A Visit With Lauren Pritchard
By Myles Crawley
Photos by Danica Waters
Some people spend their entire lives living in one place. It’s not that they don’t travel. It’s that they never move away. They are able to find success and happiness where they were born and grew up. Then there are other people who keep moving. It’s an innate thing. They refuse to stay in one place. Instead they actively pursue success and happiness, and they’re not about to wait for it to come to them. Let me introduce you to Lauren Pritchard. She belongs to the latter category – a card carrying member of the “wanderlust tribe”. But she’s no wanderer. She knows exactly where she’s going. When you talk to her you get an uncanny sense of that. Let me explain…
I met up with Lauren Pritchard at the Hotel Café in Hollywood on a recent warm California evening. Lauren just recently released a stunning debut album called Wasted in Jackson and was midway on a tour that would crisscross the US. But this particular date was important to her, because she was returning to the place where her journey began – her professional journey anyway. She’s originally from Jackson, Mississippi, the home of Carl Perkins who wrote “Blue Suede Shoes” and so many other incredible rockabilly songs for artists as influential as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix. Lauren grew up with parents that were liberal minded and encouraged their children to explore their dreams and aspirations, even though they lived within the confines of a more conservative environment in Mississippi. Her parents aren’t musically inclined, but Lauren told me that her mother used to tap rhythm on her stomach while pregnant with her and her siblings. The artists that her mother was listening to while pregnant with her were Prince, The Jackson Five and Janet Jackson. Those artists still affect Lauren deeply. Isn’t it funny how that works?
When Lauren was sixteen, she moved to Los Angeles with her mother. They set up shop at the Oakwood Apartments in the Toluka Lake area of North Hollywood, which was, and probably still is, a popular destination for Hollywood hopefuls and their active stage mothers. Hillary Duff lived there along with countless other young singers, actors and actresses. They had been at the Oakwood about a year when Lauren’s little brother fell and shattered his collar bone and shoulder while visiting in LA. He fell hard going down a hill on his “Heely” tennis shoes and, after being stabilized, was flown to Tennessee for surgery. Lauren’s mother went back with him while Lauren stayed on at the apartment. But after a month, her folks made it clear that she was going to have to return home as well. So, in preparation for her departure, she said her good-byes to all of her new friends, one of which was Riley Keough who happens to be Elvis Presley’s granddaughter. Lauren and Riley had met through a mutual friend. I gather Riley must be pretty low key about her famous genes, because Lauren didn’t realize the connection until she attended a sleepover at Riley’s house. What a shocker that must have been! When Riley and her mother, Lisa Marie Presley, heard that Lauren would have to return to Jackson, they offered to put her up at their house.
Lauren slept in the loft in Riley’s bedroom for a year before leaving in late 2006 for New York City. She’d just won the part of “Ilse” in the musical “Spring Awakening.” Upon landing in New York to start rehearsals she had all of $15.00 in her pocket. When the off-Broadway production kicked up, Lauren figured it might last for a couple of months and provide her with some much needed rent and food money. Spring Awakening played off-Broadway for three months before moving to the Eugene O’Neill Theater on Broadway where it won eight Tony awards and ran until January 18th, 2009.
One of the big highlights for Lauren happened on the night of her 19th birthday. As is the custom with most Broadway shows, the stage managers invite well known guests backstage to meet the cast. This particular night it happened to be Billy Joel, who is one of Lauren’s biggest musical heroes. When he climbed the stairs to the backstage area, he was singing “Happy Birthday” which, as you can imagine, left Lauren speechless. All she remembers saying to her longtime hero is “can…picture? thank you”. The rest, she says, is a happy blur.
Lauren had a brief stint with a record company named J Records who wanted to promote and market her as a pop artist. Although she loves Madonna, Lady Gaga and Britney Spears, she doesn’t see herself in that role of pop diva. She was unhappy with the direction and ultimately severed ties and went her own way. One of the songs that Lauren recorded for J Records was a cover written by an English writer/producer by the name of Eg White. The song was “Who Am I” and had been previously recorded and released as a single by Will Young. Although nothing ever became of Lauren’s version, she caught Eg’s ear and ended up visiting him in London to write another song together. That song would end up being “No Way” which appears on Wasted in Jackson.
Both Lauren and Eg’s management and publishing teams were so taken by their work together that they suggested they continue their collaboration. Lauren made a couple of more writing trips to England before moving there to work full time with Eg. The result was 11 fabulously bluesy, soulful tracks for Lauren Pritchard’s first album. Wasted in Jackson comes right out of the gate as a standout. The first song “Stuck” is a signature piece with a lot of soul. It immediately hooks you in to the magic that was created between two very capable and talented songwriters. The next two tracks, “Not the Drinking” and the title track “Wasted in Jackson” just further solidify that fact. And it continues straight through all 11 tracks. My copy of Wasted In Jackson hasn’t left the CD player in the two weeks that I’ve had it.
We concluded the interview and Lauren went inside to prepare for an early set at the club. She was scheduled to go on at 7:00 PM. I felt kind of bad about that. I figured she would be playing for me and the waitresses only. But it was not the case. The place was packed. Lauren sat behind an electric piano, accompanied by one other musician playing acoustic guitar. Her live set is even more impressive than her album. She has incredible command of her voice, and she’s a very good pianist as well. One of the songs she played was a cover called “Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls” by TLC. In the middle of the song there is a rap section, which Lauren pulled off incredibly well. The audience ate it up and stayed with her through the rest of her set. The applause level was deafening when she left the stage after her last song. While on stage Lauren commented how gratifying it was to be back in Los Angeles again, creating a circle that took seven years, thousands of miles and a plethora of experiences to complete.
Before I left the Hotel Café, I asked Lauren what was next. She said that she will be working on new tracks for her second album soon. When asked if Eg White would be involved again, she said that she hoped he would be – at least on some of the songs. She did say that she wanted her next album to be more rock than R&B. That’s a side of Lauren Pritchard that I look forward to. Her tour will continue through April 17th. Go and see her play live if you can. And don’t forget to buy Wasted in Jackson. It’s available digitally here.