A self-described misfit, Lauren Sanderson always felt a little different, but right now, she’s feeling excited. Sitting in her Los Angeles home, the singer-songwriter is dressed down in chunky layered silver necklaces and a low-cut black tank top. It’s 100 degrees in the southern state, but the DIY artist is unfazed. Channelling an unwavering positive mindset, Lauren finds little can set her back. In fact, progress has been something that has always motivated the small town creative.
Earlier this year, Lauren unveiled her debut album, Midwest Kids Can Make It Big. Blending big dreams and romanticised hook-ups, the record stretched the artist’s pop-infused rap sound to deliver a more openly vulnerable version of herself. Hailing from Indiana, the motivational speaker turned signed alt-rap icon has crafted an unconventional route in creating her gritty queer pop persona. “I always felt a little weird and a little different from everybody else at my school, so I never really felt like I fitted into any friend groups or anything,” Lauren tells GAY TIMES. “Growing up, I was an only child so I was kind of in my own world all the time and I kind of made my room my world. I was never really going to school so when it came time to graduate, go to college and do all the things that make your parents proud, I just couldn’t do it. I actually tried, I applied to college and never got in.”
After ditching the idea of college, Lauren realised she had to find a new path. Taken by the infamous TED Talks platform, she found herself gravitated to the cause and it was there, in front of crowds of people, the singer found her calling. “Being on stage was the first time I ever realized that that was my passion — being on stage and inspiring people. I found motivational speaking wasn’t abstract enough for me and that’s how I got into music. It’s been a couple years now and I’m focused on really sharing my perspective with the world and hopefully motivating people to trust the process of life because it all happens how it’s supposed to in the end,” she explains.
Change wasn’t something that daunted Lauren. In fact, she embraces the unexpected journey life might have for her. “I feel like life’s too short and people, including myself, get attached to what we think we’re supposed to do. We forget that we can just like change our mind. I don’t even have to do anything that I’ve been doing ever. I can wake up tomorrow and be like it was speaking the whole time!” she laughs.
When it comes to music and artistic influences, the 24-year-old artist admits her creative vision can seem broad or unrefined, but that’s not the case. “Sometimes it can feel like I can come off like I’m all over the place or I don’t know what I want. I’ve literally heard that before from business people,” she confesses, readjusting one of her many necklaces. Taking influence from the likes of Tyler The Creator, Mac Miller, Frank Ocean and Lana Del Rey, Lauren knew she longed for an audience. “I knew I wanted to speak to an audience and to feel like I was making a big impact on the world, so transitioning into music was really just me sitting in my car, buying beats from YouTube and SoundCloud on my little cassette player where I would write raps. I didn’t know if they were good or bad, but it felt awesome. I thought I was gonna be like G-Eazy or something. Then, when I got to a studio, I learned to sing. It all became a way to express myself, not go to college and to inspire the world with music.”
Armed with a desire to make a difference, Lauren approaches every show with a simple goal — to make her fans feel seen. “Every time I do a show, I pretend like I’m walking into a room and it’s my duty, on that stage, to make sure those people know that I believe in them, truly I do,” she says passionately. “Every single person that comes to my show, I believe in them. I always say that when you leave this show, you have to go home and write down why you deserve everything you want. To everyone that listens to my music or follows me, I want to make sure that they know they are not alone.”
Establishing a community and a safe space at her shows is something Lauren naturally feels strongly about, but it’s also much more than that. The singer wants to pass along her optimistic and driven mindset to those that watch her, even if it’s through music videos. Incidentally, she’s currently working on putting together visuals for her favourite song off the album, But I Like It. Promising cool vibes, skater girls, and never-ending doses of possibility. “I think people have a lot of freedom within themselves but they don’t realize it. I want to show that in my music video for But I Like it. This is such a weird time. It just came out of nowhere, but that’s why I think that should be the meaning of the video because it’s just reminding people to enjoy your own company, enjoy your own alone time and your own art. Everything is so much more enjoyable and a lot less lonely.”
