Music has always been a big part of my life, but I didn’t start writing songs in earnest until my son was born in 1996. That little guy changed my life in a lot of ways, but none so much as providing me the opportunity and excuse to play and sing him to sleep every night. I’d still be in his room long after his eyes closed, noodling on the guitar and finding new bits of songs.
I grew up in the hills of North Central Pennsylvania where I learned to observe the many wonderful characters that inhabited my little town. It was, and still is, quite a special hidden gem of place filled with a surprising number of artists, musicians, creative types and just downright interesting people. Today I live just north of Boston Massachusetts a mecca of sorts for folk singers and songwriters, but much of my inspiration still goes back to that little town in Pennsylvania.
I tend to write character driven songs, from a farm girl’s beauty-queen-moment in the 4th of July parade, to the wild cast of characters in a run down traveling circus, to the gun-toting rube who falls victim to a young con-girl and her boy friend Elvis. Darius Rips of Oliver di Place music blog says “LaVancher writes songs that tell stories of love among the ruins. His characters may not be from the highest rungs of society, but their feelings come through loud and clear.” And when I featured at the Music in Melrose coffee house they said “His work speaks of love and loss, of dreams and schemes, all delivered from the heart-felt place of a keen observer of the human condition.”
My penchant for character and story probably stems from my early interest in acting. All through grade school and high school I was driven to become America’s next great stage or movie actor. I wasn’t too bad either, getting major roles in school, being accepted to a couple of prestigious summer programs, and earning a scholarship to study acting at Carnegie Mellon University. But as often happens as we start to grow older, sometimes we lose our way and get distracted from our dreams.
I floundered for many years not knowing what to do or what I wanted, wandering from job to job getting further and further from the creative life I envisioned for myself as a kid. Family and responsibilities, struggles and some hard-knocks … all grist for the song mill now. Somewhere along the line, I picked up a guitar, never very serious about it, but something stuck. Holding a guitar just felt right, felt comfortable, felt like home.
Some years later I would happen upon a guitar building shop which was hosting a concert with fingerstyle guitarist Ken Bonfield, who would later become a teacher and friend. Seeing that guitar shop sparked an interest in building a guitar that stayed with me for some years and I eventually created the opportunity to make that happen, even though I hadn’t worked with wood since my high school shop days. The guitar I play and write my songs on is the one I built with master luthier Alan Carruth at his shop in Newport, New Hampshire. Stringing that guitar up for the first time was one of the greatest thrills of my adult life. To see a photo gallery of the some of the building process click here.
Releasing my first CD is another great thrill – especially since it was made possible by the support of 77 fans, friends and family who contributed enough to cover half the expenses. Having the chance to work with great musicians like Jake Armerding, John Curtis, and Paul Kochanski and being produced by Tom Eaton makes me feel like I’m reviving some of those lost childhood dreams. I’m very grateful to have this opportunity and I look forward to where ever this dream takes me next.
Hope to see you out there on the road!