New Releases / Lauren Passarelli
Music Review ~ A Parallel Sunrise ~ Questions from Robin Stone, March 26, 2017
Lauren Passarelli’s new release A Parallel Sunrise speaks to one’s heart and exhibits the many facets of this artists tastes. I asked Lauren to discuss how she composed and created the album.
Here’s to life again
The timbre of your voice on this tune reminds me of George Harrison’s sound, the tune as a whole is very Beatle inspired. Did you write it with that intention or did it just develop that way?
I think often it’s the first flavor anybody hears in my work. It’s so in my DNA. There have been many times I’ve turned it on consciously to really enjoy the Beatleness of something, but I wasn’t intentionally thinking of turning up the Beatle thing here.
It was an honest recommitment to living fully.
I had seen an article that Robin Williams had been quoted as saying, f— life. But I found the full interview and of course his quote had been taken out of context. He had been talking about how hard things can get and in a moment think, f— life, but turned it around, saying you can’t stay there and think that for long. Nor would you want to. So I thought it was a perfect chorus for a lyric to toast life and jump in wholeheartedly again, and again.
The pedal steel is really great, did you play on that or did you hire someone?
That is our dear friend, Norm Zocher who had offered to play on my songs years ago. When this song was taking shape in the studio it felt like the perfect one to invite Norm to play on.
He sent me his part late one night and I heard it the first time right from the email before I went to bed, just through my lap top speakers, by itself, soloed. It blew me away. I knew instantly that it was perfect in every way. Which really impressed me about Norm’s ears, musicality and his willingness to support my song. We Berklee musicians are capable of so much, but it’s the listening and knowing when the playing is enough or too much, that is often blurred.
Here, Norm was totally respectful of me, & my song. That is huge when you’re a guest on a record. To know how to fit in and support and enhance and bring out emotion and something authentic, to play for a good reason, not just cuz this chord scale fits over this chord. He’s a fabulous musician. Norm created warmth and Metheny-esc moments with re-harms and added melodies and answers to my vocal lines that the song sounds empty now without. He also added cool whimsy and flash to the end as it fades out. Norm took the time to find out what works for the lyric, the groove, the song, and the artist. But what amazed me was we didn’t have to discuss it. He knew. I love that!
The backing vocals were arranged nicely, describe how you go about arranging them.
I sing along to the track in the studio and record what happens to try out ideas. Often vocal harmonies come to me as I listen to the song in the car. I capture ideas with voice memo on my phone to remember harmony vocal ideas when I’m in the car.
Totally Love You
Acapella very cool! What gave you the idea to do a track like that? Were you the solo vocalist on the tracks or did you have several people singing all at once?
I was feeding my three dachshunds, getting ready to leave to go to Berklee and I just sang the first line, “Cuz I love you, yes I love you, I totally, totally, totally, totally, love you.” And I thought, hey that’s fun, I love triplets, better capture this on voice memo. I kept singing it in the car as I drove to work and every time I stopped at a red light there was another line or verse to record. I realized it was all one chord, and that the ideas could happen in a round, and I got excited to get home & record it. I sang all the parts.
I loved the humming scene in the movie, The Hobbit. I’ve been putting background vocal humming & vocal sounds in song arrangements because of that, like in my song, Reach Me, on the CD, Tender Ramble. I’ve also made a mouth trumpet noise for many years that makes people laugh so I put that in. The mouth trumpet was also in a song of mine called, Bolstered By Blue on my Tender Ramble, CD. I come up with horn lines in the car while listening to rough tracks, too.
This tune reminded me of a John Cougar type sound, it had a nice groove and “cowboy” feel to it.
Where did the idea for that song come from?
I love alternate tunings. I was playing around noodling in DACGAD and came up with the progression. I can sometimes gravitate to the same tempos. I remember Mick Goodrick asking me if I was an adagio person, (66-76 beats per minute) I looked up the numbers, actually I am an andante person. Many of my songs or first ideas happen at 82 -108 beats per minute. So I will purposely up the tempo and that’s what I did with, Hear Me, figuring if I pick up the tempo right from the beginning I will get used to the faster tempo and get attached to that instead of what I gravitate towards. Don’t get me wrong I don’t force it. I want to do what’s best for the song, but I also want to stretch myself and explore.
Often songs are a mixture of expressions for me, a combination of ideas. Not always about one situation or person, but many. Together they sound like a cohesive topic or lyric but they are often components of different free association writing that I pick and add to the lines to flesh out a song.
Hear Me, was just a desire to spiritually reach with love and send a message to someone’s heart that wasn’t with me in the moment, out in another state. Love is big and can travel to our loved-ones as we desire to wish them well.
The bridge was a nice contrast in the Beatles style, do you hear these things naturally or are you using proven progressions and having the forethought to work these things out?
If I plan anything it’s to use a phrase or pick a tempo or use a cool production technique or instrument sound. Everything is usually experimental, decide as I go, reach for something to please my ear, hunt and search for something that sounds and feels right to me in the moment.
One of the coolest sounds in the bridge is a drone from an Indian stringed instrument called a tanpura. I asked, Pryant Sundas if he was going back to India soon how much it would cost to buy a tanpura for me. He pulled out his phone and said you can download the app, iTanpura-lite. I was excited to put it in a song and it fitted in, Hear Me. It’s certainly a sound we would hear in a later Beatles’ record like, Getting Better, so there’s a Beatle moment for sure.
