Artist - Lauren Watkins 12

Lauren Watkins' Songs Ranked

February 27, 2024 5:48 pm GMT

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The act of building a music career usually requires spending at least some time playing around with vocal stylings before you settle on the one you want to build a catalogue around.

Not so for Nashville native Lauren Watkins, who’s in possession of a sound so unmistakably sprung from the earth that to try and manipulate it would have been a betrayal of nature itself.

There’s nothing manmade about Watkins’ voice – over just two EPs we’ve heard it soar, sigh and settle in the dust of its own gravel bed, whittled and aged. Like a vinyl that was born scratchy and fuzzy, rather than the victim of one too many plays, it remains as dry as her songwriting wit and as self-assured as the lo-fi, sunset drive, windows down production she’s slung across her 13 songs so far.

Her laidback style demands repeat listens of each song, lest the irresistibly wry delivery distract from the superb songwriting. Think a dehumidified Kacey Musgraves, if the sky was always silver rather than grey.

Here is Holler's definitive ranking of Lauren Watkins' catalogue to date.

Big Loud | 2023

Stuck In My Ways

A minor key, vibey electric guitar opening runs this classic break up song straight down the middle of the road that the narrator drives their ragtop jeep along, as they refuse to move on from a love lost.

Far from a tragic hero, Watkins’ frank delivery shows our narrator for who they really are: your standard porch sitting, beer drinking grump whose response to a break up seems to chase itself in one big, self-perpetuating circle to the cause of the break up in the first place – a refusal to budge.

There’s no reinvention of the wheel here; still, it’s refreshing to hear a female voice take on the role of lovable curmudgeon for once.

Big Loud | 2023

Ole Miss

No one gets through their college years without some future regrets, but time and distance need the space to grind them into the shape of what they really are.

In a classic Nashville writers’ room play on words, Ole Miss – the nickname of the University of Mississippi, which both Watkins and her parents attended – finds the narrator stuck in the nostalgia phase of moving on, still pining for an old college love and hung up on that “same ole ‘miss you’ feeling”.

Delivered with a sigh alongside her lyrical summation of the contrarian nature of those years – “growin up and stayin wild” – Watkins' voice and the fed up, melancholic sound draw us in to the magic betrayal of that time on the cusp of adulthood. Falling blissfully one last time without knowing the hands of childhood’s safe cloisters aren’t there to catch you anymore.

Big Loud | 2023

Grain Of Salt

What do you do when you grow up and there isn’t enough sugar left to turn the bitterness of your lemons into lemonade? Simple. Skip the sweet and go straight for the salt; a nice big grain of it alongside a shot of tequila.

Without taking any pointed stance, the song manages to reference culture wars, a crashed economy and a fish that just won’t bite.

The plodding beat and delivery of its verses mirror the relentlessness of life’s stings, building to a raucous chorus that celebrates the coping mechanisms we all turn to. They might not be healthy but taken alongside this singalong tune they can help us to believe, even if temporarily, that everything might just be okay.

Big Loud | 2023

Dark Places

A real songwriter’s singer, Watkins enlisted the help of the king of double entendres himself, Shane McAnally, for this tune.

Watkins finds herself in both literal and figurative dark places, seeking out the solace of closed blinds, secret corners, dark bars and the men who fill them. With juicy one liners like “spirits are high, standards are low”, Watkins shows us just how low she can push the bar until we’re right down on the sticky floor of it with her, wallowing in the filth.

In a true act of faking it till you make it, she manages to finds the bright side in the comforting artifice of neon lights. The song makes no promises but leaves us rooting for its narrator, hoping that she crawls far enough in the direction of those “High Life” signs that they eventually lead her back out into the light of day.

Big Loud | 2023

Sleeping In My Makeup

Plays on words don’t always have to be head scratchers. Sometimes what’s said on the tin is precisely enough to sum up a universal experience for women everywhere.

Celebrations, heartbreaks; their primary method of commemoration in a night on the town is just as essential as their secondary commemoration: waking up in last night’s make up. In all its glory, just one mascara stained cheek staring back at you in the mirror can tell you everything you need to know about the night – or love – gone by.

As Lauren puts it, “I'm a dive-bar-shit-show downward spiral lately”. Hell raising never looks quite as legendary the next day, but we’ve all been there; waking up in our boots and all.

Big Loud | 2023

Anybody But You

There’s a relentless restlessness that comes with a break up.

Staying still provides too much time to think, so it’s only natural that Lauren would want to do anything with anybody except the keeper of the other piece of her broken heart in order to forget about them.

But how dark a part of our hearts are we willing to open to the world as a result of love gone sour? Sometimes leaning into the fantasy of slashed tires, burned belongings and sunk boats is precisely what you need to do in order to not actually do it.

