Laird was born in Dublin, Ireland. He played music from a young age and enrolled for guitar and piano lessons. He started playing jazz after moving to New Zealand at the age of 16 with his father. He played guitar in jam bands in New Zealand before buying an upright bass. After extensive touring in New Zealand he moved to Sydney, Australia where he played with many top jazz musicians including Don Burrows.
He moved to England in 1962 and became house bassist at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club in London, playing with many greats including the guitarist Wes Montgomery and Sonny Stitt. From 1963-4 Laird then at London's Guildhall School of Music and Drama. He was recorded on Sonny Rollins's record Alfie and played in The Brian Auger Trinity (July 1963-February 1964) and The Brian Auger Group (Feb-October 1964).
His next step was to go to Berklee College of Music in Boston, US, where he studied arranging, composition and string bass. He then teamed up with John McLaughlin and The Mahavishnu Orchestra to play electric bass until 1973, when the band broke up. After that, he moved to New York and played with Stan Getz (a tour in 1977) and Chick Corea (a tour the following year). Laird put out one album as a leader, Soft Focus. Today, he is a successful photographer as well as a private bass tutor and an author of a number of intermediate- to advanced-level bass books.