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Cantrell moved to New York City from her native Nashville to study law and accounting at Columbia University. She briefly recorded songs with future Superchunk guitarist Mac McCaughan and others in a lo-fi band called Bricks and deejaying on the university's radio station, WKCR, until joining WFMU after her graduation in 1993.
Her singing career began when she was at college, performing with various local groups. She later befriended John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants, with whom she sings on the band's Apollo 18 (1992). Flansburgh also released her first solo material: an EP on his "Hello CD of the Month Club" in June 1996, which was reissued in 2004 as The Hello Recordings.
Cantrell reached wider recognition in 2000 with her debut album, Not the Tremblin' Kind. The album reached the attention of legendary UK DJ John Peel, who wrote of it, "[It is] my favourite record of the last ten years and possibly my life". She went on to record five sessions for Peel and dedicated her 2005 album, Humming by the Flowered Vine, to his memory.
In the spring of 2011, Cantrell released Kitty Wells Dresses: Songs of the Queen of Country Music, "a recording she made in honor of one of her heroines, the great Kitty Wells", taking its title from an original song of Laura's written in tribute to Wells.
Her 4th album of original material, No Way There From Here, was released in the UK in September 2013, on Shoeshine/ Spit and Polish Records. The release precedes a tour of the UK.
Cantrell’s music has been celebrated in the press including features in The New York Times. In recent years, she has been a contributor to The New York Times and VanityFair.com. Fanart Banner