Monday, March 29, 2010

Toledo area singer Crystal Bowersox takes on 'Idol' pursuits

Six months ago, Crystal Bowersox won The Blade Battle of the Bands contest.

Now she hopes to win American Idol.

The 24-year-old resident of Elliston, Ohio, is one of 16 remaining contestants competing on the popular Fox show.

The American Idol judges have repeatedly praised Ms. Bowersox and her performances, a clear indication she has the talent to win it all.

But will Idol viewers - the ones who now determine how far she advances in the show - feel likewise?

"I think anything's possible," Ms. Bowersox said in a phone interview from Los Angeles, where the show is broadcast. "I definitely could [win], but it's not like I think I will. It really depends on what the American public wants, and if they want a real down-to-earth, organic music girl, then I'm definitely going to win."

With her Janis Joplin chops and Bob Dylan conviction, along with an ever-present acoustic guitar and occasional harmonica, Ms. Bowersox clearly stands out among the mostly contemporary music contestants. She bears a passing resemblance to fellow folkie Jewel early in her career and is the only performer with dreadlocks.

How that look and style will mesh on the pop-oriented showcase is the only concern the judges voiced before advancing Ms. Bowersox to the voting stage of Idol. But being different in a show known for its share of cookie-cutter performers is not a concern of hers.

"I think people can appreciate the fact that I'm not trying to be somebody I'm not," she said. "I'm being true to myself and the music. My strategy is just to stay true to myself and have fun and that will hopefully take me to the top."

Ms. Bowersox was born in Toledo and raised in Graytown and Elliston, both small rural towns about 20 miles southeast of Toledo, near Oak Harbor in Ottawa County. Her parents, Bill and Kelly, divorced when she was 2, and by 10 Ms. Bowersox was singing professionally, which meant extra money to help out around the house, including buying her own clothes.

Her high school years weren't any easier, she said. After joining the Oak Harbor High School swim team, Ms. Bowersox recalls wearing a "junky Goodwill bathing suit" to swim practices and meets; she was teased by her classmates because she didn't fit in.

And by 17, Ms. Bowersox's home life had deteriorated enough that she considered dropping out of school and moving out. She didn't, and eventually graduated from the Toledo School for the Arts.

But no matter the problems in her life, she could always turn to music for comfort.

She began performing in area clubs after high school and came of age musically in Chicago, where she lived for several years. Ms. Bowersox returned to Elliston last spring and landed a standing Monday night gig at the Village Idiot in Maumee as an acoustic duo with childhood friend and fellow musician Frank May, performing covers of folk, rock, and R&B songs like Joplin's "Piece of My Heart," which she later performed at her Idol audition in Chicago.

Ms. Bowersox's talent as a performer convinced friends and family that she should audition for American Idol, an idea she had toyed with for several years. But it took becoming a single mother 13 months ago to convince her the time was right.

"I needed to turn bar gigs into a bigger career," Ms. Bowersox said. "Kids aren't cheap, and my son needs everything I never had growing up."

She was among only a handful of thousands of contestants in Chicago to make it to the Hollywood round and since has survived several cuts by the show's judges.

And now, it gets really serious.

Each week Ms. Bowersox will perform live along with the other remaining contestants, followed by a results show in which someone will learn their Idol dreams are over.

And if one of those performers should be Ms. Bowersox, she would like her supporters and fans to know she's OK with that.

"I'm happy to come home and be with my boyfriend and my kid and play gigs. I'm fine with that because I'm happy right now," she said. "My life is great in Ohio right now and I'd be happy to return to that. But hopefully bigger and better things are happening now and I won't have to."

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  1. Crystal is the best thing to ever hit an American Idol stage! I usually stop watching the show once the auditions are over, but this year, I'm hooked on Crystal.

    For me, Crystal represents "the average Joe". She's not the spoiled little rich girl. Not the prom queen. She's who she is and if you don't like it, oh well. Life will go on! She marches to the beat of her own... guitar and I hope that never changes.

    Week after week I plant my butt in front of the TV just to hear Crystal sing. Then, I start searching YouTube for new videos someone might be sharing. Time after time, chills shoot up my spine and I get teary eyed because the music is just THAT great!

    Crystal, you ARE my idol. You're beautiful and you're far more talented than I could ever dream of.

    I wish you the best of luck in everything you do!! Win or lose (and if you lose, I'm calling conspiracy against the poor folk) I hope you continue to make your performances available to those of us who will never get to see you in person.

  2. Crystal, I have been listening to some of your other music this morning! MamaSox you are the bomb! I love your music and I love the person you are being in the AI space! Stay true and do what you have to do to win. But in my opinion you are already a winner. Your music is real, earthy, lovely and sweet. You make me want to hear more. I am ready to buy your album. Actually I feel like I have been listening to it already. Love what you're doing. And I am sure if we met in real life, I would love you too!

  3. I am just some old lady,but I still love rock and roll, blues and jazz. You are all of that and more. You have a big strong voice. You are my dear a star. Janis Joplin is one of my favorites. You have topped her by far. I don't watch Amerian Idol every year but I just happened to be watching it when they were doing try outs. As soon as I heard you, well I knew I had to watch this year. You will be always remembered even after death like Jimmy Hendrix or Janis Joplin. If for some stupid reason u do not win I can guarantee there are a lot or recording studios or whatever they are called will want you to make an album. Of course I will be standing in line.
    On another note. I was just reading something about you thinking of quitting the show because you miss your son and family. Don't!! You give me the strong impression that you are not a quitter. Sounds like to me there have been times in your life where you went to hell and back. We have children and want them to have more than we did and always want them to succeed more than we did. Our job as being a mom is to do everything in our power to do that. Meaning small to large sacrifices. I do understand what it means to miss your child. U c when I was young and dumb I got into trouble with the law. I got 90 days in jail. I did not get to see my son not once.
    We all have dreams but its up to us to make our dreams come true. There is a lot of people out there that will never have that chance. You do. So u run with it and go.
    I admire you for being you. Of course I don't know you but I do believe this:

    You are true to yourself, a big heart and I would bet you r a true friend.We are what we are we just need to know how to make the most of it. You've already done that
    So honey you just keep on doing what you doing, be yourself and go out there and kick some ass. I just think your'e GREAT, from here on out u always will be.
    For me when I hear you sing I want to hear you more and more. No matter what happens you are a star, don't ever forget that.

    Julie Price
    Visalia CA