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Laurie Geltman: Back where she once belonged

Email|Print| Text size + By Sarah Rodman
Globe Staff / January 18, 2008

You can take Laurie Geltman out of Boston, but you can't take her far from the Boston rock scene she was a part of in the late '90s. Since moving to Los Angeles, Geltman has been hanging with a group of like-minded East Coasters, basking in sunshine, writing songs, and training a new generation of guitar heroes through private lessons, workshops, and day camps.

Geltman, a Berklee grad and Boston Music Award winner who won raves for her supple guitar work and gritty style, disbanded her namesake group in 1999 and had been touring solo in recent years. But she has just released a six-song EP, "Up From Down," from her new band project called Layne.

Produced by former Letters to Cleo guitarist "USA" Mike Eisenstein, the album features contributions from a raft of Hub transplants including Eisenstein's wife, Kay Hanley, and drummers Fred Eltringham (Gigolo Aunts) and Jamie Vavra (The Pills). Helping out at live gigs and offering moral support have been guitarist Aaron Tap and singer Paula Kelley of Boy Wonder.

"Up From Down" is vintage Geltman, filled with raucous guitars and remarks both wise and wiseass. Some songs, like "Constellation" and "Up From Down," reflect the sting of Geltman losing people close to her, and others ("Sorry for You") find her on the dealing end of the blows.

We caught up with the garrulous Geltman by phone in Los Angeles last week, and as usual she had plenty to say.

On why she moved from Maine to LA in 2004: "It was something that I thought about for years. But as I moved into my later 30s (laughs) I really thought I wanted to get back into film and TV. I was a film-scoring major at Berklee. I basically had very simple goals: I wanted to be healthy, I wanted to make every day meaningful, and I wanted to make guitar my center."

On supplementing her music career as a guitar teacher: "I really never thought I'd be a guitar teacher because I started playing when I was so young. I was 7, and it was such a natural thing for me, and I didn't really know how I would translate that. But, lo and behold, I discovered that I was actually a great teacher. The money was just rolling in and in a way that it never had, and all I did was come here with that simple vision. And the other thing was that I was completely and absolutely willing to let go of my ego for a while." (Laughs.)

On working with so many Boston musicians for "Up From Down": "Michael and Kay are like extended family here. In fact, the Boston transplants have really formed my musical family. I was just hanging out with Michael, and it was like, 'Hey, let's make a record!' and the studio was in the house. I would go up in the morning, I would do my part, and while he was waiting to pick up his oldest from school, he'd lay down some guitar parts and then we'd call in people and it turned out they'd all been in the Boston scene at some point."

On the title track of "Up From Down": "It's really about a conversation with God. I received some really heavy blows, losses, in quick succession, and I don't like to talk about what it's about. Maybe there's a little bit about the music industry in there, but it's certainly deeper than that; it's really looking up and shaking your fist. Whenever I sing it, I'm always thinking about a boxer in a ring."

On when her new band might tour: "We had such a good time, and we definitely enjoy each other, but finding days that everyone's around is hard." [Tap is touring with fellow Lexingtonian Matt Nathanson, Eltringham has moved to Nashville, and Eisenstein has multiple commitments.] "We might still do that. I just want to get back here and book some gigs in the spring when Aaron's not off [with Nathanson]. I'm getting together with Jamie and Michael this weekend to watch the Patriots, so we'll figure out what to do."

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