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Carrboro, NC, 27510
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Watch & Listen
Crystal Bowersox has made it her mission to live life and her music to the fullest. With a gentle warmth and wisdom well beyond her years, the consummate artist has an uncompromising vision of herself and her music that is refreshing and rare. "I believe if you stand for something, stand your ground; stand it strong and stand it proud." It is this fortitude and courageous spirit that resonated with millions night after night when the 2010 American Idol runner up took the stage. There is a sincerity and authenticity about her that just can't be manufactured. The same can be said about her musical prowess, which has all the markings of a creative force to reckon with who is in it for the long haul. Her rich amalgam of blues, country, folk and rock makes her one of the most dynamic young voices in music to come along in years. She has performed alongside everyone from Harry Connick Jr., Joe Cocker, and Alanis Morrisette, to Michael Franti, John Popper and BB King. All That For This, Crystal Bowersox's sophomore release and Shanachie Entertainment debut, is a powerful testament to her talents as both a singer and songwriter, as well as her unerring musical vision. She confides, "I am more proud of this body of work then anything I've done before. If this music can move someone to tears or makes them smile, then I have really accomplished something. That's all I can ask for."
All That For This is Crystal Bowersox's emancipation from judgment. It is the manifestation of her own womanhood and enlightenment won through hard fought battles, failures and triumphs. It is the belief that listening to your own inner voice will lead you where you need to be. "I am learning not to judge music and myself so harshly and to not allow myself to be swayed by other's judgment. I'm trying to listen to my own instincts more often. I can't convince someone who doesn't like my music to like it, but for the people who do, I want to play them another song," she says smiling. Until now, the world has witnessed only a portion of Crystal Bowersox's talent, which was channeled through mainstream pop expectations on her debut release, Farmer's Daughter. With the highly anticipated release of All That For This (March 26, 2013), produced by Steve Berlin (Los Lobos, Sheryl Crow, John Lee Hooker, Raul Malo), Bowersox exposes a new dimension of her music. "There are definitely more happier light-hearted moments on this record," confides the 27-year-old Portland transport. "There are also touches of some of the darkest places and emotional states that I've been in my past. This album reveals a much more grateful and gracious side of me. It's the next chapter of my life."
Bowersox's new recording is a finely crafted and beautifully arranged tapestry that illustrates the dynamic singer's keen ability to shape a narrative poetically and metaphorically, inviting listeners into her world. "I was regularly obliterated by how powerfully Crystal can connect," says Steve Berlin. "I can say that tears and goose bumps were a fairly everyday occurrence."
All That For This showcases originals and co-writes with the exception of a lone cover by the 90s British Pop group, The Sundays, which was suggested by Berlin. "My gut instinct told me it would be beneficial to work with Steve and that I would learn something and the record would be all that I wanted," explains Crystal.
"Steve brings everything to the table. He is a percussive genius. He thinks of rhythms that would never come to me naturally." Berlin, who admittedly did not watch American Idol and who was not familiar with Crystal, quickly became a convert. "I really didn't know what to expect from Crystal as far as songwriting, but one listen to the demos and I knew this was no amateur," says Berlin. "She kind of blew me away with how intelligent and soulful her writing was and once we got into the studio it was obvious she had an amazingly deep connection to the material."
All That For This features many first unions but there is one in particular that was a special highlight for the singer who is originally from Northwest Ohio. Jakob Dylan joins Crystal Bowersox for a duet on her hypnotic country waltz "Stitches." It was an experience she calls 'wonderful.' "I grew up a fan of the Wallflowers," she says. "I can remember wearing my headphones and walking down the property line on my moms farm listening to Bringing Down The Horse. What his music did for me was give me a place to escape to when times were tough. Working with Jakob was a truly a dream collaboration for me." Other highlights include the lilting, tender and affirming title track where Crystal croons, "All that I've been through was just a stepping stone to where I'm going to…" She angelically sings about her faith in destiny and shows us that sometimes you just have to follow your heart and trust that it will lead you down the right path. "My entire life has been serendipitous. Each moment has led me to the next," she explains. "There is little to question as to how I have
gotten to this place. I have let myself trust in the universe and my instincts have not led me wrong. I am thankful I have learned to listen to my heart the way that I have."
