Crystal Bowersox Talks "Farmer's Daughter," Anne Rice Books and "American Idol" Tour
Thu, 06 Jan 2011 14:35:47
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For Crystal Bowersox, honesty is always the best policy.
On her debut album, Farmer's Daughter, the singer-songwriter recounts her own journey neglecting to leave out any of the dark details. In fact, her fearlessness is the most refreshing and inspiring facet of Farmer's Daughter. With a mix of folk storytelling, country flourishes, and rock 'n' roll heart, Bowersox pens songs that are as inspiring as they are intimate. The title track tells a heartbreaking tale, but it's got a happy ending in the very fact that the album exists. Bowersox sings from the heart and, as a result, she's made one of the powerful albums of 2010.
Bowersox was the runner-up on the ninth season of American Idol, and she really shows the world everything she has to offer with this riveting debut.
Crystal Bowersox sat down with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino for an exclusive interview about her debut album Farmer's Daughter, the song she wrote on the American Idol tour, her favorite Anne Rice book, and so much more.
Did you have one overarching vision for all of the songs on Farmer's Daughter?
I carefully chose the track order, and I really thought about the way I wanted everything to flow. The first song, "Ridin' with the Radio", is how I feel about music and life. "For What It's Worth" is the remake of Buffalo Springfield's song, which I feel is relevant for any time. That's how I feel about the state of the world and my generation. The rest of the record goes into my back story. There's a little pop interlude in there, and the end of the album is the love story.
Farmer's Daughter essentially codifies your journey.
Definitely! Thanks for noticing!
Is storytelling one of your goals as a songwriter?
For me, it's mostly therapeutic. When I write a song, it's usually after some emotion has been pent up and I need to get it out of me. That's how it comes about. I don't really sit down and write a song with any sort of intention. It simply comes out the way it comes out.
Would you say it's a cathartic process?
Yeah, it's always been a release for me. It's a way for me to ventilate, and I feel better after getting certain things out of my system.
What's the story behind "Arlene?"
"Arlene" was the tour bus driver this summer on the American Idol tour. When I couldn't sleep, I spent many nights in the front of the cab and had some really good talks with her. She was an inspirational, strong, independent woman and a role model to me. She told me she's been "rock 'n' roll trucking" for 30 years and no one's ever written a song for her, so I did! I'm really happy it made it on the album. Arlene made sure we got from point A to B and B to C, and she was there for counsel as well. It's also the song that I feel is the closet to my roots musically. My friend Ryan Suzuka played harmonica. My bass player Frankie May who I've played with since high school is on that track as well. That song is very sentimental to me. I think the statement in the song, "If you want it done right, you've got to do it yourself", is about being strong as a man or a woman. It's about living a simple life and loving it. I even wrote the song on that tour around the beginning of August.
Do you tend to read or watch a lot of movies while you're writing?
I'm a reader anyway. I don't watch too much television, but a good film can be inspiring. Usually, while I'm writing, I lock myself in a room and I have to be alone. Now, it's typically in hotel rooms. I do have a two-year-old son. Sometimes even when I pick up a guitar, he wants mommy to put it down and pick him up [Laughs].
Who are some of your favorite authors?
I've always been a fan of Anne Rice; she's a favorite. Nick Hornby's High Fidelity is one of my favorite books. I like fiction, but I'm into a good autobiography or biography too. Anne Rice's work is always vivid and colorful reading. Memnoch the Devil is my favorite book of hers; it goes back into the roots of the world, how it all came about, and heaven and hell. It's a fun book!
Where did "Farmer's Daughter" come from?
It's a song that I wrote pre-American Idol. My mom and I had a rough, tumultuous relationship. Now that I'm older, we get along much better; she's a great grandmother. She was single mom with three kids just trying to make it and didn't always deal with everything the right way, I suppose. Something happened, and it was the straw that broke the camel's back. I wrote the song when I was angry. It's not my mom's favorite song, but she told me she approves. It's pretty. For me, it simulates a rocking chair or a grown woman with a child inside rocking back and forth halfway to crazy not far from sane. That was the visual I wanted with that.
What artists do you always come back to?
I love Ray LaMontagne. He's an amazing songwriter, and his voice is just undeniably his own. You can't really mistake it. I love Michael Franti & Spearhead. I dig reggae roots music, and he does a lot of pop stuff too. He's a great songwriter. I love Bonnie Raitt and Aretha Franklin. There's so much music that I listen to and it all touches me in some way—no matter what the genre is.
You incorporate everything from folk to rock to country into your sound. Was that always important?
My mom and dad were separated when I was young. When I was with mom, it was all country radio and music like Willie Nelson, Randy Travis, and Travis Tritt. That's all the great country music I love now. With my dad, it was classic rock and blues. It's a fine mix of both.
What's next for you?
I'm in Vegas right now! I'm playing at the electronics convention and having a good time with that. After that, I think I'm going to head down to Nashville and kick my boots around, do some writing, and wandering. I've actually never been!
Have you heard Farmer's Daughter yet?