Announcement/News

What’s Popping With Lauren Winans

It was a rainy Monday afternoon. Sitting in a truck down by the Allegheny River, Heinz Field was visible in the distance beyond the streaky windshield and it was natural to ruminate on the Steelers’ hard luck after week 6 of the 2012 season. The scene was set for a lonesome, drizzly country song, but this dreary scene was burst in by some bubbliness – as Pittsburgh Music Magazine was about to learn – Lauren Winans, singer songwriter and proclaimed “Steeler Princess” (of the blog SteelerAddicts.com and Blitzburgh Radio podcasts) has left the country scene behind and been on the road to defining herself as a pop star to watch for.

Lauren has also been on the road back-and-forth between her hometown of Buckhannon, WV (outside of Morgantown and in the center of Steeler Country South) and Nashville, TN – where she has been writing song material that goes on to be cut by known artists as well as doggedly charting her own path toward recognition through her music and a variety of talent work and promotions. Pittsburgh Music Magazine spoke to Lauren while she was home to visit her family in West Virginia.

PMM:

The bio posted on your site (www.laurenwinans.com) depicts a lot of tenacity and drive to build your audience, but you are also making it now as a songwriter. In the spectrum of songwriter v. performer do you have a stronger interest in one or the other, would you be willing to give up one for the other? Do you have a preference for one or the other based on how things are going for you right now?

Lauren:

No… I love both songwriting and singing, because there is always an opportunity to get your song cut and be, you know… you never know, sometimes you’re more popular as a writer than you ever are as a singer. I mean look at Katy Perry, she has lots of songs cut by other people. These things are really something I want to choose between, but if something were to happen and I’m a more successful songwriter I’m not going to be upset, because it is still a really cool thing to do in life… but I can’t really pick.

PMM:

How long have you been working in Nashville and what were your first foots-in-the-door there?

Lauren:

I’ve been back and forth to Nashville since I was about 18, so about four years… and I’ve been living there for about two-and-a-half. And… you know, I was doing country at first and it wasn’t me …at all. So, I ended up [not moving there right away]… I was at Ke$ha’s house for a week, you know crazy Ke$ha. Then I went back home and did more country stuff because some people that first started to listen picked me up and tried to build some buzz around me… and I did a small radio tour and didn’t really enjoy it. So I went back to Nashville and a producer I had met there a while back got in touch with me and said, “I really feel like you’re pop, I feel like you’re doing the wrong thing.” And I was like “Me too,” so we ended up getting together and I started working with more of the pop writers, and that’s where we’re at now. Everything’s finally coming into place where I’m happy and that’s what suits me best.

PMM:

And that’s great because you really need that kind of common vision with your management and production. At the same time, within the pop realm, in listening to some of your music [No Boys Allowed, Lipstick, etc.] I hear some influence of country. What is a quality, or are some qualities of country music that did resonate with you even if that industry or focus in music wasn’t working for you?

Lauren:

I’m just not very country, the things that we right about and stuff… is just not something that country radio is going to play. There’s still some stuff out there on the Internet that still sounds like [the country music I was making], but what we did was we tracked in Nashville and then went out to LA and had it all synthesized, and came back and recorded vocals back out here in Nashville. I’m getting ready to release one of those songs and it is very techno-pop meets kind of the band-driven thing, but you’ll definitely hear a new sound. It’s definitely what I’m happy with and what’s popular right now, so I’m excited to release that.

PMM:

Nice. And you definitely mention some neo-divas as your influences, in particular Britney Spears.

Lauren:

I love Britney!

PMM:

And some of that definitely comes across strong in your videos, in terms of your performer aspect. Can you speak to that and what other artists, musicians, or forms of music that might be less obvious to someone hearing (and seeing) your work for the first time?

Lauren:

Yeah, I’m a hardcore Britney Spears fan and really, since “Hit Me Baby One More Time,” that’s really where I got most of my inspiration from, but… kind of growing up I really started to like Ashley Simpson, and I thought I wanted to be a little pop-rock star. A lot of the Christian artists I was listening to influenced me also, like Joy Williams – who’s part of the Civil Wars now – and Rachael Rampa, so there’s kind of a bunch of random artists in there, but Britney is definitely the main one… and I had to do everything Britney did… it was Britney, Britney, Britney! So, as far as that goes I am crazy about Britney Spears. Kind of sad, but it’s mainly all Britney Spears… all the way. Yes.

PMM:

Well, and to that end, there is also an awful lot out there in regard to your modeling and your video-blogging. How do you see that continuing with your music career where it’s at? Do you see yourself also taking that to a higher degree or is it dependent upon where you go with your music?

Lauren:

Well, I’ve got some really great sponsors: Hot Spot Tanning in Nashville does my spray tanning so that I always look pretty, Norvell is a part of that, Norvell Sunless Tanning, and Nashville Lash sponsors me, so I always have big  pretty eyelashes, and I am sponsored by a makeup company called SeneGence, and LipSence, and me and Christina Aguilera both wear their lip products, so that’s pretty cool. And Heels.com just joined on, so I am going to be promoting them. And I have been working with Plato’s Closet, and we’re having so much fun – there are going to be cardboard cutouts of me in their stores, wearing leather outfits and a Plato’s Closet bag. And I am also a huge, huge Steelers fan, so I have a little site called SteelersPrincess.com because I love my Steelers, and I have a couponing blog… so, I’m kind of just all over the place, but I don’t think I’d ever want to quit that kind of stuff because that’s a lot of fun… you can’t just be a singer, you have to do it all.