Lots of orchestration in this tune, how do you go about deciding which instrument’s to use?
I sometimes hear ideas for arrangements and orchestration as I’m writing the song. It’s very common for me to choose instruments by space in the arrangement and thinking of function. I ask myself, does the arrangement need help with the groove, chords, or melody? Does it need counterpoint, harmony, or something that moves, is staccato, or something to sustain and glue it together? Then I’m listening for the frequency range. Do I need something rich and warm, low or bright? I add layers of guitars and voices or try the midi guitar and trigger anything from keys to strings to horns. I love how in orchestras it is common to have melody played by a couple of different timbre instruments at once, combining the sounds creating a new timbre. In Hear Me, it was fun to find that a whammy bar on some chords, and lap steel had just the textures I liked. That with a Wurlitzer, and harmony vocals and the tanpura app, the song came to life.
Reaching for love
Bluesy and funky. The vocals in each of your tunes are beautifully arranged and sung creating a nice string like affect. Which artists influenced your vocal writing styles?
Thank you. I love Stevie Wonder, and Elton John and his back ground vocalists, Fleetwood Mac, and The Beatles. Carly Simon was ace at melody and vocal textures and counterpoint too. Jane Siberry, Patty Larkin, Kate Bush, Stevie Nicks, Jonatha Brooke, James Taylor all have lovely vocal textures in their recordings that have moved and impressed me.
Do you play all the instruments on these tracks?
Often I do play everything and sing everything. But once in awhile I have guest artists, and A Parallel Sunrise has Norman Zocher on pedal steel, on Here’s To Life Again. Reaching For Love features, Kathy Burkly on drums, with Bird Mancini (a husband & wife duo: Ruby Bird & Billy Carl Mancini) singing some of the back up vocals and playing bluesy guitar, harmonica and accordion. Kathy, is a Berklee alum that plays the coolest, tightest grooves. I love playing with her. We’ve performed live shows together and this is the first time she’s appeared on one of my albums. Ruby & Billy are so bluesy and cool I just heard it in my head one day that having them on the recording would really give it the flavor the song needed. I love what they played and sang. They had the idea to repeat the line, Here we go again heartache, with the harmonies they chose to sing and then I asked them to repeat half the line, here we go again. We worked a couple of things out together, like singing the background oohs, the 3 of us round the same mic and triple tracking it, so much fun. In fact here’s a funny rehearsal moment. I’m singing and playing everything else on the EP.
You have different grooves and styles on a disc with only 5 tunes did you consciously make a decision to vary the styles with each tune?
I like when my songs sound new and fresh to me. I’m always trying to please and impress my own ears with every choice I make. So I chose songs that I thought fit well together and kept it interesting for me. Out of the new batch of songs I was working on, these mixes were coming together and I got a kick out of the variety.
I like the piano riff, the groove is enchanting and mysterious. Was there an image that came to mind when composing this tune?
I’m new at writing more songs on piano. So it’s just my playing limitations at this point. I seem to be finding lots of little piano songs these days and it’s fun to flesh them out and play all the parts to put a whole band behind them. It was definitely a calm feel, good moment, to catch this song as my fingers and ears found it. It feels good like a slow, loving dance. Sway was the word that kept coming to mind, which turned into, The Sway.
The various guitar parts in this song and the rest of the CD are nicely arranged, they are all audible and the differing parts can be clearly heard, how difficult is it to mix your own material?
I’ve been recording since I’m eleven years old. Painting with sound is one of my favorite things so I’ve never found it difficult, but I have enjoyed getting better and better at it. Puremix.net is a fabulous resource to get better at recording and it has the teaching I have desired for decades. A Parallel Sunrise really benefits from what I’ve been learning.
Mixing is like tuning a guitar or a piano for me, everything gets in tune but then, you find that sweet spot when the chords hum in delight, when all the frequencies are enhancing each other without conflict or anything over powering anything else. It’s a delicious balance when things sit and feel just right and sound like a well made record. I love my voice but there are times when the mix isn’t happening yet, and I get tired of hearing it float on the top of the song and not sound like it’s part of the recording, as if I’m just singing with a backing track. Everything has to blend and have cohesiveness, like a painting with light and shadow and depth. It has everything to do with the instruments in the arrangement, the frequencies and all the recording tools and techniques that transform the live music to the medium of a recording. The best way to get in the ballpark of really getting the hang of all this is to use reference tracks of finished records you already love. Put the song right in your work-space DAW and A/B: listen to the pro recording, listen to your tracks, work your tracks and mix to sound like the pros. I have favorite bands and artists and songwriters and guitar players and producers and engineers. It all has to work. Every choice either enhances the magic or takes it away.
