felt kind of awkward at first. She said, 'If you have that kind of opportunity, then you deserve it.' She was so supportive and so cool. To have that support from her made it a lot easier."
Gigs with Sandoval in New Orleans, Miami, and in New York at Birdland, Blue Note and the Iridium followed. In 2007, she did her first record with Sandoval. Things have been going pretty well since. As she continues her education, she continues to be influenced by things she hears. Among them: the underappreciated (for her singing, that is), Doris Day. "I cannot stop listening to her," she says of the lady who was a noted singer before she hit the Hollywood silver screen as America's darling. "I love her. I think she has such a flawless voice and she does so many songs that I've never heard other singers do."
Adds Lauren, "I like to hear singers like thatthat do music you haven't really heard much. Another person I love, and people think I'm crazy, I love Lady Gaga. I think she's brilliant. She's amazing. She can sing and she can play the piano. A group that I love since about age 14 is the Real Group (a cappella band from Sweden). Their intonation is flawless and their arrangements are so cool. I'm not really a big fan of vocal jazz, but I just love them."
As her career starts to grow, she's humbled by the praise she's received from reviewers. The subject of a recent feature in a Hartford, Connecticut, magazine, she looked upon the situation as surreal, a sign of her humility and level-headedness. "I look at it and I say, 'This is not real.' You know when you go to an arcade and you can get your face printed on a magazine?" she said with a chuckle. "That's what it feels like. It's amazing. I'm really excited."
Lauren also says she's gone through a "cleansing" in her personal life, looking forward. "I realized there were people in my life who were not positive influences on me, even though I feel like I'm a strong person and I'm not easily influenced by other people ... So I've made it a point to surround myself with people who are driven and focused and energetic and positive. When you surround yourself with people like that, it makes you feel better. That's something I really focus on."
Mature words from this young woman with a bright future. She's busy trying to book gigs in support of the new disk, and notes that she has a booking agent interested in possibly taking over those duties, enabling her to focus more on her schooling and her art.