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It all started in a small Ohio town. Her humble beginnings and passion for music have driven the 25-year old Crystal Bowersox to become one of the most recognized young voices and up and coming singer/songwriters in America.
Crystal’s emotive folk-rock-country style has been catapulted from the cramped coffeehouses and cavernous subway tunnels of Chicago to millions of homes across America when she placed second Season 9 of American Idol. Along with her old soul of a voice, her care-free style and “don’t mess with me” attitude set her apart from the other contestants and eventually landed the self-taught songstress performances with the likes of the legendary Joe Cocker, Harry Connick Jr., and Alanis Morrissette.
However, the story behind the voice, the acoustic guitar, blue eyes and blonde dreadlocks is much more than skin deep. Produced by
David Bendeth, Farmer’s Daughter, Crystal’s first studio release (19 Entertainment/Jive Records) chronicles her personal experience of dealing with a dark childhood, to finding love and happiness as a young woman, and everything in between. “It’s my life story,” Crystal says. “And that includes the good and bad chapters. I hope that people can appreciate the honesty in the lyrics and get to know me as a person through my music. I’m an open book and this is my diary.”
At the age of 17, Crystal moved up and out of her little hometown, and out of Ohio. Chicago was her destination and during those years it is where Crystal claims she really learned to live. She worked odd jobs, bar-tended by night, and busked in the train stations by day. “I played in the subway out of the love for music and necessity. I was definitely a starving artist,” she says. “But I mostly loved to study everyday people, especially body language and facial expressions. It gave me a chance to try out new material, and see how people react. And when the trains go by, it’s just a roar… you have a choice to stop or sing through it. I chose to sing. It’s really where I learned to project my voice. And it will toughen you up real quick. My mom and the subway’s where I learned that.”
She eventually became a favorite in the acoustic folk circuit, where she met fellow singer/songwriters and musicians including her future husband Brian Walker. Also around that time the father of Crystal’s son had split the scene when she was 6 weeks pregnant. “I was forced to move back to home to rely on help from my family, with the baby and all.” Crystal moved back to Ohio, and went back to playing roadside bars, with her friend and bassist Frankie May (who appears on the albums closing track, “Arlene”).
After her son Tony was born, Crystal traveled back and forth to Chicago. Struggling to provide for her son, a friend mentioned that
there were American Idol tryouts the next day, and she’d certainly baby-sit if Crystal wanted to give it a go. Several auditions and weeks later, Crystal and her guitar finally took their place in front of the ultimate judges panel. “One of the first comments Simon made to me was ‘You don’t look like this is something you would do.’ But life is about survival, and you want to be able to give your children the world,” says Crystal. “People had been telling me for years that I should try out for American Idol, but I wasn’t much of a fan, and
hadn’t had a TV in years. In my mind, you get up on stage, you sing covers, and then you’re a pop star. That was never the path I intended to take.”
The show helped catapult her from obscurity to fame overnight, and though Crystal is grateful for the exposure, she’s more focused now on what she gained from the competition as an artist and performer. “I’ve always known what kind of artist I am,” she says. “But I now know what I’m capable of.” First stop off of the Idol tour Crystal was invited by Michael Franti to
perform her original songs, at his annual Power To The Peaceful Festival in Golden Gate Park. Many of those songs would make it on
her debut album later that year.
In the Fall of 2010, Crystal, along with her new fiancé Brian Walker and her one year old son set up camp in Elmwood Park, New Jersey, at a studio where she and producer David Bendeth worked tirelessly on the her debut album Farmer’s Daughter.
Farmer’s Daughter was released December 14, 2010 to critical acclaim. Since then Crystal has graced the stage at the Grand Ole Opry with Vince Gill, has had John Popper join her onstage at South By Southwest and was invited to the Tin Pan South songwriter’s festival
where Nashville’s most successful showcase their talents. Farmer’s Daughter may not unlock every secret behind the anomaly
that is Crystal Bowersox, but it does give us a look into where she’s been, and what’s made her into the complex artist she is today. Farmer’s Daughter is a piece of the person that she chooses to share with her listeners, and as the pages of Crystal’s life unfold, so will her honest and true songs.