I met Laren through my work with St Lou Fringe. One of the first things I knew about him was that he was musician that was working on a musical. Seemed innocent enough. Eventually, I asked if he wanted to perform a scene from the musical at a small event for St Lou Fringe volunteers and staff. So he brought along some of his performers and they played out a scene and song for us.
The entire room fell silent and let me tell you, I have very rarely felt the energy of a room change so rapidly. It was like we all had been enchanted. The acting, the music, the dancing, everything came together in a genuine, kinetic, and beautiful way. The best part: The baby of the space’s owners, who had one minute been cranky, was suddenly joyously bouncing up and down.
I knew this was magic.
Really, when you get to know who Laren is—not just as an artist, but as a person—you can’t really be surprised. Not only is he a multi-talented musician/singer/songwriter/producer, he’s got a good sense of humor, a friendly demeanor, and a nice head of hair. He may be something of a Renaissance man. Recently, he has worked on successful bands such as The Reeling Gilly and Vintage Years.
The dream of creating a musical—or “fourth dimensional sound” as Laren calls it—has been percolating since he began working with The Reeling Gilly. He wanted to turn their album, “Jake West”, into a rock opera, but the rest of the band wasn’t into it. Yet, the seed for his current project comes from a different source. While working at homeless shelters and singing for the men and women there, he began to reflect back on his life.
From the ages of fifteen to twenty-one, Laren would sleepwalk. He would go to bed and wake up with his clothes dirty and torn, not knowing where he had been in the night. His parents tried different strategies to help, but no one knew why it had started. It wasn’t until he went to a psychologist that he learned what the cause might be.
“She [the doctor] pointed that I was using sleepwalking to escape. At the time, my mom and dad were going through a lot of problems. I was trying to get away from it.”
From there, he began to wonder about the significant of sleep and dreams. Do dreams echo reality? Can we stay in dreams? And most importantly, if you had a choice to stay in a dream world, would you?
Laren dove headfirst into the concept, researching sleepwalking and working with doctors and professionals from Washington University. With that knowledge and his life experience, he wrote the first dozen drafts of “Sleep Walker”. Though the show is primarily his creation, it was turned into a collaborative process.
He is especially thankful for his director, Landon Shaw, and his choreographer, Ashley Tate. It is with these two artists and other team members that he reworked the script to get it to its final stage version. Now, with a solid team of dancers, actors, and singers along side him, Laren has created a project that is not just about his dreams, but also about the dreams of everyone involved. It is with this group that Laren is really turning his musical into fourth dimensional sound.
After writing fifty songs (“It would have been the longest musical ever,” Laren laughs), he decided to condensed it down to twenty-five songs. The others will be released through a digital album titled “Last Vinyl” on New Year’s Eve along with a documentary about the projects.
But that’s not all, folks. Before the debut of “Sleep Walker”, the crew will be performing select songs in episodic monthly shows. Each “episode” will include a storyline and characters that relate to “Sleep Walker”. For those who can’t make it (or for those that can’t get enough), the shows will be filmed to view later.
Laren explains, “I’m dreaming to get people to follow the entertainers of 'Sleep Walker' and give them an incentive, like an investment in the show. It’s about investing attention in the artists and the show.”
And I hope you do. When I say this is something special and unique, yet relatable, I mean it. What I love about this project is that it is made up on local artists who are taking a chance.
“I’m not afraid of letting out. I want people to get under the source. It’s all about raising the stakes. I want to be brave and open. This is about stepping out and not holding back. People identify with that.” Laren says.
Stay tuned for more news on “Sleep Walker”!