FAIRFIELD — Laurie Morvan may play and sing the blues, but it was the power rock of Heart that left the biggest impression on her youth.
“I loved that Nancy Wilson played guitar,” she said. “I still think Ann Wilson is one of the best rock ‘n’ roll singers.”
Heart was a daily staple in her musical diet for some time. Today, the band still holds a special place and is often the music she cranks up on a long drive.
But it was Stevie Ray Vaughan and his ability to mesh the blues with rock that set her on the blues path. One listen to Vaughan, and there was no going back for Morvan. Blues it would be, at least as far as what she played on stage.
Her iPod is a different story.
“I’m a sucker for a great song in any genre,” she said.
The award-winning blues musician and her band will stop Saturday in Fairfield. Their “Fire it Up!” CD won a best self-produced CD at the International Blues Challenge.
Morvan grew up in Illinois. Her mother and father separated when she was young. They got by, she said, with her mother’s hard work. Despite the struggle, Morvan said she knew her mother was always there for her, albeit there were times she didn’t know what to do with her daughter, Morvan said.
She was involved in athletics and music. Her mother’s support never wavered.
“She never tried to stop me,” Morvan said. “I would set these ridiculous goals for myself and she’d say, ‘You can do it.’ ”
When she was 8, Morvan’s mother remarried. Her stepfather was just as supportive.
She and her siblings weren’t made to submit to gender roles, she said. Everyone had to cook, clean and sweep out the garage. More importantly for Morvan, it was OK for her to play the guitar.
Morvan went on to college and earned a degree in electrical engineering. She also earned her private, and commercial, pilot’s license.
When money became a challenge in her sophomore year, Morvan tried out for the volleyball team and won a full-ride scholarship in the sport. Her acoustic guitar accompanied the team on trips.
After college, Morvan headed west to work in the aerospace industry. She also joined a cover band, playing rhythm guitar and singing. She wanted to play lead guitar and practiced until she earned that spot.
She said goodbye to the engineering road and hooked up with a traveling band that played in California and Nevada hotels, clubs and bars.
Morvan eventually decided to record her music. She returned to college, earned a master’s degree in applied engineering and taught college math to raise the recording money.
“I’m not your typical blues musician story,” she said.
Her music, she said, is not traditional blues. It combines a visceral, earthy quality that meshes big choruses of rock ’n’ roll, she said.
She still comes across a few people who are surprised to find a female fronting a blues band. But the situation is much better than the 1980s when she would call bands looking for a guitar player and singer only to be told, “It won’t work. Girls can’t play.”
Sexism rears its ugly head in a different way through suggestive remarks, she sometimes hears, she said. On the flip side, Morvan said she often gets attention because she’s a female.
“There’s a trade-off,” she said. “I don’t want to be seen as a novelty. Every female musician in my peer group has had to fight for legitimacy.”
Opening for Morvan is Dennis Jones.
Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amaginnisdr.