Outside of music videos and debut albums, Lauren spends a lot of time investing in her fanbase. A quick glance at her social media page will show the singer shooting off tweets to questions sent her way or replying to a fan excitedly posting about a letter they received in a merch package. “I think you can always go the extra mile and you don’t know what people are going through. So, sending a letter in my merch was such an easy thing for me to do. It was like 10 minutes out of my day to write something. I got a lot of people messaging me after they received their merch saying they haven’t heard the words ‘everything’s gonna be okay’ from someone in months,” she tells GAY TIMES. “Growing up in this technology world, a lot of young people feel a lot more alone and lost too, which anyone would feel growing up on the internet. I just wanted to remind people of real life. It’s also what I’m starting to learn in this pandemic. There’s so much Photoshop, drama, and so much fake stuff out there, and people putting on this show. I want to remind people that someone cares and, I know that can sound cliche, but you really don’t know what people are going through nowadays. You don’t see people and the hardest time to reach out to people is when you feel alone. So, it’s been a long time since we’ve been around people properly and been able to live the lives that we’ve created. We’re just kind of in a weird phase and I always wanna be there for fans.”
With the deluxe release of Midwest Kids Can Make It Big out in the open, Lauren is relieved with its reception, but has a bigger message to drive home. “It doesn’t matter where you’re from, you can do anything you fucking want!” she crows on the other side of the call. “I’m from a really small town in Indiana and that’s what the album is about. It was about growing up in a small town, having big dreams and going for it. A lot of the people that follow me are also from small towns, controversial families, they’re bold on the inside and they just want to be bold on the outside. I think it’s a lot about chasing your dreams for them. It’s not quite the message in its entirety, but I think my fans know who I am as a person and so when they listen to my music it gives them the same effect.”
Moving onto new projects appears to be on the horizon for the LA artist, but the singer has a bigger political project at hand – encouraging her fans to vote. “Everybody get off your butt and go vote! Our country cannot do with this for four more years. If there’s any time to speak up and make your voice known about where you stand in this election – vote for Joe Biden,” she advises. “Seriously, I’m scared of what will happen if Trump, orange head, gets in for four more years. I can’t handle his hate. It’s the injustice and his disbelief in white privilege. It’s so much negative energy, especially in a pandemic — it’s too fucking much.
“He doesn’t think he has privilege at all. That’s the big problem,” she adds. “He doesn’t think the position he has is from privilege and that’s his approach in life. The way he talks, the way he walks, the way he interacts with people is so hateful. As much as I always say, I respect everyone’s beliefs, at a point it comes down to doing the right thing. I don’t care if you’re a white man and you’re comfortable with this president because he’s not affecting you. I would like to adopt and marry a woman someday, but with Trump I’m scared where that could go. We obviously need a lot of stuff taken seriously like, gun control, climate change, the pandemic, but there’s so much being ignored. He just shrugs it off. He’s not a leader. I wish that we had a leader, but we’ll see. I’m gonna keep encouraging people to vote. Listen, fucking vote!”
With a pandemic and one of America’s most important elections looming over us, Lauren reflects on the interview. “I’m super grateful GAY TIMES are having me. In a weird time like this, I keep saying to trust the process, but getting this interview was a really nice thing from the universe. It’s like ‘okay, you are where you’re supposed to be’, and, personally, when this interview comes out, it’s just gonna inspire even more people,” she admits. “I grew up in a small town, had big dreams and became a musician and now to be in GAY TIMES, it’s a huge accomplishment. It’s a huge deal. I think people will just be inspired because of how you are amplifying LGBTQ+ voices and a lot of the LGBTQ+ community feels unheard. It feels really cool to know that all those kids that are going to see this come out and be inspired by my story and even think ‘wow, I could do that’.”
Lauren Sanderson’s debut album Midwest Kids Can Make It Big is now available on iTunes and streaming services – listen here on Apple Music or below.