Last month, singer/songwriter Lauren Duski was named part of CMT Next Women of Country’s current class.
In front of several of her music industry peers, the Michigan native offered a rendition of her first single, “Costume Party,” an uplifting and confessional ballad born from years she has spent overcoming self-doubt to pursue her dream of music.
Duski began performing at age seven, took up guitar at 13, and by her teens, she was balancing her schoolwork at a private Catholic school with evenings and weekend performances with a country band. Creative-yet-practical minded, Duski then put music on the back burner while she enrolled at University of Michigan. After initially pursuing a major in pre-dental, Duski earned her Bachelors in Biopsychology, Cognition and Neuroscience in 2013.
“After graduating I thought, ‘If I don’t move to Nashville and try to pursue this dream, I’ll never forgive myself.’”
Even after arriving in Nashville, Duski struggled to find herself as a performer. “I was so nervous and I was dealing with a lot of self-confidence issues that I have no idea where they came from, and I let the opinions of others control me. I moved here five years ago, but after the first three years had gone by, I realized I didn’t have much to show for those years.”
In fact, Duski came very close to abandoning her hopes of a music career and returning to dental school—until The Voice came calling.
“It was a path I never envisioned for myself. I told my mom I was going back to dental school, and then I got a message two days later from The Voice to come audition.”
After a successful blind audition with her rendition of Jewel’s “You Were Meant For Me,” Duski kept winning, ultimately being named Season 12’s runner up.
“The Voice was a crash course for me in confidence; I had no choice.” She says. “I was nervous at first, but you realize it’s one big family. The hardest part is not having a lot of creative control and you are just one of 98 people auditioning and there are a lot of producers involved. But I was on team Blake [Shelton] and he was such a champion for me. Blake was a hoot to work with and it was such a gift during that process. He’s got a heart of gold.”
While most artists who earned runner-up status would release a single immediately after the show to make the most of television exposure, Duski has taken her time to write, record and develop her craft and message.
“I’ve never been in the business of releasing music just to release music. I came off the show and there was a lot of ‘When is the single coming?’ And I didn’t have a single then. I had no idea what I wanted to say as a woman, as a young artist.”
Instead, she asked her music fans to share their experiences with her.
“I asked them to be my pen pal, and write me letters,” she says. “I expected 20, maybe 30 letters, but I got hundreds. That was my full-time job, just reading and responding to them. I couldn’t believe the vulnerability coming from complete strangers, just sharing their stories.
“It gave me the courage to open up in the room that day to write “Costume Party.” It’s for anyone who has ever felt uncomfortable in their own skin and I definitely am, most of the time. I’ll probably always be a work in progress and I’m finally feeling like that’s ok.”
During a visit to the MusicRow offices, Duski performed a trio of songs, including “Costume Party,” as well as the love song “Heart For good,” and “The Weather,” which was penned after Duski’s grandmother died just over a year ago.
“We knew it was coming because she was sick for a long time,” Duski recalls. “The hardest part about losing her is watching grandpa live life without her. When I came back from that trip a year ago I wrote ‘The Weather.'”
Earlier this year, Duski performed shows opening for Bobby Bones and Raging Idiots tour. Duski has a manager and is with WME for booking, but is currently not signed to a publishing or recording deal.
The fanbase she has earned since her time on The Voice won’t have to wait much longer for new music. Duski revealed plans to release her first EP, titled Midwestern Girl Part 1, in January 2019.
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