Wednesday, January 18, 2017
Lauren Passarelli Receives 2017 “Good Song” Award
Musician, Guitarist Lauren Passarelli wins Good Song Award for Harry
Ashland, MA. January 18, 2017. Music and electronics technology company Soundwave Research has awarded its “Good Song” prize to Berklee guitar professor and multi-instrumentalist Lauren Passarelli for her song “Harry”, originally released on the album Honeywine on Feather Records. The Good Song Award is a semi-annual recognition of musical, technical and recording achievements, and is awarded to the composer, artist or performers involved in the production of the good song. Each “Good Song” is chosen as having outstanding merits in Artistic Concept, Songwriting, Musicianship, Recording quality, Sonic quality, Appeal and General Creativity. Recipients are awarded an objet d’art, piece of recording gear or some other treasure from the archives.
“Lauren Passarelli’s music is well known to us at the laboratory and has been in more or less continuous play since she started using one of the Crowley and Tripp Studio Vocalist microphones, built by Soundwave in 2006” said Bob Crowley, who runs the lab. “The music produced by our customers is an important source of inspiration for product developers, engineers and other people working to invent, create and build new tools for artistic expression, and Lauren’s friendship and support is very important to that” he added.
“Thank you very much for this award!” said Lauren. “”Harry” refers to Harry Nilsson and the vocal style used in the song is also influenced by him” she added.
Lauren Passarelli is also known for her avid interest in The Beatles and performed their music in tribute bands such as All Together Now, Get Back, and AfterFab, as well as the progressive pop group Two Tru which also features keyboardist, Cindy Brown.
Blast of Love/Bill Copeland
Lauren Passarelli just released her Blast Of Love CD, and it’s a blast of fun tunefulness and deep, thoughtful lyrics. Playing all of the music on her disc, the singer-songwriter-multi-instrumentalist’s greatest strength is her ability to create ambient, atmospheric soundscapes with her guitars. Just the lightest touches is all she needs to set the mood and build a feeling. Read More...
Opening with “Come Be Loved,” which utilizes poetry by Kate Chadbourne, finds Passarelli’s slightly edgy, breezy vocal gliding just over the surface of her organic electric and acoustic guitars’ intertwining intervals. The guitarist continuously pays out interesting tones in her unusually accented notes. Then you refocus on her special voice. She certainly has a distinct voice, beautiful, chirpy, and warm, and with a timbre that can only be described as crisp and restrained.
“Essential One” is a beautifully expressed admiration for a significant other. Dual melody lines make a statement through contrast and keep the ear glues to what’s going in those strings. Passarelli seems to find her own natural, unique sound as easily as breathing. She would need something distinct instrumentally in each song as her voice is so distinct. Listening to her coos and picking styles is uplifting. You feel her voice and guitar at work bringing you some place pleasant.
Passarelli’s dreamy, dizzying chorus on “Leaps And Twirls” pulls you into its upwardly spiraling feeling. She picks the gentlest of notes and creates a mood. Pleasant keyboard, sounding like faux accordion, adds a swaying sensation here and the musical ambiance expresses the joyful love exuberantly.
Co-written with Elizabeth Lorrey, “Don’t Look Down’ is marked by sweet vocal harmonies and a flinty guitar line making a background spark. Well-placed low end and percussion fill things out with a fulsome zest and Passarelli phrases a significant arc on electric.
“I Love You Because” features some nifty mandolin picking and tasteful wooden acoustic guitar resonance. Subtle touches are Passarelli’s thing. Here, she pinches out plenty of warmth and exuberance from her guitar. Over the melodies she lays out a lush vocal, easily finessing her voice like a dancer finding the right spaces between those acoustic guitar notes. Her electric braces everything with a less is more approach, her notes resonating with a tone that speaks more than the actual notes.
Singing words from a poem by Emily Dickinson, Passarelli turns “Feel For Me” into something that sounds as poetic as these lyrics. There’s a mild and effective funky beat under a buzz guitar line and lithe electric piano work. The songwriter keeps the low end low and that creates open space for her guitar and piano. Half the pleasure is following these song structures.
“New World Of Adventure” is a sweet, bumpy ride of a love song. Passarelli uses her percussion and low end to push this forward with a touch of whimsy. Vocally and on electric piano she whips up a jaunty pace underneath the expressions of affection. Joyful guitar notes dot this landscape of love and it’s another victory for Passarelli’s creative stride.
“Leaf Feather Wing Stone” gets its wind from a wide feel in the electric piano. Passarelli creates a wide arc here, and she sings with a sweeping range in her vocal approach. The listener will feel snug in the songs warm embrace while being swept up and onward on a summer’s breeze.
Title track “Blast Of Love” engages with brittle, hypnotic guitar lines. Passarelli croons this one assertively and she maintains her creative balance between smooth, flowing vocal and snappy guitar notes. She also harmonizes quite well with herself and simultaneously builds a narrative arc in this cool love song. Her guitar phrase is icy cool and has a voice of its own.
“Maine Moon” is a perfect, lovely blend of acoustic guitar, bass, and percussion. The music is at once light and profound. Light touches on strings and skins produce the ambiance for Passarelli to apply her slippery timbre to the rustic feel of the natural sounds. A haunting, effective background vocal brings forth another layer of emotion with its simple coos.
Passarelli gets more rockin’ on “Wish Upon Me.” Her drum beat is kicking the piece forward while her guitars, bass, and keyboards are pumping out an up tempo sweep of melody. Her electric guitar phrase is a slow boil persistence of electric energy. She sings this one with a pop energy that keeps things moving with a sense of adventure.
