Laura Moe blends songcraft and stagecraft

Observing vocalist Laura Moe, covering my music beat, has been a pretty much tip-of-the-iceberg experience. Seems the more I find out the more there is to find out.

One night, M.J. Kroll graciously hauled me out to the St. Paul hinterlands of Eagles Club/VFW to catching something called The Travelin' Moburys. As it turned out, a strong country trio of Bill Travers and Francis Duxbury III on guitars and vocals with Moe mostly singing harmonies and backup. Well worth the trip (mainly because I got to sit in on the open mic portion of the show). Later, Kroll and I caught them again at Minnesota Music Café in downtown St. Paul, considerably more convenient than schlepping out to a where-the-hell-is-this-place locale. Both times, Laura blended beautifully with Big Bill and Sir Francis (as I've come to think of them) and breathed fresh life into the Fleetwood Mac chestnut on her featured turn, "Landslide." She afforded a quality Steve Nicks, for all her sultry nuance, lacks. Moe's vocal brings depth, body to song, rendering Nicks' eerie melody all the more touching.

Laura Moe is wonderful with The Travelin' Moburys. So, when word came she was appearing within a comparative stone's throw, in Minneapolis at the Fine Line, singing with something else called Dodd Road, it was handy chance to see her again. Interesting thing, seeing Moe a bit differently. The Travelin' Moburys do a laid-back sit down set. With the band Dodd Road, everybody but the drummer's standing up. Again doing mostly harmonies and backup, Moe is very impressive on her feet, swaying, putting subtle personality into her performance. When she sang lead on Lou Reed's "Sweet Jane," Moe had all the allure of an absolute temptress. Which, I guess, is the idea when you're up there on stage, under the lights. Had to remind myself, this is the same down-to-earth lady I'd met a few times, who doesn't get a swelled head at compliments and enjoys simply talking shop. She did a wonderful job on the Dusty Springfield classic "Son of a Preacher Man" as well.

While Moe was up there, Bill Travers, at the table, filled me in that her fascinating stage presence wasn't happenstance. She's done acting. Has no small background in theater. That her mesmerizing movements are those of a dancer.

What else there is to learn there's no telling. Laura Moe did, however, sit down and give an interview, filling a few blanks.

When and why did you decide to sing?
I don't know if I ever decided to sing. Music was always a big part of my life. But, there have been several years or more where there was literally no music in my life. I've had an interesting journey and been down many paths that I think took me full circle back to my first real passion, music.

When and why did you decide to do it professionally?
Again, I don't know if I ever decided. To perform professionally so much as this became a natural evolution of things.

I've been influenced by so many in so many genres. What I appreciate is anyone with raw organic talent. A beautiful voice like Whitney Houston, Leslie Garrett—or Michael Crawford, Micheal Buble, Andrea Bocceli. But, you can't really be influenced by a beautiful voice. You can be inspired, I suppose. I also love artists who are not necessarily gifted but creative with whatever talents they have, which actually is a gift in itself.

How'd you get hooked up with The Travelin' Moburys?
Well Bill and Francis are just so fun, and talented to boot. About this time last year I agreed to put some vocals on the new Francis Duxbury [album] "Hide Me." I really loved the title track. This was all such fun we decided to explore getting together musically on more regular basis. We took a little bit from each of our names: Bill Travers, Laura Moe, and Francis Duxbury to come up with our name, Traveling Moburys. We complement each other so well and get a lot of sound for just the three of us.

With Dodd Road?
It's hard to believe it's only been over a year since we started the Dodd Road project. At the beginning of 2010, Tim Prehn was exploring ideas for his originals and wanted to bring some people together. At the time, Joe Carson and I were performing in a rock band The Richter Project and had started exploring more country and folk. [It] has a unique hippie-country-folk flavor that kind of evolved from each member. Really fun.

You also act. What training and experience? And dance. What training and experience?
Well, I didn't study in college. In fact, it was after that I became curious [and] wondered, Is acting like music? Is it an art, or smoke and mirrors? If it was just smoke and mirrors, well, then, I wasn't interested. After college I began taking classes at UCLA. I studied with the director Don Richardson. I had intensive training in Shakespeare at LA Theater Botanicum. I found there are all kinds of actors and all styles of acting as well as approaches. Luckily, I stumbled on a great and gifted coach, Greg Bach. Greg was focused on organic technique. There are subtleties you achieve on film that cannot be appreciated in a theater. I really love actors who have the gift of bringing those nuances out in a film, performance like Anthony Hopkins in Remains of the Day. Most of my time in Los Angeles was pursuing roles in film. My first 35mm role, I was cast as a singer-guitar player. This was a time when music played no part in my life. I ended up borrowing my ex boyfriend's guitar so I could use it in the film and to practice with.

What's next for your singing career? You're in the studio with Bill Travers, aren't you?
Yes. [I'm] working toward completing a solo CD. We are about halfway through and expect to have a finished product in about a month.

Laura Moe performs with The Travelin' Moburys, Tuesdays at Minnesota Music Café, 499 Payne Avenue in St. Paul, 5 p.m.

Photo courtesy Laura Moe

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Dwight Hobbes's picture
Dwight Hobbes

Dwight Hobbes (dwight [at] tcdailyplanet [dot] net) is a writer based in the Twin Cities. He contributes regularly to the TC Daily Planet.