Meet the Band: Crystal Bowersox (vocals, guitar)
An Early Bloomer: Born in Elliston, Crystal started performing at age 10. She played at bars in the Toledo area, busked at train stations and hit the open mic circuit. "I only knew about 10 songs at the time," she says. "I repeated those 10 songs over and over. My parents — I love them — but they never really knew what to do with me or how to facilitate that kind of career. I wasn't going to be Taylor Swift. But they knew local musicians and introduced them to me. They taught me how to do the four-hour cover gig. I realized I preferred to play original material. I turned 17 and ran off to the big city and realized busking was a great way to stay afloat."
The American Idol Experience: In 2010, she placed second on American Idol — not bad for someone who didn't really feel compelled to compete. "It was something I never wanted to do," she admits. "It had been around for several years. People had suggested I should try out. I've never been a TV gal. I don't like watching it. I needed to swallow my pride. I've never been nervous to perform, but when I auditioned, I was shaking like a jackhammer."
Star Power: Since American Idol, she has performed alongside acts such as Harry Connick Jr., Joe Cocker and Alanis Morrisette. "John Popper coming to Austin and playing a whole set with me was great," she says when asked about some of the highlights. "I still deal with an inferiority complex. I've just now started to see myself as a peer. It was when I was having lunch with Renee Zellweger. I told her I couldn't believe I was sitting there with her. She stopped me and said we're all just kids from somewhere. That's helped level the playing field for me. I've gotten to work with my heroes and it's been great."
Why You Should Hear Her: The songs on Bowersox's 2013 album All That for This run a wide gamut. Tunes such as the harmonica-and horn-driven "Home" possess a Blues Traveler vibe, and Bowersox's supple voice — she sounds a lot like Jewel — packs a real punch. "That record was easier to make than my last one," she says. "We had more creative freedom in our instrumentation. We did everything to tape so it has that warm retro sound in the rhythm section. There's a lot of ear candy on tracks. [Producer Steve Berlin] gave me a confidence booster." She says her new EP, Promises, best represents her creative vision. "It's just an independent thing," she says. "I feel that it is my best so far. It best represents who I am. It's much happier because I am much happier."
Where You Can Hear Her: crystalbowersox.com.
Where You Can See Her: Crystal Bowersox performs at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 7, at the Kent Stage.