“The Sea Road” essentially a poem by Kate Chadbourne, gets a heaping dose of vocal lift. Passarelli builds this one up at a take your time pace. Yet, she’s constantly moving upward. Her mesh of softly picked electric, adeptly tapped low piano notes, and lush vocal created another pleasant musical atmosphere.
“Galaxy Eyes” mixes a dose of greasy guitar lines, nimbly picked and finessed, with more of that unique vocal timbre. Passarelli has made a trademark out of making more sound with fewer instruments and fewer notes. On “Galaxy Eyes” she weaves another ambient texture with the tones that ring out from notes and chords she plays.
“Let The Music Begin” celebrates the beginning of a romance and life partnership. Passarelli recorded a banjo track in the background and some kind of faux accordion in the fore. Both played to perfection, and the contrast between them, brittle banjo notes and the wide electronic sweep, is another trick Passarelli has up her sleeve. It creates an essential travel space for her voice, which she rides with perfect appreciation.
Passarelli remains interesting in her musical colors right up until the end of her disc. Closing track “Heart Of The Sky” has a pseudo-cello effect that makes a haunted, lamented feeling, reaching the listener on an emotional level. A steady drone out of one note creates an instant backbone. Then, a mix of tasteful instrumentation, tones, and timbres creates the musical equivalent of a delicious fruit salad.
Whether using others’ poetry or her own tender, thoughtful lyrics, Passarelli weaves alluring, engaging sounds in each track. This Blast Of Love CD is a blast for serious musicians who will enjoy hearing what the composer has come up with. It will also go over well with anybody who likes to hear nice songs that come from the heart of an honest songwriter.
Blast of Love/Matt Sergienko/The Berklee Groove
Valentine’s Day is a tough day for a lot of people. (I myself plan on celebrating it by not leaving my apartment and drinking black coffee alone all day.) Blast of Love, however, the latest release by Berklee guitar professor and New Jersey native Lauren Passarelli, has me reconsidering. Everything about Blast of Love is refreshingly honest and unpretentious, from Passarelli’s raw, mellow vocal timbre, to the naïveté and young-love aesthetic, to the album’s pitch-perfect release date of February 14. Read More...
Beginning with the first song “Come be Loved,” Passarelli invites us into the music: “Here no walls will keep you out,” she sings. The acoustic, feel-good nature of the tune calls to mind George Harrison’s solo work in the best way. The production itself is very understated, allowing the music to speak for itself, and giving the tunes a warm, lo-fi nostalgia. Other favorite tunes of mine include “Don’t Look Down,” a song about the precarious nature of relationships and the beauty of blind faith, as well as “The Sea Road,” an airy, imagery-heavy ballad driven by Passarelli’s layered vocal harmonies.
Blast of Love is the kind of record you put on on a rainy day with a cup of tea; an artfully crafted acoustic opus that couples or lonely people can equally enjoy. Blast of Love is available at the Berklee bookstore, CD Baby and iTunes.
Blast of Love/Kate Chadbourne
Lauren Passarelli’s new CD, Blast of Love, explodes with singable melodies, passionate wordplay, and blazingly beautiful arrangements. If you’ve ever fallen in love, you’ll recognize your own experience here, and if you haven’t – well, these songs might teach you everything you need to get shaking! Read More...
Passarelli has created a heart-shaped box with Valentine’s treats to tempt nearly every palette. Lovers may well find here the anthem they’ve been seeking, perhaps in the shimmering “Maine Moon,” or the promises and pledges made in “Leaps & Twirls.” Guitar aficionados will admire Passarelli’s wizardry on the instrument and her ability to craft catchy licks that reveal and honor the heart of each song. Some listeners may catch an echo of Pat Metheny in “Galaxy Eyes,” while others will hear a flavor of James Taylor in the vocal styling of that song. But perhaps the greatest treat awaits poetry lovers. In addition to her own poetic lyrics, Passarelli offers pitch-perfect settings of poetry by Emily Dickinson, ee cummings, and contemporary poet Kate Chadbourne. Dickinson, that ardent but sequestered lover, provides a buzz of erotic frustration and yearning in “Feel for Me.” The setting is raucous and edgy, bringing the poet out of the parlor and into a vast, passionate world that suits her intensity very well. Passarelli ends the album with a compilation of lines from cummings’ poems, arranged into the spacious and sweeping “Heart of the Sky”: Yes is a world, the voice of your eyes, we are for each other – heart of the sky.
Through her mastery and her honesty, Passarelli gives us a chance to return to our own hearts and give them another spin. This album reminds us that whether it’s rocky or blissful, love is pretty much the best thing going. Blast of Love is a musical love-letter to Love with a capital L. Listen to it and fall in love again with music, with your lover, with the world, or with love itself!
Berklee professor, former Paramus resident credits Beatles as musical inspiration
A former Paramus resident has accomplished a series of firsts at Berklee College in Boston: becoming the first woman to graduate the guitar performance program in 1982, the first female faculty member of the guitar department in 1984 and the first female to be promoted to full professor in the department in 2009. Read More...
