Before American Idol, Crystal Bowersox’s goal was to move to Nashville.
“I knew I’d get here eventually,” she said last month during her long-awaited first trip to Music City. “I was going to save up money and come down here, but like everybody is right now — struggling and just scraping by — I never had enough money to make it happen. Idol came along, and I was like, ’Shoot, why not?'”
In the meantime, Bowersox’s musical journey took her from performing in small venues in Ohio, to busking in Chicago train stations, back to Ohio, then eventually to Los Angeles, where she became a front-runner during the ninth season of American Idol.
With performances of “Me and Bobby McGee,” “People Get Ready” and “Up to the Mountain,” the artist consistently gained praise from the show’s judges and fans for her unique vocal style. Following the conclusion of the season, Bowersox hit the road from June to September for the Idols Live! tour 2010, married in October, then released her debut album, Farmer’s Daughter, in December.
“It just hasn’t even slowed down for a minute. And I love it,” she says. “I like being busy.”
While her journey to Nashville took longer than she initially planned, the musician’s appreciation for country is clear.
“I hope that country music embraces me because I grew up on it and have a love for the music,” she says.
During her upbringing, Bowersox says her father was a fan of heavy metal and classic rock, while her mother listened to country including Patsy Cline, Randy Travis, Reba McEntire and Trisha Yearwood. Bowersox is also a fan of The Band Perry, Sugarland, Patty Loveless and Rascal Flatts, whom she describes as “the most gracious guys I’ve ever met.”
Asked which country artists she’d like to collaborate with, she quickly answers, “I always mention Willie Nelson. I really, really want to work with him at some point.”
Because she takes an organic approach to her songwriting, Bowersox’s style would seem to fit in quite well with the artists she admires.
“The more effort you put into it, the harder it is, actually. Just let it flow naturally,” she says. Of her album’s 12 tracks, she wrote eight alone and co-wrote two additional songs. And although she looks forward to working with other writers in the future, she admits, “On this album, it was very important for me to kind of say hello to the world with my songs.” As a result, she says there’s “a little bit of something for everyone” on Farmer’s Daughter.
“The first two songs [’Ridin’ With the Radio’ and a remake of Buffalo Springfield’s ’For What It’s Worth’] are pretty countrified and toe-tapping, and then it gets into my personal stories. Then there’s what I call the pop interlude on the album which is ’Hold On’ and ’Lonely Won’t Come Around.’ There’s some funky stuff on there, some rock. And then ’Arlene,’ which is one of my favorite tracks.”
Bowersox wrote “Arlene” in honor of a tour bus driver she befriended during the Idol tour.
“It’s hard to sleep on a moving vehicle. I’d climb up in the front cab with her,” she says. “She just gave me great life advice.”
That life advice included words of wisdom regarding her relationship with her future husband, fellow musician Brian Walker.
“This was before we had gotten married,” Bowersox recalls. “She was like, ’Honey, if you love him and he loves you, go for it.'”
The two did just that — marrying on Oct. 10 at a small café in Chicago where they met six years before.
“We’re just constantly creating music together, and it’s a beautiful relationship that we have, not just as husband and wife, but as writers and musicians,” she says.
Bowersox shares the spotlight with Walker and her son Tony as they make cameo appearances in her debut video, “Farmer’s Daughter.” And she admits filming her first music video was an emotional process.
“I had no idea really what it was going to look like. I remember the first time I saw the finished product, I cried.”
While tracks such as “Farmer’s Daughter” and “Speak Now” serve as autobiographical tales from the singer-songwriter’s life, Bowersox isn’t hesitant to let listeners in on her personal experiences. Instead, she finds the writing process to be “cathartic.”
“Writing for me is definitely a form of ventilation — a way for me to cope and deal with emotions. I think it is for any writer,” she says. “I’m pretty much an open book. I live my life like I ever did. I don’t feel like much has changed now. People who listen to the music can have a little piece of you and get to know you and somehow listen to the lyrics and apply it to their own lives.”