Laura Meyer

Laura Meyer

It’s hard to put your finger on Laura Meyer. On the title track of her new album Been Here Before, she starts off sweetly singing: Been here before/ Got a rope against my neck/ Been here before/ I guess I never left. The tender folk vocals don’t prepare you for the striking left turn the album takes next, delivering the hard driving blues of “Motel Room Blues #1.” Meyer looks like a sweet little waif, but there’re dark corners seething under her ingénue exterior.

Alternating between folk and blues, she’s a skinny white chick with soul to burn, and inside are tough-minded songs that simply don’t seem like they could have come from her. On “Don’t Let Them Collect You,” a martial new wave beat delivers an edict about being trapped by exactly the sort of stereotyping I’m engaging in: Don’t let them collect you/ Don’t let them collect you/ They’re just trying to get you/ Put you on their shelf// No one’s gonna protect you/ no one’s coming to the rescue/ they’re just trying to dissect you/ So you better take care for yourself.

- Glen Starkey, SLO New Times

“I’ve got a travelin’ fever, baby, got a travelin’ jones. No, don’t look for me in the mornin’, baby, I’m gonna be travelin’ on.” —Tom Petty, “Travelin’”

Laura Meyer’s life-long love of Tom Petty began when she was a kindergartener in the state of Vermont and heard his voice coming from the radio of her father’s car as it traveled down the road.

“I was sitting in the back seat when this jangly refrain of ‘Yer so bad/ Best thing I ever had’ sprung me forward to demand WHO IS THIS?!” writes Meyer on her website, adding, “The music was the equivalent of the first glimpse of Southern California by eyes acquainted to gray New England winters. In that instant I heard my calling in the voice of Tom Petty. He was, and will always be, the absolute.”

“I can see it clearly as today,” said the 27-year-old singer/songwriter in a recent interview, of that life-changing experience. “I nearly launched through the windshield, I was so excited.”

“As a young woman [who] wanted to be a rock star and play with the boys, I was always really impressed by his female characters—independent, fleshed-out,” said Meyer from her home in Venice, Calif., of Petty’s songwriting. “He made his mark on me.”

Listen to Meyer sing and you can hear Petty’s influence in her gritty, laid-back delivery.

But, while Petty was the first, he wasn’t the only male rock star that made an enduring impression on Meyer. She also shares on her site what led her to write a junior-high-school social-studies research paper on the other person who would become her musical hero, Bob Dylan (who played alongside Petty in the Traveling Wilburys): “This kid named Kevin got to pick [his topic] before me, and I was left to choose between Dylan and some political leader or whatnot. So I chose Dylan.

“He really has a way of defying definition,” Meyer added. “He’s really tapped into creation, the life force. He channels it. All artists do that—we all feel moments when we’re totally engaged—but he actually gives the impression of existing in that space.”

Meyer, who was raised in New England, recently moved to Southern California—Petty’s adopted home state—after spending the last four years living out of a suitcase while she traveled solo around the United States and Europe performing at countless venues.

“This is actually the first home I’ve had in years,” she said. “I’ve just been going from place to place, couch to couch, staying with people.”

Meyer’s wanderlust is often reflected in the lyrics to her sometimes forlorn, moving songs. “An empty motel and nothing to eat/ 11:30 is too early to sleep/ An empty bed and a broken TV/ Just salt and pepper and I need something sweet,” she sings in “Motel Room Blues #1,” from her latest CD Been Here Before.

Meyer is looking forward to her next European tour, which begins July 15 and takes her back to Italy, where she spent nearly three weeks earlier this spring.

“It was like a dream come true,” she said of the Italian audiences’ response to her. “They were so responsive. And they feed you, they put you up, they buy CDs.”

Meyer said she picked up a few words of Italian on her last tour, but mainly relied on “sign language, food and music” to communicate. “Every meal was an event,” she gushed.

“Other people go to work 9 to 5; I go out on the road,” Meyer said. “I hope to be able to do it forever. Like Dylan.”

- Christine G.K. LaPado-Breglia, Chico News Review

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Laura Meyer

Saturday, May 11 · 8:00 PM at The Walnut Room Broadway Location