Photo: Nick Stelo
With every breath, it looked as if Lauren Sanderson was filling her car interior with electricity. Every slight movement of her animated face, as she reminisced on not just the past year but the years before, further heightened that growing electric surge. It felt unsafe, for the car possibly, but more for any passerbys unawares of the dynamo within. The irony of our virtual exchange, powered by Zoom and cellular energy outside my understanding, was not lost on me, but still, the energy she seemed to radiate now felt palpable. Lauren has always exuded a pulse of purpose, so I'm partially expecting this, happy for it, as I expect most of her avid fanbase would be, but I quickly learn that her post-pandemic self is set to a different charge.
The introspection of the pandemic period gave most of us a rare glimpse into our pace and direction, and for Lauren that meant taking that endless external energy that defined her music and live shows and directing it inwards. She best explains that the music industry shutdown of the COVID-era reoriented her value sets; made it an opportune time to question why, what, and how frantically she was lunging towards her goals. The pause allowed her to develop internal monologue that wasn't just about music but being "more gentle with myself," dedicated not just to an endless horizon, the perpetual grind but creating a relationship with herself.
And this internal conversation started to show. She paused more between queries, seemed comfortable not knowing anything with an exactness I had previously expected. She explained that this ability to reflect made her more honest, able to champion more voices, to listen to the multiplicity of her interests. That possibly contributed to her being so visibly supportive of the Black Lives Movement that reached a fever pitch last year, clearly unperturbed about any consequences physically, emotionally, or financially for supporting a cause she felt was just.
The genesis of this arc can be traced back to Indiana, a land famed for its basketball prodigies but not its PRIDE parades. The Hoosier State might have been naive to wider LBGTQ politics, but Lauren was not, feeling early on, "I don't know, I think I'm gay lol." Midwestern support was hard to find in-person but less so online, and soon she was chatting away with friends states away.
Lauren's first date is as much an amazing tribute to her father as anything else. After driving hours to met her virtual date in person at a Red Lobster, she sat awkwardly in silence until they both excused themselves to the bathroom, whereby a lengthy kissing session took place. After an extended period, Lauren returned to the table and her dad without missing a beat, quipped, "What were y'all doing in there? Making out lol?" With a family supportive of who she was and is, Lauren has since become her own version of a queer icon, proud in her own unique way, unconstrained and vocal.
All that to say, Lauren remains one of our favorite artists, one needing to be heard, needing to be watched, needing to be championed as she so courageous does others. To thank her, do what we intend to do: like all her posts, listen to all her music on repeat, pet her dog if you see her on the street, and comment how great her haircut is.