The Short Bio:
Laurie is a self-employed video-editor and singer/songwriter, wife and mother of two boys. She has been singing all her life and is delighted to bring you her first fruit, "Offerings."
She grew up in Tacoma, WA the youngest child in a family of avid mountain climbers/runners. She still holds the record as the youngest female to climb Mt. Rainier. She climbed to Rainier's summit at the age of seven, and had scaled Washington's 6 major mountains, Grand and Middle Teton, WY, and Oregon's Mt. Hood by the age of eight! She served as a Presbyterian Missionary Associate to Sendai, Japan from 1986-1988 and currently makes Seattle her home.
The Extended Bio:
I was born in Wisconsin, the youngest of four children. We moved to Washington when I was four and I was raised as a Northwest child! I started climbing the mountains of Washington at age five. My family and I climbed Mt. Adams and Mt. St. Helens that year. When I was seven, we climbed Mt. Rainier and I broke the record and became the youngest climber to summit. By the age of eight I had climbed all six major peaks in Washington, Mt. Hood in OR, and the Grand Teton and Middle Teton in WY. I still hold the record as the youngest female on Rainier.
We revisited many of the peaks in the following years, cross-country skied, trained to run cross-country, track, 10k’s and marathons. All these activities accentuated my love of the great outdoors and the beauty of God’s creation! I have fond memories of singing the song “I Love to go a Wandering…” as we hiked out from Mt. Olympus together.
In the meantime, I was active in church youth groups, and sang in school and church choirs. My first solo was in middle school, “There is a Balm in Gilead.” I played cello in the orchestra and was active in the Mountaineers and Audubon Society with my family.
At the University of Puget Sound, I had the fantastic opportunity to travel around the world as part of my Asian Studies major. For nine months traveled and studied in Korea, Japan, China, Burma, Thailand, India, Nepal, Vienna, and London. Getting to see Mt. Everest was awesome! I tried to learn a song in each of the countries I visited. Singing is a great icebreaker!
During two of my summers, I worked at the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park, CO. The Rockies were a beautiful playground. I’d always had a romantic notion of them from singing John Denver songs with my dad playing the guitar. I wrote some early songs there in the mountains.
When I graduated, I spent two years serving the Presbyterian Church as a missionary to Sendai, Japan. During spring breaks, I led my college-aged students on Work/Study programs to SE Asia. We volunteered in a leprosy village in Thailand and traveled on to work at a Christian Ashram in Madhya Pradesh, India. Since we were so close to Nepal, we went there for a short trek and to ride elephants in the jungles. I loved sharing the outreach with my students.
When I got back from Asia, I thought I should settle down. I got married and moved to Colorado where I taught Japanese language, exercise classes, was a waitress, and sold running shoes…My son Wyatt was born in Estes Park where I was on the worship team in a great church.
Wyatt and I moved back to live with my parents in Washington in 1997 while I sorted out my life. I loved being in Washington again. I was back by my sister and middle brother (my oldest brother is in RI.).
I used my Japanese language in international sales, and joined the church choir. I was waiting to see if I’d be a single mom forever when my co-worker introduced me to his wife’s brother, David, a TV editor. We both love the out-of-doors, photography, painting, music, and he loved Wyatt too. We were married a couple of years later at my sister’s lake side home and we made Seattle home. David has been teaching me video editing and I have been blessed to be available as Mom to Wyatt and to our year 2000 son, Phillip.
Life was very normal as we went through our daily routines. We joined a small church with a vital youth program, I sang in the choir. I was blessed to find a Community Bible Study where I quickly signed on as a Worship Leader. We were remodeling our house from day one, and I was a super bargain sleuth. I love using re-usable materials (and thrift shopping) and would search Craigslist to buy and sell to keep our construction costs down.
October 3, 2005 we celebrated our 7th anniversary and left the boys with my brother, Dan (Dr. Daniel Johnson)and his wife while we went to dinner. The next day was busy for everyone. Wyatt was at school, Phillip was on a preschool fieldtrip, and David was hiking with my Dad. While I was walking at the track that morning, I couldn’t shake how lonely I felt.
That afternoon, I looked out the kitchen window when a sedan pulled up. Two men in trench coats were walking my sister-in-law up my driveway. I went outside and she told me that my brother Dan had been killed in a terrible accident that morning. My knees buckled and I clung to the fence to stand. The details of the accident were vague at that time, but we went inside to call our family one by one with the tragic news.
