May 13, 2013

Crystal Bowersox: All That Means a Lot (Interview/Profile)

Crystal Bowersox certainly has reason to count her blessings. Only three years after rising to stardom as the American Idol ninth season runner-up, she is set to step onto the Broadway stage this summer as the leading lady in Always… Patsy Cline. Then there’s her superb new album, All That For This, which for the 27-year-old singer/songwriter signals a new-found sense of contentment and, it seems, happiness.

“I really am enjoying the now,” says Bowersox, “that’s really important.”

The album speaks of new beginnings, of making peace with the past and making the best out of what you've got. Through such standout moments as the bluesy, Stax-horns styled “Movin’ On” and the redemptive, countrified title track—“All that I’ve been through is just a stepping stone to where I’m going to,” she sings on the latter—Bowersox reflects the serenity of someone who has contended with some heavy adversity in her life, and at times still does, but has nevertheless come to appreciate her own resilience.

“There are days when you’re miserable,” she confides, “but just remember you’re really happy to be around.”

Such insight couldn't help but influence her songwriting.

“As I’ve gotten older it’s a different process than when I was young and angsty, of course,” she says. “It was like things were pouring out of me—I couldn’t stop writing. Now I’m older. I’m a little more mellow. I’m writing songs about happier things.”

It’s a marked contrast to the prevailing tone of her 2010 debut, Farmer's Daughter, on which she addressed some quite turbulent aspects of her childhood—namely abuse and neglect. “I pointed the finger straight at my mom,” Bowersox recalls of the title track in particular. “I don’t think that it was kind. And that’s something I feel like now, a couple years removed from that time in my life, it’s not something I would do anymore.”

The hurt she expressed then has since, if not healed, then subsided and, as Bowersox suggests, encouraged a spirit of reconciliation. “My mom and I are in a good place,” she adds, underscoring the optimism that is likewise reflected throughout All That For This.

Bowersox and Jakob Dylan, recording "Stitches"
In fact, her own experience as the mother of a now-four-year-old boy inspired one of the album’s most touching and timeless songs, “Stitches,” in which she consoles her son through some of the hallmark agonies he’ll inevitably suffer as he comes of age. Jakob Dylan sings along, reinforcing and enriching this tender sentiment from a parent to a child.

“Life is about making connections with people and sharing that face time—not FaceTime on your phone,” says Bowersox. “Life is precious. People and friendships are precious.

“If you have a pretty good quality of life,” she continues, “then you’re doing it right. Ani DiFranco said in one of her songs, ‘If you’re not getting happier as you get older then you’re fuckin’ up.’ You’re supposed to be getting happier as you get older. If you are then you’re doing it right. If you’re not then you’ve got to figure out why and what’s happening. Look at your choices. How are you contributing to that? I believe that’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned these days is all about accountability and relationships in life.”

If any one song on All That For This sums up Bowersox's present perspective, it's “Dead Weight,” which she describes as an affirmation of personal responsibility. “Letting dead weight go is like growing up,” she says, “living from the best, most honest place that I can.”