CD release party
Laura Tsaggaris vs. Justin Jones and the B-Sides
Doors at 7 p.m.
Many dream of spinning hobbies into careers but those who manage to do it successfully are uncommon.
D.C.-based singer/songwriter Laura Tsaggaris may not be a household name, but with a co-headlining date slated for next week at the 9:30 Club, which will double as a release party for her fourth album, things are progressing nicely.
“Live from the Atlas” is her first live album and is different from anything she has worked on before. The process was much more hands on than she was used to and required her to step back from trying to make everything sound immaculate.
“Sometimes when you’re in the studio you have the tendency to want to be able to make things perfect because you can,” Tsaggaris says. “So with this it was like, ‘No, we’re going to rehearse and we’re going to be ready and we’re going to see what the audience brings and how the music is inspired and we’re going to go with that.’”
Tsaggaris, a lesbian, had to invest a lot of time and effort into the live album more so than her previous works. She raised the money, found musicians and the venue, looked for corporate sponsors and more to make this album possible. It was work she felt was well worth the effort at this time in her music career.
“I’ve been doing this for a little over 10 years and some of the artists like, Ani DiFranco, that I really admire had a really great live record in their catalogue, maybe even a couple of them. So it felt like it was a real challenge I could undertake.”
Tsaggaris is no stranger to a challenge. She began teaching herself to play guitar at her home in Pittsburgh when she was 15. Her life consisted mostly of playing sports, so in her spare time she would sit down with her guitar and play music. She continued to play during her off-time playing sports at the College of William and Mary.
“It was really good me time playing music and playing guitar,” Tsaggaris says.
After graduating, Tsaggaris took a job outside of New York City. Feeling unhappy with her job and location, she decided to make the move to D.C. in 2000. D.C. was a place she had felt a connection to during her days at the College of William and Mary.
“I had some friends that went to George Washington University. And every time I would come up I just really liked D.C. I just felt really comfortable here,” she says.
Tsaggaris moved to D.C. and began working at a law firm as a legal assistant with plans to go to law school. After a couple years, she began to realize she wanted something different and began to focus on her music part time.
“Right after I moved to D.C. I challenged myself to go out to open mics. I had terrible stage fright. Once I did that I kind of got the bug to just keep writing.”
From fearful open mics to playing the 9:30 Club with Justin Jones and the B Sides, Tsaggaris is well aware of how far she’s come.
“I’ve seen a couple shows there that were really awesome. I’ve seen Coldplay there and I saw Justin Timberlake there. So I’m totally psyched to play there. ‘Live at the Atlas’ has a lot of acoustic bass so it has a chill and mellow vibe. But also we’re going to do a lot of rock arrangements which will be really fun and in this venue it’s just going to be really great.”
Fellow singer-songwriter Victoria Vox believes Tsaggaris is set apart from other musicians by her drive and commitment.
“Laura Tsaggaris is a true artist, the real deal,” Vox says. “Her vocals are spot-on, backed by her strong and tight guitar playing, and she’s never afraid to be emotionally invested in her songs.”
Songwriting led Tsaggaris to record three studio albums: “Proof,” “Keep Talking” and “Everyman.” The third album helped her to open herself back up creatively.
Tsaggaris took to recording songs on her iPhone voice memo app when she was struck by inspiration during the creation of “Everyman.” If a person had inspired the song, she would send it to him or her. Reactions to her music in that way made her realize why she had started making music all along.
“I felt like I needed to go back to the positive part of music and the positive reasons why I’m doing it,” Tsaggaris says. “I was feeling really beaten down by trying to get press and trying to get XYZ. This got me back to, ‘Oh this is how I connect with people.’ Their reaction really instilled in me the desire to keep doing it.”
That connection with people is also what makes Tsaggaris feel that she has a responsibility to the LGBT community. Even if her songs are not explicitly about her sexuality, she feels it still plays an integral part in her music.
“I think one of the reasons why I had so much stage fright at the beginning was I felt that all of that is a part of me. That’s something that is part of my core. By putting myself out there, it is putting that out there for people to judge or consume or reject. But it only made me stronger.”
Tsaggaris, who has been married since 2012 and has a year-and-a-half-year-old son, feels her experiences should be shared with the LGBT community.
She contributes her desire to showcase her life as a possible example for other members of the LGBT community to how little she knew what could be possible for her when she was looking at LGBT life when she was younger.
“When I was growing up there wasn’t really any protocol. You didn’t really know that people could get married and that they could have kids and do these kinds of things. It really helps to see that it can happen now and that people are really happy.”
Ultimately, though, she hopes for broader appeal.
“It’s a tug because I also want to be just like my straight friends who have kids or like my straight musician friends who have songs. It’s like you want to obviously relate to people who are like you in certain ways and in ways that people are different from you,” Tsaggaris says.