Lauren Passarelli, a former Paramus resident, is Berklee College’s resident expert on the Beatles. Lauren Passarelli, a former Paramus resident, is Berklee College’s resident expert on the Beatles. Lauren Passarelli, who was born in Teaneck and grew up in Paramus, developed her interest in guitar at an early age, citing the Beatles as one of her biggest influences. She had a plastic guitar when she was 2, and was truly inspired by music when she saw the Beatles perform on the Ed Sullivan Show when she was 4.
“You know, the Beatles never said they were the best musicians or the best writers or anything, but they enjoyed it so much and they just said, ‘If we can do it, anyone can do it,'” Passarelli said. “So I thought, ‘Then I’ll do it too.'”
Nicknamed “George,” after Beatle George Harrison, by her students, Passarelli is not only a professor but the department’s resident expert on the Fab Four. In addition to her standard lessons, she created the Beatles’ Guitar Lab and Beatle’s Ensemble at the college.
Her formal education in guitar began in 1969, when she began taking lessons from Paramus guitar teacher Lou Sabini, who still gives lessons in the borough to this day. “He’s a great, great guitar teacher and he got me off to an incredible foundation, a great start,” Passarelli said. “I studied with him for five years, from 9 years old to 14, and he got me using the guitar books that Berklee College of Music published, so that’s how I heard about the college.”
Passarelli’s musical talent goes beyond just the guitar, and while attending Paramus High School she played flute in the school’s marching and concert bands, as well as guitar for the stage band. She also sings, plays piano, bass and drums, engineers and mixes her own music, and has been writing and recording her own songs since 1970. “I love it all,” Passarelli said. “Certainly writing the songs is a giant thrill, because I like sitting there with a blank piece of paper and a blank recording and knowing nothing is there, maybe not even a scratch of an idea, but within an hour there’s a finished song. It’s just the most amazing thing, it’s like playing with magic.”
After graduating from Berklee, Passarelli was immediately invited to join the faculty, but had to wait two years for an opening. She has taught at the college, sharing her love of music with students using a lighthearted approach, ever since.
In addition to teaching, Passarelli has recorded multiple albums, and played with other renowned musicians, including Melissa Etheridge, Leni Stern and Pat Metheny. She also performs live concerts online and has guitar lessons and labs on all aspects of the instrument available online. “There’s ways for people to reach out, and the Internet brings everybody together these days,” Passarelli said.
Jordan Lucero interviews Lauren Passarelli
On Mar 14, 2012, at 12:47 PM, Jordan Lucero wrote:
Thank you! I loved reading all of your answers!
I have to do an interview for my professional development seminar and I was wondering if you could answer some questions? It’s due by friday so the sooner you answer would be the better! If you could answer these that would mean the world to me! Thank you!
Here are the questions: Read More...
1.What is it that initially got you interested in music? What’s your musical background? 2.Did you do anything musically before you came to Berklee?
I saw the beatles on ed sullivan when i was 4. had a plastic guitar at age 2, got better plastic guitars every christmas til age 7. 1st guitar made of wood from ej korvettes dept. store, inherited from my uncle. begged for lessons from 7-9 yrs old. a teacher in my town came to the house & said i was too small. Me Mom found another teacher in the town paper. started lessons at 9. got into the Modern Method books by Bill leavitt at age 11. was playing 9 yrs before i came to berklee. performing lots of private function gigs with bands. writing songs since age 10. recording since age 11. taught lessons since I was 14.
3. What was your experience at Berklee like for you?
Berklee had just been accredited. i attended from 1978-1982 & it was still basically a trade school. didn’t feel like a school. felt like an old hotel. there were only 2 buildings 1140 & 150 Mass ave where I lived in the dorm for 6 semesters. there were very few woman, even fewer women guitarists. i was put down for loving the beatles, writing songs, & playing a strat. (where’s your jazz guitar? “I have Carole king in my office”) there weren’t any guitar amps in the classrooms other than the hand made olivers that had 5 inputs 4 guitarists & a bass player would all go through one 8 or 10 in speaker. Instead of that, i wheeled my polytone amp to school on a luggage carrier & carried my strat in a hardshell case in the other hand to my playing classes. by then i lived on peterborough st. i was a perf major on guitar & the first woman to finish the program.
4.Where did your career go after Berklee and what did you have to do to get there?
They asked me to stay & teach but i had to wait 2 years for an opening in the guitar dept. i still have the 2 or 3 rejection letters that they, “couldn’t hire me at this time”. i gigged at restaurants & hotels because they paid well. I babysat, taught guitar at a russian school in brookline & sold very few time-life books, & gave private guitar lessons. i was the first woman to join the guitar faculty in 1984 & later in 2009 first in the guitar dept., to be promoted to full professor. i’ve engineered other artists’ & bands’ recordings, played informally with pat metheny & steve rodby, melissa etheridge & leni stern. I am continually learning new recording techniques, software, new instruments, writing & recording new songs, reading books on all aspects of music, artistry & creativity.
5. Describe your life as a songwriter.
I’m a performing songwriter, multi instrumentalist, vocalist & recording engineer. I’ve always loved hearing the music in my head come to life in a recording by inviting friends to play or by playing the instruments myself. I co- founded an inde label (feather records) & publishing co. (cotton moon music, bmi) in 1989 with a friend from berklee, Cindy Brown. i love having written so much that I know I can turn on the creative muscle anytime. I always wanted to write perform & record my own music & i have been doing that. CDs include, Blast of Love, Playing with the Pieces, Back to the Bone, Shadow Language & Among the Ruins. I’ve had songs in soap operas, inde films & I was on major label for a one song deal. I’d like to have artists cover my songs, get more songs in films & sell out of my physical CDs.
