Laura Sullivan

San Francisco, USA

Born of the Sea


Behind the Music

I must admit that I didn’t know anything about ocean crime and what happens at sea before I was introduced to Ian’s book. Upon reading The Outlaw Ocean, I found myself heartbroken by the stories it told, most especially the children who were victims of the illicit acts around them. They had no power or voice and, as I continued the book, I thought that perhaps I could help give them a voice through my music.  

There was one story about a Vietnamese boy, only 13-years-old, who was arrested and put in an Indonesian detention camp for being caught on a foreign boat illegally fishing. I wrote “Child of the Pontianak” about him. The song “Rui’s Tavern,” inspired by the vulnerable children trafficked to work in the fishing industry, solely featured audio Ian recorded during his reporting, giving it a haunting sense of realism. The track “Maritime Merry-Go-Round,” which is a sorrowful and melancholy tune, is based on the fate of those whose fathers were murdered at sea. Even if the abuse wasn’t direct — such as pervasive pollution — I wanted to capture this concept in all of my tracks. For “In The Wake,” we recorded kids speaking a range of different languages saying, “The waste spewed into the waves will eventually affect us all,” so people could hear directly from those who will have to pay the cost. All art is about feeling something and an artist is the one that can help guide people to what those feelings might be.

Laura Sullivan
About Laura Sullivan

Grammy-winning musician.⁣⁣ Contemporary Classical composer. Piano player.

Laura’s family is from a small farm in the Northern California foothills in the United States. She grew up playing her great grandmother Etta's one-hundred-year-old upright. Her father and mother were amateur musicians and music was a constant in their life. Her mother was her first piano teacher, and although she was an amateur she was pretty darn good at playing piano, and a lot of other things as well.

There are so many things she’s grateful for, including that she is now a Grammy winner and a Billboard Top Ten Recording Artist. Her music has been featured in television, film and advertising spots, including two Emmy-winning documentaries.

The Journalism behind the Music

All music in this project is based on The Outlaw Ocean, a New York Times Best-Selling book by Ian Urbina that chronicles lawlessness at sea around the world. This reporting touches on a diversity of abuses ranging from illegal and overfishing, arms trafficking at sea, human slavery, gun running, intentional dumping, murder of stowaways, thievery of ships and other topics.

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