Bowersox rejoices on the sweepingly beautiful "Amen for my Friends," speaking to the blessings of friendship. She testifies, "I've been down. I've been out and nowhere. I've been on my knees begging for some kind of peace. People come- people go but one thing's for sure, if I need you you'll be there I know. Amen for my friends!" All That For This also includes "Dead Weight," featuring Crystal's rich and emotive alto ringing truth with the potent lyrics, "If you don't know I'll tell you now…Don't go beating dead horses keep steady your course.. if you're holding on to dead weight it's just holding you down." Crystal penned the song "Till The Whiskey's Gone" with a dear friend of her husband's, Austin musician Charlie King. She brings the heat on this rocked out anthem, as only she can. The zen and funky "Fall Into Place" opens with an insatiable guitar riff and Crystal makes her declaration for independence and bares all on the show stopping bluesy number "Moving On." Throughout Bowersox raises the bar as a triple threat adept at shining as a vocalist, composer and guitarist. Steve Berlin adds, "She was never anything but amazing. Her time and feel were unerring and that's her guitar you hear on every single track!"
Both Crystal Bowersox and Steve Berlin are Portland based and The City of Roses provided fertile ground for their creative vision to germinate. With assistance from recording engineer Jeremy Sherrer, the duo called upon many of the city's finest cutting edge musicians to create an inspiring band. Some of the artists include drummer Scott McPherson (Beck, Bright Eyes, She & Him), bassist Dave Depper (Loch Lomond, Blue Giant, Mirah), guitarist Paul Rigby (Neko Case, A.C. Newman, Jakob Dylan) pianist/keyboardist Asher Fulero (Halo Refuser, Everyone Orchestra) and vocalist and multi instrumentalist Jans Ingber (Norah Jones, Charlie Hunter, Joshua Redman, Art Neville). "I've met a lot of great people working on this record," states Bowersox. "From my musical peers and others in Portland, I have learned so much from their attitudes about life and their work ethic. It's easier going here and that is something I really needed to incorporate into my life."
As early as eight, Crystal Bowersox has recollections of hitting the karaoke hot spots with her mom, performing Patsy Cline hits among others. She recalls, "Music was always there and there wasn't anything else I ever wanted to do." Although the spotlight shone on Crystal when she appeared on American Idol, she was already a seasoned veteran of the folk circuit before she was on the show. She began performing regularly at ten and by her teens she was gigging steadily. In 2004 she relocated to Chicago where she spent several years honing her skills on Chicago's North Side, busking at train stations and performing at clubs and bars, as well as internationally.
2010 was a big year for Bowersox who placed second in one of the nation's biggest singing competitions, married fellow musician and friend Brian Walker, and released her critically heralded Farmer's Daughter. Her recording debut was a powerfully moving and personally revealing recording that dealt with real life issues including childhood abuse, love and life's everyday challenges.
Crystal shares, "I feel like I'm finally achieving a sense of balance in my life and it's making itself evident in my new material. My career is really still in its infancy and the possibilities are limitless. The silvery residue from Idol has faded a bit and now it's all about what's true and real in my world. I'm paying way more attention to the things that really matter and making more of my decisions based in kindness and love. My son has taught me so much about that, how strong I can be, even in my weakest moments." In 2012, Crystal was featured on Blues Traveler's release, Suzie Cracks the Whip, where she performed a lively duet with Harmonica virtuoso John Popper on the song "I Don't Wanna Go." She also quietly released an acoustic five song EP titled Once Upon a Time with long time friend, bassist and collaborator Frankie May. The material featured pre-American Idol recordings.
Diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at age six, Crystal Bowersox has played an active role in advocating awareness and education for the disease. "Initially I did not want to dive into that role and tell the world. There were some issues of shame and embarrassment. It's a lonely disease, you feel like you're the only one who has it sometimes," she says. "I want people to know that they are not alone and that people from all walks of life have to deal with Type 1 Diabetes. I know what kids and adults with this disease are going through. I want people to know that it is important to know how to care for your body. I am happy to be a voice. It brings joy to my world to be able to help people."
A busy mom who delicately juggles motherhood and a thriving music career, Crystal admits that the challenge is not always easy. Understanding the importance of taking care of oneself and finding balance, she manages to find the time to knit and do yoga, which she says has helped with both her blood sugar and performances. She also loves to put her culinary skills to the test and has even thought about putting together her own cookbook. She adds, "I am health conscious and I do my best to take care of my body in every way I can." She also believes in taking care of our planet. "Somehow this year I plan to wean our household off fossil fuel. Not sure how quite yet but it's something that's important to me, and most important for my son, and all of our children."
One of the most admirable attributes about Crystal Bowersox is her down-to-earth, no-nonsense, what-you-see is-what-you-get vibe. She honestly loves the exchange with her audience and is thrilled to be hitting the road in support of All That For This. "There is a world of difference when you get to meet people, look into their eyes, hear their stories, share your own and make a connection. You can't beat that." With a new CD, national tour and some high profile acting ambitions in sight for 2013, it looks like the sky is the limit. Bowersox concludes, "I hope this music thing works out because I am a really bad waitress. I am rooting for music!"
