Lauren Watkins is a country superstar in the making.
Born and raised in Nashville, she’s been rolling around in country music for as long as she can remember, spending her teenage years performing in downtown honky tonks and hole-in-the-wall bars and letting the greats of country music just stick to her.
There’s the wit of Kacey’s wordplay, the eye-rolling sass of Miranda, the twang of Reba and the no-frills storytelling of Ashley McBryde. All those influences and many more have been combined into one enormous force of country music that has the potential to be even bigger than them all.
There’s something effortless about the way Lauren Watkins sings, like one of those kids you went to school with who was always pissing about but still got straight-As on all their tests. There’s an early morning roughness to her voice, as if she slept in and missed the bus because she’d been up all night in dive bars drinking whiskey and smoking cigarettes, but still when she opens her mouth she’s funny and clever and the only person in the room you want to hear.
If you're feeling like Lauren Watkins has come completely out of nowhere it wouldn't be entirely unfounded. After graduating from the University of Mississippi, where she developed her passion for songwriting, she began sharing snippets of her own songs and stripped-back covers across her socials over the last six months, eventually catching the attention of GRAMMY-nominated Nicolle Galyon. She signed to Galyon’s publishing company Songs & Daughters and then put pen to paper with Big Loud Records at the beginning of the year.
We’ve been waiting a lot longer than we wanted to for a full release from Lauren Watkins, but thankfully it was well worth it. We’re so excited to be exclusively premiering ‘Shirley Temple’, the first taste of her forthcoming Joey Moi produced Introducing Lauren Watkins EP, at Holler below.
“‘Shirley Temple’ is one of my favourite songs I’ve written,” Lauren Watkins told us. “It’s just a classic song about jealousy. You want someone you can’t have. As much as we don’t wanna admit it, I think most of us have been there. I’m glad Nicolle Galyon and Meg McRee were willing to go there with me the day we wrote it.”
It’s the perfect introduction to Lauren Watkins. One of seven songs on her new EP, it showcases her straight-to-the point plainspoken realness and her ability to take a simple enough phrase - like "Sipping Shirley Temples and wondering why you can’t catch a buzz" – and load it up with enough poignancy and depth to make you catch your breath. At one point she even manages to rhyme “temple” with “simple”, just like Loretta did when she rhymed “hard” with “tired”.
Backed by the kind of band you’d find playing unobtrusively in the corner of a bar at the end of the night, she takes the tropes of classic 70s countrypolitan and mixes them up with enough contemporary flourishes to make them feel completely modern and effortlessly cool. As evidenced by the way a visualizer of her just sitting at a bar stirring a cocktail and singing into camera is one of the most iconic things we’ve ever seen.
We caught up with Lauren Watkins as she finished up on tour with Big Loud label mate Lily Rose, and before she headed out for a summer of festivals including Carolina Country Fest, Biloxi Crawfish Boil, Lasso Montreal, Nashville’s CMA Fest, Faster Horses, Watershed Festival and TidalWave Music Festival.
Where are you from and how did that influence you?
I grew up in Nashville so I’ve always been surrounded by country music. I grew up going to CMA Fest and on field trips to the Ryman and the Hall of Fame, so for as long as I can remember I’ve been totally fascinated by the history of it all. It made it pretty easy for me to pick up a guitar at a young age and find the nearest bar to sing in.
What did you grow up listening to?
I grew up in the early 2000s era of country so that was always playing on the radio. But my parents introduced me to people like Sheryl Crow, Alan Jackson, and George Jones.
Do you remember when you first fell in love with country music?
I don’t remember when I first fell in love with country music, because I think it was at birth. But I do remember the first time I figured out I could pick out a harmony. It was in the backseat of my mom’s suburban with my sister, singing a Rascal Flatts song. I was probably 12 years old.
How would you describe your sound?
I’d describe my sound as classic and sweet but with texture and grit.
What can we expect from the new EP?
I hope it’s something people haven’t really heard before. It’s honest and relatable but maybe from a unique perspective. There are songs that make you wanna drink beer on a boat and songs that make you wanna shut the blinds and cry.
Where’s the most unexpected place music has taken you?
I never thought I’d find myself at a Tin Roof in Detroit, Michigan.
Where do you get your inspiration for writing songs from?
Very simply, I get it from living.
If you weren’t doing this what would you be doing?
I’d probably be living at the beach. I’d be happy but I don’t think I’d be fulfilled if I wasn’t doing this.
If you could time travel back to any time when would you travel back to?
I’d be a teenager in the 80s. I’m just a sucker for 80s movies. I've always romanticized it!
Which person from history would you most like to meet?
Either Willie Nelson or Sheryl Crow.
What’s next for you?
I’m most excited for people to hear the music. I’ve been working so hard on it and I can’t wait to get back on the road and play these songs live for people and see how it hits them.
Introducing Lauren Watkins is released on Big Loud on April 21st