6.What are you doing now and is there anything you would have liked to have done?
Well Blast of Love is brand new so I’ve been writing, arranging, recording, producing, mixing, singing, playing & mastering that. now i’m doing TV, cable, & radio shows promoting it. i perform twice a week on stageit.com. i teach on a world wide guitar forum called jamplay.com where anyone can have a week of free 24 hr a day access to thousands of videos & live web chats with this code: 55DB3375AA at this web site. http://www.jamplay.com/card. i’m writing a songwriting & creativity book, taping more videos for jamplay & teaching at berklee full time, getting better at playing drums & piano. i have tons of time off to dream & create. i love my life. i would have loved to have been a close friend of George Harrison’s.
Women’s International Music Network
Front and Center: Berklee College of Music Guitar Professor, Lauren Passarelli
The WiMN’s Front and Center is a weekly column that showcases accomplished women who work in the music and audio industries. We spotlight successful female performers, manufacturers, retailers, educators, managers, publicists, and everyone else in between. Want to be featured? Learn how here.
Front and Center: Berklee College of Music Guitar Professor, Lauren PassarelliLauren+Passarelli+IMG_3725 Read More...
Lauren “L Pass” Passarelli from Paramus, N.J., is a guitar professor at the renowned Berklee College of Music in Boston, Mass. – and so much more.
Passarelli was the first woman to finish the guitar performance program at Berklee in 1982, and became Berklee’s first female guitar professor just two years later.
She is a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, arranger, recording engineer and record producer, and has worked with Cindy Brown, Pat Metheney, Melissa Etheridge, and many others.
She is the co-founder of Feather Records, Cotton Moon Music, Wizard and Feather Brown Productions, and PassaBrown Studios, writes and sings her own songs, has released 15 records, played George Harrison in a Beatles Tribute band, is a published book author, and the list goes on.
It was a true joy getting to know L Pass through this interview. We’re sure you’ll enjoy getting to know her, too! Read all about her below, and visit her website here.
WiMN: You were the first female to finish the guitar performance program at Berklee College of Music. Did you ever feel like giving up? What would go through your head knowing that you were the only girl guitarist graduating?
L Pass: There were many other women graduating in other majors who may have also played guitar, I was just the only women guitar performance major in 1982. I was often the only woman in my classes. I didn’t think much about it back then. I was so absorbed in learning and desiring more guitar, more recording and more songwriting. I met some great, musician friends attending at the same time: Sarah Burrill, Cindy Brown, Lisa Goldstein Meri, Gina Felicetta Myrick, Missy Etheridge, Ruth Mendelson, Linda Poonarian, and Lucy Asforis, who were all fun and very supportive to me. Being in the minority didn’t feel hard to me then.
WiMN: You were also Berklee’s first-ever female guitar instructor. Did you ever feel like students doubted your ability simply for being a woman? Explain.
L Pass: Some studen to the woman artists who really played guitar well. I only knew what was on the radio and what my friends and I were listening to. For example, I didn’t hear Bonnie Raitt, Nancy Wilson and Emily Remler until the eighties.
WiMN: Who do you feel supported you the most throughout your music education? Explain.
L Pass: My first guitar teacher, Lou Sabini was always available to me. I could always call with questions and visit. My closest friends, and collaborators: Stefanie Badach Mis, and Cindy Brown kept me emotionally strong, millions of encouraging words between us. My parents made it all possible by giving me lessons, instruments and an education. I wanted to attend Berklee since I was 11 years old.
WiMN: How many female guitar instructors are there now at Berklee? Do you feel like you paved the way?
L Pass: There are six, me, Robin Stone, Jane Miller, Abby Aronson Zocher, Sheryl Bailey and Amanda Monaco. Berklee and our guitar department chairman, Larry Baione have always wanted more woman guitar teachers, they just haven’t applied.
It was difficult being the only woman in the guitar department in 1984, at 24 years old. Berklee was a college but atmospherically still more of a trade school then. The prevailing attitude among some faculty at the college and of a few in my department at that time, was that only men can really play and students were attending to learn how to play guitar like a man. I felt outside what was accepted and respected because I was a recent graduate working alongside my very own teachers, and because I wasn’t playing jazz. There were 24 mostly jazz guitar teachers then. I soon realized I was hired because of the variety I offered. I had to grow into the position. I felt like I could still be taking lessons. I learned the bigger truth, which is that we all can. We never stop learning and growing, there’s always more to understand and know.
I don’t know how much I paved the way but I was proud to find out 2 days before I graduated that I was the first woman to finish the guitar performance program. It was also cool to be the first to join the guitar faculty 2 years later. I had thought that it was a sure thing then, that I’d be included in the Berklee first 50 years book. But I learned a big lesson. Speak up! If I had mentioned it to anyone compiling the info I’m sure they would have considered including me.
(Lesson: Never assume, especially if you haven’t got a manager or publicist. If it occurs to you, mention it, because it may not occur to anyone else.)