For painters, the joy and challenge of creation begins with a blank canvas. For Liz Longley, it started in an empty room.
"I was living in Boston and my roommate had just moved out, so I paced the hardwood floors of her room with my guitar," Longley recalls. "I walked back and forth until the songs were done. It was as though they were stuck in the apartment walls."
Longley has a gift for culling musical treasures as though straight from thin air. And now, the Berklee College of Music graduate and award-winning songwriter is set to share them with listeners on her self-titled album—her first after signing with Sugar Hill Records in December 2014.
The collection of 11 songs was recorded in Nashville with an all-pro band—and in a pulse-quickening fashion so rare in today's world of overproduced, airbrushed records. "I love being in the studio and feeding off the energy of other musicians. It's not something I get to do often on the road because I've mostly toured solo."
While Longley's songs and vocals invite complimentary comparisons to Shawn Colvin, Paula Cole and Nanci Griffith—all artists she's supported live—her latest effort spotlights a style and confidence that's all her own. You can hear it in the subtle-yet-soaring vocals on "Memphis," the dagger directness of "Skin and Bones," the bittersweet farewell that drives "This Is Not the End" (featured in the 2012 season finale of Lifetime's Army Wives). They're all cuts that dare you to hold back the goosebumps.
In fact, Longley's singing never fails to thrill and enthrall. Her voice and tone, touched with the slightest of country inflections, pours out like clean, crystalline water. Still, she can roar like a waterfall or flow effortlessly along the bed her backing band lays down, as on "Peace of Mind." The track showcases Longley yearning after silence and stillness to beat back demons of self-doubt.
The new songs grew amidst a period of transition and travel in her life; moving between Boston and New York before finally settling in Nashville, and spending much of her life on the road in a succession of minivans. To that end, the songs have been road tested at Longley's live shows, their power to connect with fans beyond question.
These numbers pack the punch of pages torn from Longley's journal. And fans have rewarded her transparency with tangible loyalty. For while many acts have no clue how an album will be received, Longley started her project knowing just how much her fans wanted her to succeed.
It's like this: Her Kickstarter campaign, which set $35,000 as an album-funding goal, exceeded that amount by nearly 60 percent, raising $55,000. "We reached
the mark so quickly and I'm just really, really lucky to be connected to my fans," she says. " I feel like they've adopted me—like I have this big supportive family."
And to that end, Longley confides with you as though you're sitting on the sofa with her in a talk that's intimate and vulnerable. "Bad Habit" strides the valley road of heartbreak, its pounding toms and plaintive electric guitar providing an ideal frame for Longley's vocal, the very portrait of love's rock bottom: "I couldn't stand the smell of smoke 'til he lit that cigarette/ Never felt the temptation 'til I smelled it on his breath."
"I wrote it after dating a guy who had a lot of bad habits, and somehow he became my bad habit," Longley recalls. "He was just one of those people—a smoker and a drinker who also had a habit of cheating. When I broke up with him and wrote the song, it was hugely therapeutic for me. It cleansed him from my system. And when I started playing it live, I realized that so many others had toxic people in their lives."
Why write and sing songs so transparent and confessional? For Longley, it boils down to the simple truth of authenticity. "I just try to be myself," she says. "If I feel like a song is not genuine to me, I absolutely do not present it because people see right through it. It's all about the honesty, and I try not to overthink it—then it would lose some of the magic."
Longley first felt the magic while growing up outside of Philadelphia. A song she wrote in ninth grade—her first ever—earned a standing ovation when she performed it for the student body: "I was unprepared for that sort of reaction and it was life-changing moment," she says. "That's when I knew it was what I wanted to do with my life."
The track record she's assembled since shows just how much Longley grew into her dream. She's taken home top prizes at some of the most prestigious songwriting competitions in the country, including the BMI John Lennon Songwriting Scholarship Competition, the International Acoustic Music Awards and the Rocky Mountain Folk Fest Songwriting Competition.
But it all traces straight back to Longley's first song. She says she'll continue to open her soul in the service of her art because that's what matters most to her. "Every time I get into these songs they resonate with me, lock with me, because they're based on something I went through," she says of the new collection. "I hope they connect with people and that they'll help with whatever they've gone through. That's what music does for me, and I hope I can do that for someone else."
After all, what better way to fill an empty room than with fully realized music?
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