Lauren allows us to take glee in the thought of doing just that but settles on the old classics: whiskey shots, staying out all night and rustling a stranger’s sheets.

Big Loud | 2023

Cowboys on Music Row

Watkins may be a Nashville native and a country music star on the rise but that doesn’t stop her from taking a swipe at the place and the genre’s institutions.

Do cowboys live on Music Row anymore? Not like they used to.

This swelling, first dance invoking, twinkly duet blends the sweet dreams of Carter Faith’s voice with the dry reality of Lauren’s, leading to a chorus that lilts up and down like a nursery rhyme as they look around with the confusion of a child, wondering where their heroes went.

That’s the danger of looking behind the veil; perhaps the cowboys really have run off or maybe they were always just suits with hats on.

Big Loud | 2023

Fine County Line

This flirtatious, rocky opener to Watkins’ second EP, Introducing: The Heartbreak, is a will they-won’t they wink of a road trip song capturing the blissful naivety of an idea that sounds like a good one just before you cross the line and find out if you were right or not.

The gritty lacquer of Watkins’ voice is the perfect carriage for the heart-pounding, spine-tingling animalistic rush of sensations bought on by a potential new mate, when a simple brush of the knee can mean everything and nothing all at once.

With its lo-fi sound, this is one to blast with the windows down.

Big Loud | 2023

Jealous of Jane

Lauren is someone who possesses such an unvarnished coating of cool that there was just no need for her to take this shot at poor, boring Jane, but we’re glad she did.

This laid back tune, with it eye-rolling twangs of electric guitar, swaggers as it ponders its point.

How can the type of girl who can roll out of bed in a t-shirt and sunglasses and look hot rather than hungover be jealous of someone who probably plans matching accessories a week in advance and spends her time driving round a 25-year-old man who still thinks he’s 18? Good old fashioned pettiness, that’s how.

I bet he still lies like a rug” remains one of Watkins’ best burns.

Big Loud | 2023

Camel Blues

Once you hear Lauren Watkins sing, you understand that it would be nonsensical for her not to have a song about smoking.

Her vocal chords appear to have been singed rather than strung, created with such a rasp that you’d believe she’s had a cigarette hanging from her lips for the past 30 years until you find out she’s not even been alive that long.

Camel Blues provide the perfect double meaning for both the cause and the cure of her melancholy. The tinny acoustic guitar on this track, an ode to the soul saving buzz of a cigarette, is suitably mournful.

You can just see her: windows down, dusk settling and a hard day gone by, but nothing that a fix of nicotine can’t solve.

Big Loud | 2023

Fly on the Wall

Not since The Judds proclaimed there were flies on the butter as a symbol of the passage of time has such a pest been used to such beautiful effect.

Joined by labelmate Jake Worthington, this eerie, solemn ballad finds Lauren wishing she herself was a fly on the wall of a past lover’s home to spy on his new relationship, but also as a reminder of how he treated her; like a fly on the wall.

Their voices contrast refreshingly here, Lauren’s dry rasp against Worthington’s robust, honky tonk drawl. The wailing steel guitar and the lush, orchestral swell of their vocal layering is the perfect pillow for the ache of their longing to lounge across.

Big Loud | 2023

Shirley Temple

Who is Shirley Temple? First and foremost she’s everything that Lauren Watkins will never be, not even a little.

Whether she’s the drink, the actress or the love rival, the saccharine sweetness of her aspartame buzz can’t compare to the full fat wallop of the real thing. Yet still, somehow, she manages to get the guy.

The singer’s debut was the perfect showcase for Watkins at her absolute best; a dynamite songwriter (that’s a triple meaning of Shirley Temple here), carried by a truly memorable and immersive voice, her low, gravelly drawl capable of scathing, sulking and soaring in equal measure.

Big Loud | 2023

The Table

Is this country music’s very own MacGuffin?

The table is the plot driver of this stunning ballad, but it has no power beyond its own existence. What’s on it, both literally and metaphorically, puts flesh on the bones of this tale of love from its beginning to its end, a stomach-fluttering flirtation to a stomach-dropping finale, backed by a tinkling, bell-like guitar.

Co-written with Songs and Daughters label founder and frequent collaborator Nicolle Galyon, the track is gentle and sad but finds its courage in holding back its final lyric. In this way, it’s the perfect embodiment of the wisdom of Almost Famous’ Russell Hammond: when it comes to crafting a truly great song, sometimes it’s about what you leave out.

Hurtful as it may be, in its non-ending, it has the agonising effect of leaving us crying out for more and Watkins exactly where she needs to be as a singer on the cusp of stardom.


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Written by Holly Smith
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