American Idol alum talks to us before her sold out show at Nashville's City Winery
Crystal Bowersox stole the hearts of America and the world when she appeared on the ninth season of Fox's smash hit music reality series American Idol. Bowersox auditioned for the show in Chicago, performing a song made famous by one of her influences, Janis Joplin, "Piece of my Heart." It went so well that guest judge Shania Twain commented she had "raw, natural talent." Later in the competition, judge Simon Cowell (known for being brutally critical of Idol performances) told Crystal, "You are the one everyone has to beat." He was right and Bowersox made it all the way to the finals, narrowly missing out on the top prize on the final night of competition.
Her second place American Idol finish brought with it a healthy amount of exposure and her first album, Farmer's Daughter, was released in December 2010. It peaked at #2 on the US Rock chart and brought with it a heavy touring schedule that has included appearances on major network television shows like The Ellen DeGeneres Show. In 2013, Bowersox released her second label project titled All That For This and is currently working on material for a third studio album.
We recently caught up with Crystal before her sold out performance at Nashville's City Winery.
Welcome to Nashville!
Thank you. This is my first Nashville hometown show. I just moved here in June and because I tour so much, I feel like I've only truly been here for a couple of months. I'm just excited about tonight --being a local gal now-- and playing a local show. It's pretty cool.
This tour is supporting the All That For This album, right?
Technically yes but I self-released an EP called Promises a few months ago also, so that is the newest material.
Speaking of new material, I heard you are writing for the next album now. How is that going and what's the status of your next record?
Yes... I'm in the process of writing new material now and I'm like a kid in a candy store here in Nashville. There is so much talent here... its amazing. I'm lucky to play with the folks I play with and to write with some of my heroes. It's going very well and although there is no definitive date, I'm hoping to have something released by the fall of this year.
When we watched you on American Idol, you were kind of the sassy, rock girl but I've noticed that your music seems to have matured since then. Would you agree and if so, what would you attribute that to?
The lack of alcohol! (laughs) No, my playing is a direct reflection of where I'm at spiritually and emotionally and I just I feel a lot "mellower" these days so my music has been coming out that way. I'm happier so the material is happier.
Well, it sounds like you're adapting well to the Nashville life!
I've always been influenced by vintage country... you know, the classics but I'm learning a lot from the people I am playing with and writing with too. They teach me more about my own abilities than going to a class or school ever could. I'm starting to focus on writing from a different perspective and not just about my own experiences, trials and tribulations.
Do you like to talk about your American Idol experience?
It was an experience! (laughs) It was great but I do feel like I am light years away from the green, fresh gal that I once was. I think before American Idol I had this dream of making it but I really didn't have a definition of what that would be or what it would entail. Now I'm living the dream. It isn't exactly what I expected it to be but it's better than what I dreamed of.
It must have been a pretty crazy time for you.
It's all kind of a blur to be honest because the schedules were so crazy. It was go, go, go all the time and my child was just a year old at the time. That was the hardest part about it for me. It wasn't the competition or rehearsals (laughs). I had to rely on others for my son's well being but he's healthy and happy and we made it!
Let's go back even further. How old were you when you first became interested in music?
When I was six I started taking piano lessons from the pastor's wife. My mom, in exchange for those piano lessons, was also our church custodian. I didn't realize then how valuable that would be to me now but I'm very grateful for those lessons.
So the piano lessons didn't necessarily change your life at the time?
No, they didn't make me think I was going to be a pianist some day or a rock star. I wanted to be a veterinarian. It wasn't until a little later when I found my mom's guitar that had been archived in the back of her closet, that all my plans of going to college and pursuing veterinary medicine were thwarted (laughs).
So you fell in love with guitar immediately?
Yes (without hesitation). I fell in love with guitar and that became my first real instrument... I guess next to my voice.
Do you write primarily on guitar now?
I do... and I just started branching out and writing with both piano and guitar simultaneously. It can help you find different melodies.
So you must have gotten serious about piano at some point as well.
I wouldn't call myself a piano player. I don't have the courage to play on stage quite yet but either way, it's a good writing tool.
Well, we're glad you are a guitarist at heart and are even more happy to have you as part of the Epiphone family.
I've got lots of Epi love! Epiphone has been so kind and generous to me.
One of the Epiphone guitars you are currently touring with is the Epiphone FT-350SCE which features the Epiphone Min-ETune™ System.
Yes, and it's the only acoustic guitar on stage. On the road, the Min-ETune™ has been awesome. It's just a great tool. I don't take a guitar tech out with me because I'm frugal... not cheap... frugal! (Laughs) But it's great because I don't have to. If I have songs that are in different tunings I can easily switch back and forth. I could even have two Epiphone acoustics that are already set to certain tunings but I don't. I just use the Min-ETune™ to go quickly from E standard, to D standard, or drop C, or whatever. And the audience loves to see my guitar tuning itself.
It is pretty impressive when you see it in action!
Yes, it is.
One last thing before we go. You have been very forthcoming about your Type 1 Diabetes in recent years. How has dealing with this affected your tour life?
Well... I'm in the wrong profession. (laughs) No, I'm kidding.
I would totally disagree with you on that! (laughs)
Thank you. It definitely makes things a little more challenging but it does not impede upon anything. I wear an insulin pump and I'm constantly monitoring my blood sugar. It's just this daily dance with food and exercise.
So you've had to experiment with what works specifically for you?
It is a constant guessing game. There is no scientific equation. There are certain ratios that you can go by but sometimes it depends on your level of stress that day. Its just a daily balancing act but you know I've had Type 1 Diabetes since I was 6 so this is just normal for me. I just try to cut out carbohydrates as much as I can and I definitely eat a lot of vegetables, a lot of salad and a lot of protein.
That's a good idea for everyone!
Yes. The way that a Type 1 Diabetic person eats is the way our human bodies are meant to eat anyway.
Is there a way for people reading this to find out more about Type 1 Diabetes?
Sure. Please check out the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. At my merchandise table every night we take donations for them and I perform at several charity events throughout the year. Type 1 Diabetes can be a very lonely disease if you don't have a community of people who are dealing with the same struggle so I support the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in that way and also through various other camps and events each year.
That's great! And the good news is that people with Type 1 Diabetes can live life to its fullest and go after their dreams. Thank you for being an example to them.
It's my pleasure!
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