Anybody who’s been in the music business for a dozen years might expect a few worry wrinkles from wondering how to pay the bills, or perhaps a road-weary expression from spending so much time on the highways and back roads getting to and going home from gigs.
Not Lauren Alexander, though.
She’s 12 years into what gonzo writer Hunter S. Thompson once described as "a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs," and closed by saying, "There’s also a negative side."
Alexander recently celebrated her 20th birthday, and still sees music as magical – which, despite what Thompson said – it is. Music is magical, yes; the business side, not always so except for the few who, for a while, perhaps for a whole career, grab onto the best of it.
"I started singing in church when I was eight years old, and my dad would play guitar," she said. "My dad would book me for festivals and fairs and stuff, just like a fun little thing to do. Now it’s grown into something I couldn’t not do. I have to do it."
She likes being able to share, through her songs, who she is.
"It’s really a magical thing for me; it’s hard to define," she said.
"I try to not be forced. I like songs that just kinda write themselves," Alexander said. "I just do it. If you think about it too hard, it can be forced, untrue, and not genuine. The song has to be genuine."
Alexander describe her music as "Americana," a somewhat nebulous term these days that originated as a catch-all word for American roots music: genuine country, folk, and blues often mixed with Southern rock. In her case, it’s most often folkie rock.
"It’s a blend of everything, including the country aspect that I grew up playing and listening to," she said. "I love Janis Joplin and Sheryl Crow and Fleetwood Mac – and Miranda Lambert and Kacey Musgraves; they are East Texas girls doing awesome. I’ve been compared to Miranda, and just this past weekend somebody compared me to Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane when we did a cover of ‘White Rabbit.’"
Alexander’s second album, Perfume and Gasoline, put three songs on the Texas Music Chart, and she’s shared stages with, among others, Josh Abbott, Aaron Watson, Easton Corbin, The Eli Young Band, Little Texas, JB and The Moonshine Band, Walt Wilkins, and The Bart Crow Band.
Her band – she plays guitar, harmonica, and "a little bit of mandolin," with Richie Kindle (lead guitar, backing vocals), Jeff Odom (drums and other percussion), and Collin Anderson (bass) – does mostly originals with a mix of classic covers including songs by Neil Young, Tom Petty, Fleetwood Mac, and others.
Generally, the band has at least one gig every weekend. Confirmed December gigs include December 7 at Half Moon Bar & Grill in Tyler, December 14 at Moore’s Store in Ben Wheeler, and December 29 at Charlie’s BackYard Bar in Marshall. She’s keeping some time open because she hopes to make it into the top four of the Recording Conservatory of Austin singer-songwriter competition during December.
Alexander has recorded four songs so far for her third album, which she hopes to release sometime in 2013.
She was born in and grew up in Bullard – her mom works for the City of Tyler and her dad builds swimming pools and runs sound for her – and she helps pay the bills with a day job as a Bullard police department secretary. ("They are so awesome to me if I need to take off," she said.)
Now she’s thinking ahead, perhaps following the success of Lambert and Musgraves.
"I’m a pretty shy person in real life. I consider myself very awkward. It’s different being on stage; you can really become who you want to be if you are genuine. I want to be real."
She traveled to Nashville in April and October, and hopes to move to that music business center in the middle of 2013.
"I just love Nashville. The first time we went, I got to be in a music video with my guitar player. We just walked onto the site, so I have a two-second clip."
That’s just a tiny bit of the magic – and the hoped-for "overnight success" – for somebody who’s still so young and has been at it for a dozen years already.