Broadway's 'Legally Blonde' Star Credits Music From Before Her Time

For Laura Bell, music comes as naturally as walking.

The 2007 Tony Award nominee learned to sing at the age of 4 by mimicking singers of the '40s and '50s at her grandfather's house, long before she was impressing audiences as Elle Woods in "Legally Blonde the Musical" on Broadway.

"He basically played Rosemary Clooney and Dean Martin and Pearl Bailey," Bell said. "So I grew up listening to that at his house."

Wherever the 26-year-old Lexington, Ky., native went, music followed. As a child Bell remembers waking to music every morning.

Her introduction to country music came in her mother's blue Mazda when she attempted to mimic a rendition of Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers' "Islands in the Stream."

Practice eventually made perfect, and made singing a way of life for Bell. At the age of 9, her career began when she starred in "Ruthless: The Musical."

Bell credits her upbringing for her love of different musical styles, not only as a singer but as an actress. Bell has appeared in the films "Dream Girls" and "Jumanji," as well as on the television shows "Veronica Mars," "Home Improvement" and "Guiding Light."

But the screen and the stage are not the only places where fans can find Bell. The multitalented star has returned to her roots with a new album called "Longing for a Place Already Gone."

"In a lot of ways, I'm an extremely nostalgic person," Bell said. "The music that I'm inspired by is music that was made before I was born; and this album is inspired by that."

Bell calls her style of country music the "Y" alternative.

"Country is the music that I write; over the years, it's become what I feel, what just sort of comes naturally," Bell said. "It's alternative country so it can be whatever it is going to be."

Click here to hear the playlists of your favorite artists, from the Edge to Chris Daughtry.

'Islands in the Stream'

At a young age, Bell remembers listening to "Islands in the Stream" while driving home after her mother picked her up from preschool.

"I was like, 4, it was 1985," Bell said. "That was like my first introduction to country music."

The 1983 hit country song was the first single from Kenny Rogers' album titled "Eyes That See in the Dark." The song was the second No. 1 pop single for both Rogers and Dolly Parton.

'If Tomorrow Never Comes'

Bell was influenced by Garth Brooks during her teenage years.

In Brooks' self-titled debut, the rock 'n' roll mixed with a traditional Western swing gave audiences the genre-bending ballad "If Tomorrow Never Comes."

"It was like that song that made me ask the question, and it also sort of made me more interested in listening to country music because it opened that dialogue up,"

Bell said.

'Do Right Woman'

Aretha Franklin, known also as the queen of soul, is an icon in American pop music. Franklin's "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man" is another example of her soul-filled lyrics.

"It touches on your soul," Bell said. "It gets you in the gut."

Bell enjoys the song so much that she is considering doing a country version. She says that Franklin sings in a way that is so emotional, that a person actually feels what she sings.

'Accidental Babies'

Bell admires Damian Rice because of the honesty in his lyrics.

"I found out last minute that his concert was happening at the Santa Barbara Bull, and I was all alone. He played some songs that I was familiar with but then he sat down at the piano and played this song, which was 'Accidental Babies,'" Bell said. "I was so moved -- I was totally moved to tears."

'After the Fire's Gone'

Loretta Lynn's music is known to have undertaken the social issues of her time. "After the Fire's Gone" is a collaboration with Lynn's good friend Conway Twitty.

The song explored adult romantic relationships allowing Lynn to win her first Vocal Duo of the Year award in 1972.

Bell describes the song as devastating. "It's about the ending of a relationship when there's no fire," Bell said.

'When a Tingle Becomes a Chill'

Lynn's music also brought real-life issues to radios of people all over the world. In "When the Tingle Becomes a Chill," she sings about the loss of desire that is associated with a bad marriage.

"She's actually singing about that," Bell said.

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