Anyone in the arts will tell you: It’s not easy trying to make a living at the thing you love most, especially in the complex world of jazz. Just ask Jersey City resident Lauren Shub. I first heard her at one of the stops on the Jersey City Artists Studio Tour last fall. One of the great things about our town is the way musicians, actors, dancers, and writers can be seen in our pubs, parks, and arts festivals.
Lauren, who refers to herself as a jazz vocalist, has been doing it in earnest since 2000, though she’s been a musician for most of her life.
“Growing up I’d sing everywhere,” she recalls, “every event, every family occasion, I was out there, school plays. I played the lead in The Music Man.”
No surprise, then, that she went on to study acting and theater at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University.
Lauren always knew that she wanted a family. After graduating from college, she had some movie walk-ons and was pregnant while performing on Broadway in the ill-fated The Utter Glory of Morrissey Hall with Celeste Holm, which opened and closed on the same day in May 1979.
Her advice if you are pregnant while acting? “Keep moving. If you’re a moving target, no one will know.”
She also worked in regional theater, including at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton. Though she’s done weddings, a steady diet of the Macarena is not her thing. But she has done jingles. Next time you see a Prudential or Snickers commercial, listen carefully, it might be Lauren singing the jingle.
Lauren married a doctor in Westfield and has three boys.
“When the last one went to college, we moved to Jersey City,” she says. “We found a place we liked in Hamilton Park, close enough to the water and to the PATH so that we could go to the theater in New York.”
The Great American Song Book
When Lauren was growing up on Long Island, her father took her to see Maurice Chevalier on his farewell tour there. “It was the first time I heard ‘Just one of Those Things.’ Every word was so intimate and yet so thrilling. This was my introduction to what was possible in singing.” After that, she saw Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, Peggy Lee, Mel Torme, and Tony Bennett. She also cites Sarah Vaughan, Duke Ellington, The Beatles, Van Morrison, Susannah McCorkle, and her “boy band crush,” Frankie Vali and the Four Seasons, as influences.
Trying to make it in the local jazz scene is hard, she acknowledges, noting that everything now seems to be DJs, Indie, and rock, “with the volume way up.” Jazz can be an acquired taste. “People don’t want to take a chance on it,” Lauren says, and sometimes restaurants don’t want singers because “vocalists make people stop eating.”
Back in the day, when folks bought sheet music and families had pianos, Lauren’s style of music was in demand. “Now people create music on their I Phones,” she says.
Her CD, Dream Dancing, features many “romantic and affecting standards” from the Great American Songbook. Visit laurenshub.com.
Lauren has worked at a bunch of local arts centers, clubs, hotels, and jazz festivals around New Jersey and in Jersey City at the Hamilton Park BBQ Festival, the Temple Beth-El Contemporary Concert Series on Kennedy Boulevard, Groove on Grove, GP’s Restaurant, and the Bright Side Tavern
“They have fine musicians,” she says of the Bright Side. “A horn player came from Staten Island to play there.”
There are challenges in trying to make it as a jazz singer—and rewards. Lauren says, “I get to perform with great players and bring jazz to new audiences.”—Kate Rounds