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American Idol To Indie Hero. Crystal Bowersox Talks Edgewater, Motherhood and Patsy Cline

crystal1She has come a long way since taking on one of America’s most popular television contests ever. She seemed not to fit in with all the other contestants and that is why we fell in love with her. Through some of the usual bland pop voices,  along came Crystal Bowersox with vocals that seemed to showcase an earthy, classic rock style that was long awaited. The road since has launched her into a world of celebrity and fame. She often felt alone, not knowing who were her true friends and how to cope with the massive influx of attention. She had a difficult time dealing with being away from her child when touring and sadly was divorced from her husband in 2013.

When we met Crystal Bowersox before her gig at Andersonville’s ginormous female-focused Backlot Bash event last week, that confused and vulnerable women was transformed into a focused, self aware person who has progressed into a star. She had traded in the long dreadlocks that had became so identifiable, and opted for a shoulder length flowing blonde mane that seems to announce that she has moved forward and ready to take on the world. I was taken by her peaceful nature that hid a stronger individual inside. She was hospitable, welcoming and approachable. It seemed as though I was chatting with a friend on my back porch talking about life’s trials and tribulations.

Crystal talked about her past, “Right after coming off Idol, I was a bit like a wounded animal. I did not know who I could trust because growing up in the house that I did, with the troubles we had, I already had trust issues. Now all these people who didn’t give a shit before wanted to spend time with me. So I isolated myself and sort of shut the world out.” She continued, “Since then I had a  lot of heart opening experiences and I am not like that anymore. I really enjoy getting to hang out with fans and hearing their stories.”

One of Crystal’s biggest struggles in life has been Type 1 diabetes. Being diagnosed with the disease at six years old, her body has been through a lifetime of difficulties. “Type 2 diabetes can be controlled through diet, I have Type 1 which means if I stop taking insulin, I will die. It’s about being conscious about what you are putting into your body. When I go grocery shopping I don’t go into the aisles, if it is in a box, I don’t buy it. For the most part, it is all about fresh produce, and if it comes in a box and is compostable after you unwrap it, it’s ok.”

crystal2Crystal is familiar with Chicago. She also knows Edgewater (One of  her favorite places to eat is Kopi Cafe) and many of its surrounding neighborhoods where she was a starving artist before American Idol delivered her to the masses. She played 8 hour jams downtown during the day in the subways, and then took to the open mics on the north side in the evenings including Uncommon Ground on Devon.  “I lived all over the north side of Chicago moving almost every year of my adult life. My first apartment was at 1157 Diversey right across from my first real job at Geno’s Pizza, and then moved over to 3734 Pine Grove in Lakeview. I was the hippy chick lugging her bike and guitar around. I lived off Lunt in Rogers Park and then in Wicker Park and Bucktown. I had to get a taste of every hood.”

Most of all, Crystal is a mother to a five year old boy whom she has issues with because tours take her away from home often. “this is my biggest struggle because I am doing what I love but it often takes me away from my child. I am a single mom and it is expensive to have a nanny. I do not not have a partner right now to take care of the home front so he has to stay with grandma, grandpa, aunts and uncles while I am on the road for weeks at a time. He has asked me to quit several times now and I explain I would if I could. However this Fall he is coming on the road with mama.” She furthered,  “He is going through a lot right now because I am recently divorced and he is still dealing with that, but you just have to constantly surround them with love and let them know that they are safe. That’s what is most important – that they feel safe.”

With all that is going on in her life, Crystal is about to hit Broadway in “Always, Patsy Cline” playing the country icon herself. This could be a game changer for her as she will most definately dig within to become the tortured singer who made music that is timeless. “It is a wonderful play by Ted Swindley that has done very well in other playhouses across the country. Right now we are waiting for the final script, the producers and director to all come on board.” Crystal feels connected with Patsy Cline, “She was bad ass. She was the first woman to wear pants at the Grand Ole Opry. They told her to go home and change, and she said, ‘well I’m not singing.’  So they let her out there and she changed history for women in country music. Women were always looked at as this lesser, pretty little thing back then and she was just a powerhouse who opened the doors for every female after her.”

Crystal Bowersox has a bright future ahead. As we listened to her perform with her soulful voice that led to powerhouse finales, we realized that this women is here to stay. She has a uniquely strong voice and beautiful stories that need to be heard. She told me to “Say yes to the Universe” and let everything that comes your way inside. To just enjoy the ride. My time with Crystal was incredible and if I have to say, I think I have a little Gay boy crush.

Special Thanks to Angie Frank, Amie Klujian and Christina Weismore for making this interview happen. Your’e the best!

 


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