Words: Sean Moore/ Photos: Madeline Rheaume
When I first meet Lauren Crosby, she was working on a brand new set of songs for an EP at Acadia Studios in the Bayside neighborhood of Portland. I had been wanting to catch up with her and chat about her music, inspirations for songs, and anything else she was willing to dish about, since I saw her open for Lissie at Port City Music Hall this past winter.
Lauren has been making a name for herself not just in Maine, but across the country, over the past six years. From recording her first album, aptly titled Lauren Crosby, back in 2013 to where I find her today, in the middle of recording a 4-song EP, tentatively scheduled for a February release. Lauren has been at the helm of all her own decisions, setting the course for her career path. She has grown as a songwriter, putting a lot of her personal feelings into her songs. In fact, this set of 4 brand new songs touch on subjects like mental health, suicide (and prevention), as well as gun violence, all of which can be hard topics to discuss, but she feels a responsibility to sing about them all, to use the gift of her voice to do some good.
Lauren Crosby is the daughter of a lobsterman from Georgetown, Maine. She and her closest friend, also named Lauren, make music under the moniker The Whiptails. She also works with another band, The Water Signs. She tells me that she “really enjoys working with a band, because there’s a human connection when you play with people,” and she identifies well within the jam band scene, perhaps thanks in large part to her opportunity to record at the legendary Bob Weir’s, TRI studio in California when she was only nineteen years old. The connection to Weir helped increase her fanbase amongst the Deadheads and the jam band culture. That recording chance instilled in Lauren the traveling bug and in 2013, she moved Memphis and Albuquerque, before returning home in 2016.
When she returned home, she felt an inspiration to write Back River Beauties, live in the studio with a band. The album is what she calls “a love letter to my hometown of Georgetown.”
Since then she has taken time to live and teach in a remote part of Alaska called the Yupik Eskimo Village on Alaska’s Bering Sea, where she explained “once I was accepted and part of the community, it was an exhilarating experience,” adding, “I still miss it.” The first 3 months in the village no one spoke to her, “until they knew I played music, then I was giving guitar lessons and such.”
Last November, she returned back home. All of this traveling and, as Lauren admits a bit sheepishly, relationships with a few boys here and there, made for some excellent material for her album I Said Take Me to the Water. She certainly does not take anything for granted, and has grown her own brand all by herself, which is something very admirable. After spending countless hours traveling alone in her car on tours that have taken her just about everywhere in the country, she explains that she’s been afforded the chance to “pick and choose her gigs.”
She is every bit the confident, strong-willed and independent artist that I expected to meet as she comes out of the recording booth to greet me. We shake hands and then Lauren gets back to the business at hand- listening to the track she’s just about finished recording before I got there. She sits on the floor while the sound engineer/producer plays back the track. They debate and converse over one particular vocal part in the song, to which Lauren is adamant that she can go back in the booth and record it better, while the producer explains how he should have enough pieces recorded to work with, suggesting they splice an earlier piece with another, but Lauren doesn’t seem to like that idea. Instead, she sticks with her self-assured attitude of “I know I can sing that part better. I’ll go do it.” And she does it, a few more times before she’s finally satisfied with the end result. It is clear that Lauren knows what she wants, not just out of today’s recording session, but also out of her career.
Over the course of our nearly two hour conversation in the studio, Lauren explains to me how she started her career in music, “It was high school, open mics, and you know, I had a boyfriend who played guitar and I sang with him,” she goes on, “Eventually I taught myself how to play guitar and I started writing songs about… boys,” but she admits that she doesn’t consider herself a guitarist, per se, rather she identifies much more as a singer-songwriter. In fact, when we talk about her experiences as a young female in the music industry, she says very matter-of-factly that the best compliments she can receive involve people coming up to her after shows to tell her, “my songwriting is really good” or “I really like your voice.” She goes on to confidently explain how she’s been “gifted with a voice” and is very humble and grateful for the opportunities her talent has presented her over these past few years.
Far too often as a young female musician, Lauren explains, she gets comments on her looks and it is very apparent that this has exhausted her mentally. She gets it though, having been in the business for a few years now. “When you’re a female artist,” she explains, “the compliments focus on how pretty my smile is,” which may sound like a compliment from a male perspective, but it’s another way of objectifying the woman who is otherwise incredibly talented. We actually spend quite a bit of time on this subject, after Lauren gave me a brief history of her background and road to music. We talked at length about the “dark side of the music industry.” She wants to appear confident, smart, and chill, all at the same time, which can seem like a game, but she understands that “music is a lawless business and you can get taken advantage of” if you’re not careful.
She explains that her goal is to be a “full time, touring musician by next June,” which gives her this year to save up enough money to make that dream a reality. With her determination, I can’t imagine her not fulfilled this dream. In fact, she tells me that she’s booked gigs “straight out” and aside from this week’s. September 26th, Portland House of Music show, she hasn’t even booked a home state gig, because her calendar is filled with out-of-state gigs. Aside from her PHOME headlining show, Lauren is very excited to be playing one of her favorite venues, Chocolate Church Arts Center, opening for Shawn Mullins in November.
She is looking forward to the future, sharing this set of new songs and touring some more.