Lauren Duski, the 25-year-old singer/songwriter from Gaylord is one of the most promising stars on this season of NBC’s hit show, The Voice. Her unique take on fellow Interlochen alum Jewel’s “You Were Meant For Me” prompted a three-chair turn and guaranteed her an initial spot in Season 12. We chat with Lauren about the crazy journey so far, The Voice coaches (she chose Team Blake), and the fact that Traverse Magazine is one of her favorite magazines ever. C’mon—this girl is going places!
Tune in Monday and Tuesdays at 8 p.m on NBC, and watch Lauren in the battle rounds next week! Catch up on episodes here.
Oh my gosh, I was so excited to see Traverse Magazine on my schedule today! I’ve always loved the magazine; it just really captures the essence of our state, that area specifically and the fact that it is such a gem.
So where are you right now? Are you in the midst of filming the season or are you on a break?
I am back in Nashville … I live here full time. We film in LA, but I’m back out here. (… Yes, we were so tempted to dig about when (if?) she was headed back to LA, but we begrudgingly refrained.)
You were the second contestant to take the stage for this new season … what was the buildup like to that moment?
Pretty intense! I tried to stay as focused as possible. I rehearsed my song over 100 times. I didn’t want to have to think about my song, I just had to feel it. Luckily, my parents were right there and I could see them, and that was great. It is super dry out in LA and I tried drinking like a gallon of water a day. I had to mentally get in the zone. It is easy for me to stand in my own way. I just had to keep reminding myself that no matter what happens, it’s ok, you get to go back to Nashville and keep doing music.
What has surprised you the most about being on the show?
I underestimated the love and support from the fans of the show. I knew it was going to get pretty crazy, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read a comment and lost it. Bawled my eyes out! People are so kind and that has always been my goal as an artist: to get my voice out to the world. I’m so thankful to get to be a part of Season 12.
What are the coaches like? The friendly competition this year is just insane, and obviously with Blake and Gwen dating there is a lot of fun chemistry. What’s your first-hand take?
They are incredibly kind. Gwen Stefani and Alicia Keys are two of the most beautiful women, they just have an aura around them. Alicia Keys just resonates kindness and beauty without a lick of makeup on. Gwen is so gorgeous. They make you feel at ease. Blake is just as funny as you see on TV. You literally feel the love every time you’re with them.
Thoughts on other contestants?
We have such an incredible group of people on this season; incredible stories, heartbreaking stories. I get very emotional about it. The best part about this show has been how it’s a very positive environment. I was very optimistic anyway, and then I get there and I start having conversations with these people. And truly, to the core, they are some of the best humans I have ever met. I can’t describe the support and love we have for each other. It is not a competition. We are all artists trying to make it and share our hearts with the world. The next round is the battle round and even in these situations … it brings out, I don’t know … we have never had to compete for our art. That is really challenging for us. It is uncharted territory, but it has brought out the best in a lot of people. They are definitely family to me. I am very lucky to have them.
You are from Northern Michigan—Gaylord to be exact—tell me a little about growing up there.
I was born in Maine, but I’ve spent 18 years in Gaylord. My parents practice dentistry together in Gaylord. They are both from Michigan, so we moved back [from Maine] when I was one. I’ve traveled around the state a lot performing music. My family was all about getting out too, taking drives to Traverse City, going on different scenic routes. My family always wanted to get out and explore all the state had to offer.
Your parents seem incredibly supportive; they are medical professionals, though, which is something you thought about pursuing yourself—you even went to U of M for their pre-dentistry program. What did they say when you changed course, ended up in Nashville, and now find yourself a strong contender on The Voice?
When I was little—I get a little choked up thinking about the support even back then—I was always encouraged to follow my dreams. I always held on to music, but you always wonder, as a young person, if that is the right path. My parents always encouraged me to follow my dream—whether that was dentistry or whatever. I always wanted to help people too, which I have totally seen them do in their profession. I made a decision to go to school and essentially have a backup plan, but decided my junior year to pursue music full time after graduation and I haven’t looked back. I knew that I had to follow my heart. I think my family was more surprised that I didn’t drop out—they weren’t surprised that I chose to follow music.
What are your favorite Up North spots?
We currently live on Mullett Lake in Indian River as of the last 6 or 7 years. I am obsessed with that area: Indian River, Burt River. I’ve spent a lot of time in Holland and I love the whole west side of the state. Sleeping Bear Dunes is like something out of a dream. I love it! Also, I really enjoy the wine! Now that I’m of age and can talk about this, it’s been so fun to show my friends that side of Michigan. I’ve spent a lot of time in Ann Arbor and, culturally, it is such a gem, and such a cool place to go to school. Northern Michigan especially, though, is such a hidden gem … people kind of look at me like I’m crazy when I talk about Michigan. A lot of people just don’t understand!
You went to Interlochen for a bit and were also able to perform around the state as a young artist: what are some of those highlights?
I was involved in the summer camp program at Interlochen as a nine-year-old. As a kid, it was really musically stimulating. I had never been around that many talented people and so many different forms of people. The girl I shared a bunk with was a cello player, so learning about classical music and attending the symphony, I was just sitting in awe. It was one of the best summers of my life!
Around nine I started playing with a country band; we played for Lone Star, Randy Travis, Confederate Railroad. As a kid, I would get up there and think this is the coolest thing ever. I could see how music resonated with people and I got totally hooked.
Little Lauren was fearless. She was sassy, singing these Reba McIntire songs, just belting them out. Big dreams like music are not necessarily socially accepted, though; as a kid middle school is a really tough time. I stopped performing as a 13-year-old. My parents bought me a guitar during that period, and my bedroom became my sanctuary for music. It was the place I grew as an artist and a singer-songwriter. It’s taken years to get past the nervousness that grew out of that insecure period. My junior year in college, we opened up for Gloriana in Thompson Square, Michigan. That lit the fire in me again as far as performing goes. And then, I had the opportunity to come down to Nashville and record some music.
Have you talked with Joshua Davis at all about his recent experience as a Northern Michigan contender on The Voice?
I haven’t! I haven’t had the opportunity, but I plan on reaching out.
What kind of artist do you lean toward? What do you personally listen to most?
I listen to all kinds of genres; I love Maren Morris, Keith Urban, The Brothers Osbourne to name a few. If we’re talking true artistry and staying true to yourselves, those are who I am really inspired by and listen to. I love alternative rock. Ryan Adams is one of my favorite artists of all time.
Last song you listened to?
This morning! “Prisoner” by Ryan Adams off his new record.
So do you think this is going to be the best season ever on The Voice?
Hands down! Calling it right now! My girl, Danielle Bradbury killed it on her season, but this season is going to be off the hook!