WiMN: How does the male/female guitar student ratio compare now to when you were a student?
L Pass: It’s much better now but not 50/50. You’d have to check in with admissions for specifics over the years.
WiMN: What advice would you give women seeking to pursue guitar at Berklee or any music college?
L Pass: Do it! There’s a tendency with all humans to look for outside validation and really it’s our own inside validation that feels the best. There may not always be certainty when deciding such things, but any pulse, or desire, or feeling of fun, and curiosity, is worth following. You only have to please, and amuse, and impress, yourself. You’re the one that you’re trying to reach.
WiMN: You just released an eBook titled “Guitar Insights: Minor Tweaks, Major Results.” Tell us about it.
L Pass: The wonderful performing artist, poet, musician, story teller, author and Irish scholar, Dr. Kate Chadbourne said to me recently, “You should write an ebook”. She encouraged me and brought the idea into focus for me, and she was my editor.
(More lessons: When you’re used to making CDs only, do more research, and remember that editors get a credit in a book! I feel awful that I didn’t put her name in as editor. But she’ll laugh because I added some things to the text and found an error she would have caught had I asked her to read my addition.)
I had always wanted to write a book and been asked by countless students if I had books. This whole new world of digital media is making everything so much easier and more fun. So these bite size ebooks are perfect for info on the go. It’s the first in my Guitar Insights’ series and it has information based on the needs and fixes I find useful while working with my students.
Kate also suggested I write music to some Emily Dickenson & ee Cummings poems. I wrote two songs: Feel For Me and Heart of the Sky with words from many poems of Emily’s and ee’s.
WiMN: You have worked with an incredible roster of artists like Pat Metheny, Melissa Etheridge, Sarah Burrill, and more. What was your involvement with them?
L Pass: In 1992, Pat needed a rhythm guitarist to play on his Secret Story Tour. Out of all the audition recordings submitted he liked mine, and one other. He came to my house with Steve Rodby and we played for two hours. It was a blast working through his very new, unreleased, gorgeous music. He looked me straight in the eye and said, “You’re a great guitar player”.
(Another lesson: When someone asks you about what you’re doing, and you feel baited to impress, don’t mention seedlings in the works until they’re definite. This second person wouldn’t have been told about the audition, and wouldn’t have gotten the gig because he had touring experience.)
I knew Missy the 3 semesters she spent at Berklee. Our group of friends, were inseparable. We spent a great deal of time together. We played our new songs for each other and we jammed in the Berklee rehearsal rooms. In 1991 Melissa Etheridge and Two Tru played at the same music festival.
Sarah & I are longtime friends and Beatle buddies, we met at Berklee in 1978. I was wearing a George Harrison button and she said to me, “’Ello Beatle person, I’m a Beatle person too”. We’ve been great friends ever since.
Over the years we’d play our newly written songs for each other, gig on some of the same stages, and radio, and cable TV shows together.
I engineered and mixed Sarah’s CD, Stained Glass, and coproduced & arranged it along with Berklee alum, Cindy Brown for our label, Feather Records.
Sarah recently sent me a, George School, sweatshirt. Quite fab and Beatley!
She sang on my song, The Garden (with lyrics by Stefanie Badach Mis) from my & Cindy’s Two Tru CD, Shadow Language. Sarah’s a lovely talent. I’ve loved her voice & her songwriting from day one.
WiMN: What styles of music do you play/teach?
L Pass: My music is in the pop/rock, singer songwriter, and soft rock styles. At Berklee we teach the instrument so any style can follow. I attract songwriting, home recording enthusiasts and Beatle loving guitar players to my private lessons and classes. I started The Beatles’ Guitar Lab & The Beatles’ Ensemble, and I teach The Songwriting Guitar lab at Berklee. All my lessons and classes focus on creativity and Artist survival skills. I like to teach the whole person.
WiMN: What got you started in music?
L Pass: My Mom gave me a plastic guitar when I was 2 years old. I saw The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964 when I was 4 and it was, “I want to be a Beatle”, ever since.
I fell in love with guitar because of George Harrison. George had a fabulous feel and touch on guitar. He created magic with subtlety.
You can pretty much learn every deep, musical, thing from The Beatles, and especially learn to play guitar, bass and drums in delicious ways from listening to The Beatles.
The Beatles were my first musical influence and they taught me everything from writing, singing, producing, engineering, arranging vocals, horns, strings… I have so much love and appreciation for The Beatles. Paul McCartney has taught me so much about optimism and evolving as a musician and human being. It has been fascinating to watch & learn from him all these years. All The Beatles recordings, and videos, and their individual solo recordings are fabulous essential nectar for me.
In 1971 Lou Sabini lent me his Tal Farlow, Charlie Christian, Johnny Smith, Howard Roberts, Charlie Byrd, and Kenny Burrell records. Lou said, “ Go home and listen to these over and over again. This is great guitar playing”. I learned how to make a good noise, play clean, articulate notes and was playing Lou’s arrangements of chord solos where the guitar is playing chords and melody at the same time.
My second major musical influence was James Taylor, in 1974. His personal style, his beautiful arrangements and counterpoint with finger-style guitar accompaniment, the way he woos so much music out of each chord, is just sublime. I bought his first three albums together, and every album he has released since. Teenage years can be so emotional and turbulent, James brought calm and tenderness to me, and gave a personal songwriting flavor to my music.
