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Periodically, puts the spotlight on an individual who helps make the Jersey Shore the special place it is. You’ll see interviews with musicians, casino entertainers, business executives, chefs and other Jersey Shore celebrities. This month’s interview is with singer/songwriter LauraLea Taraskus from the band Tripp Fabulous.

Where did you grow up and where did you go to high school? I grew up in Atco, NJ and I went to St. Joseph High School in Hammonton, NJ.

How did you get started as a musician? I kind of just always was. My Mom played and sang so there were always instruments in the house growing up. I started playing piano by ear at three years old. I didn’t pick up the guitar until my mid twenties though. Professionally, I kind of just fell into it. I played for fun with friends and they got jobs as bartenders or bouncers and got me gigs at the bars they worked in – still just for fun. Then I was getting offered more and more shows and couldn’t take them all because of my day job. Then the bars started offering money so I took the paying gigs and more and more of them came my way until I just quit my day job and went full-time as a musician.

What other musicians influenced your style? I was big into Tori Amos, but truthfully the local musicians on this scene were the ones who influenced me most heavily.

Who are the other members of your band? Steve Miceli – lead guitar, Jake Wiener – drums, Mike Joy – bass guitar and Nate Hall – keys and vocals.

When do you write your set list? Is it basically the same for every show? I usually write it as soon as I get to the club, about an hour before we go on. I write a fresh set list for every show. Sometimes, if I’m in a rush (sound check gone bad, hair won’t cooperate, etc.), I’ll recycle an old set list to save time but I still tweak it specifically for the room. Another reason there’s always a new set list is that we learn so many new songs so often, it’s hard to use old set lists because songs have been dropped and added since the last time we played there.

You play hundreds of shows every year – how do you keep your voice so strong? Um (laughing), my voice is toast! Sleep, water, no dairy – those are the three main rules but it’s really the luck of the draw. I can have a weekend where I eat ice cream every day, my daughter’s and my schedule allows me three hours of sleep total and I put Scotch in my water bottle and I sing like a bird. But there are also weekends where I’m completely non-dairy, eight hours of sleep a night and a gallon of water a day and I can barely squeak enough to speak. So there really is no rhyme or reason, but I try to adhere to those three rules as much as I can and I seem to do all right.

You’ve done shows from Vermont to Florida – is there a difference in the crowd from one state to another? Absolutely! The farther south you go, the happier the people! That’s not to say that people up here are NOT happy, just less so than southerners in my opinion.

You’ve written a lot of original songs – which one is your favorite? It’s one that has not been recorded. It’s called “This is Mine.” It’s basically my answer to the questions people ask me about my music like “Why don’t you write something happy? Why are your songs so dark? Are you okay?” (laughing). I’m a genuinely happy person! I don’t think anyone would ever describe me as depressed or dark and the reason is that I get all of my darkness out through my music. I’m happy because I write all of the “bad stuff” away. If something is bothering me, I write a song about it and “poof” – I’m over it. My Grandmother asked me those three questions after she heard my first record and I went home and wrote “This is Mine.” Basically the lyrics poke fun at trite song content and explain that I do this for me and couldn’t care less if no one ever heard it. I write music as therapy for myself, which is why that song hasn’t been recorded (other than live performances) and likely never will be – it’s mine.

What other local bands would you pay to see? Hmmmm, any of them! I’m always up for supporting fellow musicians!

What is your favorite Jersey Shore beach? Oh boy, you know I can’t answer that – politics, politics! I love the Jersey Shore – ALL of it!

LauraLea can be contacted on Facebook and her original CD, LauraLea is available on CD Baby.