Lauren Pritchard may be the American answer to Adele and Duffy, right down to sharing producer Francis “Eg” White with the British neosoul queens. However, her roots in Americana are what set her music apart.
Born in Jackson, Tennessee, Pritchard’s music is a diary of her life until now, with healthy doses of heartache and reflection on her smalltown upbringing. Pritchard’s husky voice recalls a modern-day Dusty Springfield. It was her turn as Ilse in the Tony-winning Broadway musical Spring Awakening that brought her a wider audience. After three years in New York, she left the show to concentrate on her music, meeting White through a record deal and eventually holing up in west London to produce Wasted in Jackson. Though Pritchard plays piano on the record, White plays a major instrumental role, including most of the drums, bass, guitars, Hammond organ, programming and backing vocals, plus arranging real strings and horns. The result is a knockout—a timeless collection of swaggering soul that gives Pritchard an amazing start to her solo career. The writing is mature beyond her 23 years, matching her voice’s seasoned gravitas and her music’s emotional impact.
As a child, Pritchard idolized an older cousin who danced, sang, and played piano. “I just wanted to be her,” recalls Pritchard. “I wonder what my life would be like if she hadn’t been there to inspire me.” Though no one in her immediate family was musically inclined, her grandparents had a piano, as did a family friend. Her parents listened to a lot of the popular music of the day, but it was Billy Joel who held a special interest for her. “My Dad loved Billy and would always play 52ndStreet while driving us to ballet lessons,” she says. “I think it’s the best album, though I always seem to listen to The Stranger the most. It doesn’t get any better than those two.”
As an inspired young songwriter, Pritchard moved to California in her teens, struggling in the often-harsh L.A. scene until landing the Broadway show took her to New York. Those years of nonstop performance honed her skills, but she’ll be the first to tell you that performing on Broadway and fronting a band are different pursuits. “The thing that being on Broadway taught me the most was what my limits are and what my endurance is,” she says. “Broadway’s a tough schedule—eight shows a week, six days a week. It teaches you that you have to take care of yourself and do the preparation.” That includes getting into the mindset of the part you’re playing. “On Broadway, you’re playing a character. On the album, I’m playing myself, which really is nice. You don’t have to worry about your character analysis.” Part of her work ethic stemmed from the ballet dancing she studied in her youth. “I grew up doing classical ballet until I was 16,” she says. “From a very young age, ballet taught me discipline. I was always playing the piano and singing as well. Classical piano and ballet are very regimented, and you have to put in the practice or you don’t see results.”
One listen to Wasted in Jackson will show you those results. Live, Pritchard is captivating, and there’s no doubt that her talents are genuine, not the product of studio chicanery. You can’t fake this kind of mojo.