As it turns out, there were too many odds stacked against Dan and his passenger, WA State seismologist, Dr. Tony Qamar. They were studying the deep earthquakes along the Pacific Northwest coast and were heading out on WA State Hwy 101 to retrieve a GPS unit that was being threatened by a rising creek. On a curve they met their end. A log truck driver on Meth, took his broken truck, overloaded by 7000 pounds. 70 MPH around the corner. The trailer tipped up on two wheels and the poorly welded cradle could not hold the strain. It broke and the logs flung at Dan’s oncoming car, shoved it off the road and flattened it.
Grief of those that knew these two men spread like waves from a stone thrown in a lake. The year that followed was the worst of my life. It was hard to shake the depression that consumed me. I lived many of my days on auto-pilot. My husband picked up the pieces, and my family clung to each other for support and understanding, I’d walk and talk with his widow, and my church family prayed and upheld us. I was going through the motions of my days as best as I could but I kept on playing in my imagination what Dan must have experienced in his final moments.
A grief counselor suggested that I begin journaling. If I could pour out my pain in writing, it would aid the healing. I would dream of Dan-that it wasn’t really true that he’d died. It was fun to be with him, but by morning he was gone, so I’d wake up crying and write. One day the words I wrote in a letter to Dan started to come with a tune. My comfort was the fact that Dan was in Heaven. He was fine! I needed to get out of my emotional fetal position and live my life with purpose. I realized how many people around me have experienced the jolt of death. I felt compelled that my song could encourage others to go on in their loved ones honor. I call the song "You're in Heaven" or the "Dan Song".
God was so faithful to me! He led me to a Craigslist posting, “Aspiring Vocalist Wanted.” Through this posting I met Daniel Christopherson, a gifted producer, songwriter, and guitar player (performed with Guns N’ Roses for MTV). Daniel has assembled a marvelous group of studio musicians. He mentored me through the recording process. He is a prolific songwriter, and I was honored at the opportunity to write lyrics to some of his beautiful songs. The Washington State studio musicians who were involved in project are Daniel Christopherson, producer, co-writer, and guitars(Guns-n-Roses MTV, Alice in Chains), Ben Smith, drums (Heart), Dan Mohler, bass, Betsy Tinney, playing Dan's cello (Dan and Betsy are both artists from Gaia Consort), Don Garberg, keyboards (Ricky Skaggs, Kim Hill, Bob Bennett, Bryan Duncan, and John Denver band), and Chris Crumpler, drums(Spanish for 100 and Cassandra Speaks), Jennifer Lind Ivester, background vocalist(voice used in Titanic and vocalist in various jingles such as the ad for Sleep Country USA).
The hope and energy that came from creating music was uplifting me and healing my spirit. God was allowing the words to come and my thoughts to blossom into song. I would listen to Daniel’s melodies and they started to define themselves. One tune seemed to be wishing something like a benediction. I felt there were things that I’d wish my sons that I wanted to express to them. What in life could I boil down and say to them that in the end would be most meaningful? What would any parent want for their child? From that came “Child I Pray.”
Daniel had titled another tune, Jethro. I think God allowed me to remember that title wrong; I called it, “Jericho” and began mulling over the story of the Battle of Jericho. God didn’t tell Joshua to go ram the wall down with brute force. Paraphrasing, he said, “Go around the walls and shout.” I placed that directive into modern day mothering terms. We ask our kids to “use their words” to resolve a conflict.
In my lyrics, I implore the people of this world to use their words to tumble down the walls we've built. Walls are things that block us from seeing others in need. I want people to ask, “What can I do to make a difference?” We all may not be able to give big like Oprah, Bono, or Bill Gates, but we can throw away our hate and start where we are to make a change! That song is now called, “Walls.”
In “People We Love,” “the people we love never leave us,” was the phrase Daniel based his melody on. I had several pages of directions that that sentiment was leading. 5am one morning, I woke with the words from 1 Cor. 13 “Love is patient, love is kind” singing in my head to the first notes of the tune. I ran to the scriptures and the words leapt into place. The fact that God commands us to love and that loving is so lovely to experience just confirms how awesome His love is for us. The enduring nature of love is a “gift God gives to our souls” whether our loved one is here, away on a journey, moved away, or gone beyond, the sparkle of love remains and blesses us.
Laurie is the lead singer for the Seattle Coffee Cats, a folk pop trio. She co-writes The Coffee Cats songs with guitarist, Mike Green and bassist, Margaret Potter.