Me: Your music combines hymns with folklore, gospel, Appalachian music, and many other genres. How would you best describe your sound?
Laurelyn Dossett: Well that is the million dollar question....these days it would be called Americana or roots music, but there was a time when it was just called "folk." When I am writing songs for plays, I am trying to evoke place, time, and mood, as well as advance the story in some way. Since three of the four plays I have done with Preston have been based in the Piedmont or Appalachian region of North Carolina, I try to write each song in a style that might have been typical for the region and the time, with typical instrumentation. I can't tell you how happy Preston was the day a clawhammer banjo player showed up in his rehearsal hall! Our first show, Brother Wolf, was set in Appalachia in the 1800's, so there was a very definite style for that. Beautiful Star is set in current time but has a rural NC setting that allowed a wider range of styles, but still bluegrassy, country, old-timey. Bloody Blackbeard was a big departure musically -- still ballad-based writing, but it was hard to get the mountains out of the melodies. The most recent show, Providence Gap, got us back to Appalachia; in that one I got to use the music to tell the story of how mountain music got to border radio and made the transition from being an intimate folk music form to commercial country radio, that was a fun challenge.
Me: Not necessarily having a typical musical theatre style, how did you get into writing music for the theatre?
Laurelyn: I am fortunate to live in a city with an excellent Equity theater, Triad Stage. The Artistic Director, Preston Lane, had a vision for creating theatre for and of the region, respectful of the south and Appalachia in particular. Not interested in Hee Haw or Deliverance, if you know what I mean. Apparently he had entertained the idea of collaborating with a regional songwriter for some time. I have a song called "Leaving Eden;" it is contemporary ballad about the closing of the textile mills in nearby Eden, NC. The song ended up on a BBC news report about the end of Chinese textile trade quotas, and voila! Preston and I live one mile apart, but met through BBC radio. He heard the song and thought I might have a similar storytelling sensibility. And thought I might just be fool enough to get into theater!