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Locally Grown: Midwest-Inspired McLaughlin Comes to Legends

Observer Scene | Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Growing up in the quiet rural community of Anderson, Ind., Jon McLaughlin found an outlet in original music. From his adolescent musical development, through his time at Anderson University, where he studied music, and beyond, McLaughlin honed the skills and creativity necessary to establish a strong grassroots following.

The 26-year-old composer of two full-length albums visits South Bend this weekend for an exclusive Legends of Notre Dame performance, with home state advantage.

McLaughlin was groomed for the music business from an early age, attending piano lessons despite his disdain for formal training. A serious car accident that shattered both of McLaughlin’s wrists could only delay the young talent’s arrival on the national scene.

McLaughlin released his first album, an independent effort, entitled “Up Until Now” in 2003. Shortly afterward McLaughlin became one of the first artists to sign with Orangehaus Records, a product of the Anderson, Indiana community. His recording contract afforded touring opportunities and a formidable regional fan base in the Midwest.

The Indiana native officially arrived on the national music scene after signing with Island Records in May 2007 with the release of his first full-length album named for his home state. The release of “Indiana” marked the outburst of the artist’s career. He began a tour with American Idol champ Kelly Clarkson and later, a separate tour with fellow newcomer Sara Bareilles. The single “So Close,” was featured in the Disney movie, “Enchanted,” and was performed at the 80th anniversary Academy Awards. Another “Indiana” single “Beautiful Disaster” attracted upwards of 420,000 fans during its tenure as iTunes “Single of the Week.” Following these accomplishments, “Indiana” experienced exponential record sales, furthering McLaughlin’s tour-de-force campaign.

McLaughlin’s sophomore album, “OK Now,” continued the Hoosier’s journey into the hearts of listeners. The self-proclaimed “child of the 80s” recorded his latest collection of piano-driven ballads in Los Angeles with producer John Fields (Lifehouse, Jonas Bros. and Switchfoot). Since the album’s release in late 2008, “OK Now” has achieved notable success, becoming one of the top 50 most popular albums on U.S. charts. The single “Breaking My Heart” has been listed as high as No. 18 on adult contemporary charts.

McLaughlin follows in the wake of the recent revival in piano driven pop-rock. The piano virtuoso is approaching the popularity of similar artists such as Gavin DeGraw, Keane, The Fray and Daniel Powter. While McLaughlin may still be on the rise, he surely exhibits talent enough to warrant the success of these slightly more prolific artists.

Listening to McLaughlin’s work, it is not difficult to catch the Midwestern appreciation apparent in the pianist’s songs. McLaughlin’s vocals are energetic and expressive of his small town roots. A twinge of romance is more than apparent as well in the work of the 26-year-old, making him the perfect performer for this weekend’s “Killer Love” celebration at Legends. His songs address topics such as adolescence in the Midwest, young love and his own personal coming of age process.

For all of McLaughlin’s vocal skill apparent on “Indiana” and “OK Now,” it is easily matched, if not surpassed, by his expertise on the piano. McLaughlin displays skill beyond his years when tickling the pearly 88. Consider the evidence in the introduction of McLaughlin’s single “Industry.” The expression and speed of “Industry’s” opening display is a testament to McLaughlin’s early formal training as well as his creative genius.

McLaughlin will be returning to his home state this Saturday for an exclusive concert here at Notre Dame. The show begins at 10 p.m. on Saturday evening. Admission is free to Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross students.

Contact Patrick Griffin at pgriffi3@nd.edu.