You know what they say: you can spend your entire life as a performing musician, but compete on one season of the highest-rated singing show in America and that's all people remember you for. Aside from that one time Crystal Bowersox was the runner-up on American Idol, she's best known for her powerfully soulful vocals and rootsy guitar stylings.
"It wasn't for fame and fortune," says Bowersox, of auditioning for American Idol. "It was to provide my son with a better life."
After the birth of her son, Bowersox realized she had a choice: either find a way to support her family with her music, or... Actually there was no second option. "I don't believe in backup plans," says Bowersox. "My whole philosophy in life has always been, there's no plan A or plan B, there's just the plan. The minute you start planning and preparing for failure, then you're doomed for it."
On American Idol, Bowersox's folksy style clashed with the show in a way that made its spectacle seem ridiculous around her. She glided through the competition, standing out for her obvious talent and laid-back nature.
"The weirdest thing was getting used to all of the tricks that Hollywood plays on viewers," says Bowersox. "That's not really what my show is all about. I really like to give the audience the most authentic Crystal experience they can have."
Bowersox's first post-Idol album release, Farmer's Daughter, featured heavily-produced folk/country tracks with the occasional tint of pop. But when a shake-up at RCA led to Bowersox being dropped from Jive records, she found a home with indie label Shanachie Entertainment for her next release, All That for This. Produced by Steve Berlin of Los Lobos, Bowersox's sophomore album boasts a more raw, authentic style than its predecessor; full of mellow Americana with hints of twangy folk and raucous country-rock. Bowersox subsequently followed up with a self-released EP of pre-Idol songs called Promises, and a Christmas single, "Coming Out for Christmas," which was her way of coming out to the world as bisexual.
"Even within the LGBTQ community, there's a lot of misconceptions and misunderstandings when it comes to bisexuality," says Bowersox. "I felt that it was important for me to come out publicly for kids who are struggling with these issues of acceptance, and accepting themselves."
As for her master plan to exploit American Idol for the funds to raise a well-adjusted kid, Bowersox reports general success.
"So far it's looking like he's going to outshine me someday, and I'm perfectly fine with that."
Bowersox is joined at the Bend show with musical musings from Portland artist East Forest.
Volcanic Theatre Pub, 70 SW Century
8 pm, Friday, Feb. 27