Becca Damante ’17
If you think back to your childhood, I’m sure there is one television show, movie or musician that has had a profound influence on your life. It was all you talked about with your friends, what you watched or listened to in your spare time and what you used as the theme to your Bat Mitzvah. Okay, maybe this is just me and my life, but as a child, I was really obsessed with ‘American Idol.’ Now in its farewell season after 15 years, I often find myself looking back on some of my favorite contestants, and I am delighted that Crystal Bowersox, the second-place contestant from the ninth season, will be performing at the Iron Horse in Northampton on April 5.
Bowersox auditioned for ‘American Idol’ in Chicago during 2009, out of what she calls “desperation and necessity.” She had just given birth to her son and wanted to turn her hobby of playing music into a career so she could give him a good life. Luckily for her, the judges loved her rendition of Janis Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart” and sent her straight to Hollywood.
According to Bowersox, the experience of being a contestant on ‘American Idol’ was both “a whirlwind and a culture shock.” She said was crazy and a little stressful to have fans all around the world, but overall, she is so grateful she had the chance to “do the things people dream of.” Bowersox remarked that the competition was a little different for her compared to the other contestants – her priority was to provide for her son, and the hardest part of being a contestant was being away from him.
After a successful run on ‘Idol’ that garnered her the second-place spot, Bowersox recorded a number of albums and EPs that have roots in rock, blues and country and reflect musical influences such as Amos Lee, Jewel, Melissa Etheridge and Ray LaMontagne. But even more than that, Bowersox has carved her own niche into the industry, bringing together poignant lyricism with a unique folk sound. And as the first ‘Idol’ contestant to play an original song on the show, she moved seamlessly from a musical arena focused mostly on cover songs to one that values authenticity and personal stories, especially within the singer-songwriter genre.
Since her last EP, “Promises,” was released in 2014, Bowersox moved to Nashville, Tenn., where she worked with writers to craft songs that focused more on intent rather than emotion. She’s gained more inspiration for her songs from other people’s experiences, calling herself “not so self-indulgent.” On the one hand, she explained that it’s more difficult to write about other people’s lives because it’s hard to put herself in someone else’s shoes, but on the other hand, she has a little bit more liberty with the storytelling aspect.
When Bowersox hits the road this spring, you can expect to see her “hanging out with a living room aesthetic” and sometimes making an “organic mess.” Bowersox said she hopes to sing some of the original songs she wrote in Nashville, and plans to record them this summer. She also said her favorite part of being on tour is meeting people and hearing what her songs mean to them, and she loves connecting with her fans more than anything else.
Catch Crystal Bowersox at the Iron Horse on April 5. Even if you’re not a die-hard ‘American Idol’ fan like me, Bowersox’s raw talent and singer-songwriter style will be sure to entertain.