PMM:

And you have to stay diversified with your creativity… and I did want to ask you about what you are doing with the Steelers Princess and Blitzburgh Radio, because the real question is, how do you stay positive in a season like this so far…

Lauren:

I was at the game last week. And I’m not a fair-weather fan… you know, I was actually sitting on the end zone, surrounded by a bunch of Titans fans booing us – and all I could think was, “My god we are so much better than you,” which they are, we just had a bad game. I mean that kick… oh my god. But you know, we have six Superbowls. Those aren’t going anywhere. Some of the best players were out, and you know it’s all about the defense… and, I wasn’t expecting them to lose, but that’s OK. And so many people in Nashville are big Pittsburgh fans, so I saw so many people there with their jerseys on… and we have the most traveled fans.

PMM:

Do you have some musical inspirations around the topic of the Steelers?

Lauren:

Yeah, well I love Wiz Khalifa… and Snoop Dogg, and those two are such big Steelers fans. I’d love to get together and collaborate with them on a Steelers song, because so many people who are Steelers people who are also fans of them too and it would be great to get them turned on to my music… and just to meet them.

PMM:

So it is your second album, with the single release “Burn A Little More,” that is currently out there. Can you talk a bit about the studio experience in producing the album and how it vibes with what you said about doing the LA remixing and the new direction you are taking your music in?

Lauren:

Yeah… we spent the past year just writing songs that we felt fit with my whole package. Burn A Little More, you know, I love that song, I love that whole thing, but it still wasn’t me… as far as the dance-techno sound goes. So we started off writing a ton of material… kept writing and writing and writing, and we choose some really good songs that we felt definitely worked with the image and we’ve been recording and trying to raise money to finish it through pledge music.

I work with the humane society in Nashville, called Happy Tales Humane Society (as in happy stories about the animals), that has a no-kill shelter, and a percentage of what I make is going to go to them. It’s a super cute place, where all the dogs that they care for are fostered throughout the week, so that they are already cared for before they go to a home. It’s a fantastic place and I wanted to help them out and have them be part of my project, and I have a public service announcement coming up for them too, which I’m excited about.

I’ve gotten to do a lot of cool stuff this past year, I just hope for the coming year to be a bit more focused on my music with it coming out. I have had a lot of fun this year in working with my sponsors and doing a lot with them in forming new partnerships, and that’s definitely worth it, but I am really excited to get the music out there and finish it.

PMM:

So what songs should we listen for from your new production work?

Lauren:

The first single is called “You’re Gonna Love It,” and that is going to be kind of a slogan for all of my projects. Another title is “Loser,” they’re a lot of fun… another one that will come out is “Better At Breaking,” some of the singles titles to be looking for.

PMM:

Hmm… and “Loser” and “Better At Breaking” sound like they’re about some no-good guys… and I’m catching that vibe with your earlier songs “No Boys Allowed” and the theme of “Burn A Little More?” Is there a bit of angst with relationships behind some of your songwriting?

Lauren:

Yeah, no… “You’re Gonna Love It” is definitely the nicer part of me. [With these other songs] it’s about female empowerment. And, yeah, I’ve had a lot of problems with guys, that’s been a driving force, but I think that’s just something people relate to… that’s how things work out these days, so… my stories are put into songs for everybody else to laugh at, like, “Oh yeah, that happened to me too.” There is also a little bit of vulnerability behind it all, and I haven’t shown that yet, but that comes out in Better At Breaking… that’s definitely a different side.

PMM:

So, it is also kind of funny because people tend to think that Nashville is all about country, but obviously you are working there with more of a pop drive and there are others working in pop music…

Lauren:

Well yeah, I mean Paramour came right out of Nashville and, you know, Jack White lives right down the road for me… there’s definitely a lot of pop coming out of Nashville and, I mean look at Kelly Clarkson, it is definitely different than it used to be. So that’s exciting to me because I don’t have to travel everywhere.

PMM:

Then your time in LA, then was predominantly studio production time, or was it to pursue other connections?

Lauren:

We basically went in and got with somebody we knew… his dad was part of Chicago and his name is Will Champlin… he played on a Michael Jackson record and he is great with synthesized keyboard stuff… so basically the trip to LA was to work with him, but also I have been talking back-and-forth with a writer who has written with Katy Perry, he has songs with Jesse James and Selena Gomez… and I got to go meet with him, so it was more than just recording, but that was the main reason we went there.

PMM:

Will we be seeing you in Pittsburgh anytime soon?

Lauren:

Actually I would have loved to perform at the Steelers game against the Titans last week, but that would have been a bit of a conflict… me singing the National Anthem in Nashville in a Steelers jersey… I would have been booed out of the stadium by all of the Titans people, but I tell you, there were just as many Steelers fans there. I’d love to come to Pittsburgh and do some performances in connection to the football season next year.

You can check out Lauren Winans on her site http://www.laurenwinans.com, find her albums on iTunes, and check out her many projects on YouTube.

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