Lauren Crosby has heard it all. Growing up in the fishing village of Georgetown and its surrounding islands, with a lobsterman father, she listened to the salty language of the other fishermen and women after they’d hauled their catch in, at the corner store, by the docks and in the parking lots around town. She’s heard every kind of Maine turn of phrase imaginable.
That bluntness, that humor and those imaginative similes found their way into her songs, which she’s has just recently released on her debut self-titled album, out last month and currently available on Bandcamp.
“I’m really fortunate to come from a really tight knit island community,” said Crosby. “I grew up with a bunch of fisherman. Nothing scares me. I don’t get intimidated. I’ll talk about whatever.”
At the tender age of 20, Crosby is a remarkably self-assured singer-songwriter. With a jazz-inflected, conversational, attention-grabbing singing style and lyrics that draw directly from her roots writing poetry, Crosby stands out from other young Maine songwriters if only for the fact that she’s not afraid to tell it like it is. Think the wordy, emotional songwriting of Fiona Apple, crossed with the wry, laser-sharp observations of Joni Mitchell, with a voice that brings to mind alt-folk heroes Anais Mitchell or Joanna Newsom.
Crosby grew up not in a musical family, but in a house filled with music, with a constant array of albums being put on by her parents, grandparents and two sisters.
“None of us are musicians, but there was constantly music on in my house,” said Crosby, now a sophomore at the University of Maine in Farmington. “My dad always listened to Johnny Cash and Irish music and sea shanties. My mom loves James Taylor and Crosby, Still & Nash. My nana is a Deadhead. We listened to Bob Marley. We listened to classic rock. We listened to classical music. I was very fortunate to grow up in a house like that.”
Crosby’s passion at first was her poetry, until in middle school she began singing with her then-boyfriend, a guitarist, with whom she performed at open mics and coffeeshops as a duo until they broke up during her senior year at Morse High School in Bath. It was then that she picked up the guitar for herself.
“I felt liberated. I decided to do my own thing. The lyrics came easily, and I was already a singer… I knew I just had to kind of jump in and try it,” said Crosby. “I’ve always felt comfortable performing. I’ve been playing in bars and coffeeshops since I was a kid. This past summer I was playing five or six gigs a week. It’s all I want to do.”
On her album, Crosby’s songs sway from the melancholic tribute to her sea-faring family and coastal childhood, “Sell It To The Sea,” to the charming love song that’s not a love song, “If I Married a Musician, I’d Kill Him,” to the road diary and ode to being on your own, “Good Girls Go To Heaven, Bad Girls Go Everywhere.”
Crosby’s already criss-crossed the country a few times, first to spend a semester studying at the University of Memphis in Tennessee, and then in San Francisco, after winning a songwriting competition in 2013 held by Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead. Crosby flew out to his studio in San Rafael to record for a few weeks. Some of those tracks are featured on her new album; the rest of the tracks were recorded at Frog Hollow Studio in Brunswick with songwriter Jud Caswell. In January, she’ll spend another semester at a different college, this time in New Mexico.
“I’m glad that I’m in college and that it’s given me the opportunity to travel and learn. I’d love to teach English later in life. My parents told me that I had to finish college and I’m going to, but right now I just want to play music,” said Crosby. “It stresses me out. I want to travel and tour and support myself. I already got to quit my job last summer and just play music and do that for a living. That’s my dream. I just want to make music.”
Lauren Crosby will play at Harry’s Harvest Ball in Starks on Oct. 5, and at the Daniel & Coast Bar in Brunswick on Oct. 17. For more information, visit her Reverb Nation page.