WiMN: Who are some of your students?
L Pass: Derek Sivers, founder of cdbaby; Panos Panay, founder of sonic bids; Will Knox; Kyle Patrick of the band, Click 5; Jesse Ruben; David Rawlings; and Rob Harkness, founder of Barn Productions.
WiMN: Aside from teaching, producing, and playing, you are also the co-founder of Feather Records, Cotton Moon Music, Wizard and Feather Brown Productions, and PassaBrown Studios. Tell us about them, and please do share how you manage to juggle between all your responsibilities.
L Pass: In 1989, Cindy Brown and I started those companies to launch our music for our band, Two Tru. So anytime we have a project to release or service to provide for other artists we produce, record, arrange and or perform, under these company names.
Our band, Two Tru has 2 CDs, Among The Ruins & Shadow Language. Cindy designed the cover for Shadow Language and it was chosen as a top 5 finalist in the Independent Music Awards. Her first ever CD graphic endeavor. She also designed the cover to my instrumental guitar CD, Back to the Bone.
Both of my brothers are graphic Artists. Marc designed Sarah’s CD, Stained Glass, and he did the layouts for my CDs, Blast of Love & Honeywine. And Ed did the layout for my CD, Playing with the Pieces.
Teaching at Berklee is wonderful. I’m surrounded by young, talented optimism. My students and I inspire each other. I’m teaching at Berklee full time, 3 days a week. I teach on Jamplay.com 2 hours on Thursdays. I perform my songs live online, twice a week on stageit.com. And in-between there’s writing songs, recording, and the rest of life. Different projects take turns. It’s not too busy. I just finished recording and mixing Jane Miller’s new CD, Three Sides to a Story.
I’d like to play more festivals, TV shows, theaters, speak at colleges, play more house concerts, write more ebooks, make more CDs. It’s all great fun.
WiMN: What is the most rewarding part of your job?
L Pass: Having a full, creative life. The playing, the writing, that’s where the magic is. Getting to share that life force with others is so thrilling. It is self renewing.
WiMN: Any additional comments?
L Pass: Thank you so much for this opportunity Marisa.
Berklee Today/Mark Small
Lauren Passarelli: Fab Guitar
By Mark Small
|Associate Professor Lauren Passarelli|
According to Associate Professor Lauren Passarelli, her family often tells an anecdote about a comment made by a postman pausing to hear Passarelli, then a toddler, strumming a toy guitar on the porch. “She sounds pretty good,” the mailman said to Passarelli’s mother. “Does she know what she’s doing?” Read More...
Passarelli figures that her left-hand fingering probably wasn’t making much sense, but feels confident that she was probably strumming a pretty good groove with her right hand. To this day, rhythm guitar playing is her forte. She is drawn more to creating great guitar accompaniment textures than to firing off pyrotechnical solos. Not long after her porch debut, Passarelli first heard the Beatles-a pivotal moment.
“The Beatles became my main musical influence,” she says. “I learned so much about melody, song structure, guitar, and arranging from their records.” While Passarelli’s influences also include James Taylor, Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Wonder, and Pat Metheny, her connection to her first inspiration is cemented by her work with the Beatles tribute band All Together Now. The band plays Beatles songs “just like the record,” and Passarelli fills the role of guitarist George Harrison.
In 1982, Passarelli earned the distinction of becoming the first woman to receive a degree in guitar performance from Berklee and then became the college’s first female guitar instructor two years later. Unlike many Berklee guitar students, Passarelli did not arrive here with dreams of becoming a flashy guitar slinger. “I learned all of the requirements and gave a senior recital that was all instrumental music,” she says. “But all the while, I was working on my own songs. The material I learned as a performance major has given my music richness. I’m not a singer/songwriter who plays guitar-all three roles are equal. The first thing that develops as I write is a guitar part that will be the foundation of the song.”
To date, Passarelli has penned about 300 songs and released two albums, Among the Ruins(1994) and Shadow Language (2004), with her progressive pop group Two Tru. The band includes collaborator Cindy Brown ’83, who produces, arranges, and plays keyboards. Passarelli and Brown handle all tasks, from creating, recording, and mixing the music in their studio to producing the jacket art, issuing the CDs on their own Feather Record label, and promoting the final product. Passarelli currently has two more albums in the pipeline; an instrumental guitar album titled Back to the Bone and another Two Tru outing, Sometimes Blue.
The range of experience Passarelli has gained through years of writing and recording her own music and running a record label has given her a deep well to draw from with her students-far more than melodic minor scales and chord voicings. “Some students choose me as their private teacher because of my interests in playing, writing, and producing my music in my studio,” Passarelli says. “I like to find out why they came to Berklee, where they want to go, and how I can help them make choices to reach their musical dreams while staying healthy and sane. It is more than just teaching the modes.
“Teaching at Berklee is my main career; it’s my first love. It is easy to share the things that I love about music and guitar all day. I’ve found that I have been able to be a mentor to my students. I don’t really feel like I am imparting knowledge, I feel more like I am an artist in residence coaching people on how to keep their art alive. Society can be hard on artists. It’s important to learn how to fit in and stay happy.”