Performing is second nature to local singer Jessica Lauren, who has was steeped in music from an early age. Even as a small child, she exhibited a certain spunk from her homemade stage, her parents acting as her audience. The Little Rock native laughs as she mentions VHS tape recordings of her growing up, labeled – “The Jessica Show.”
It’s also in her blood.
“I was born with music in me and it’s just always found its way out. My father is a singer and has been in one band or another–at times four or five at once–since before my conception,” she says. Plus, there are family stories of Lauren developing a love for bass before she was even born.
“No one was surprised when I was obsessed with Dr. Dre and Snoop at the age of 10,” she laughs. Beyond Dre and Snoop, though, Lauren loves the greats, divas like Etta James, Peggy Lee, Nina Simone and Anita Baker.
Like most young musicians, Lauren wanted to be a rock star when she grew up, maybe even a veterinarian too. But she eventually decided that should would be a world-changer.
She says, “I wanted to make peace around me from a very young age. That understanding informs everything I undertake now. I have a degree in Psychology, teach high school English, do voiceover work, play in two bands, and sing at my church. I fancy myself a bit of a renaissance gal.”
She could still claim the rock star moniker, however, as Lauren did eventually find her way to a stage. Five years ago, she began performing with a friend which progressed organically as she met more local artists. She also got involved with the two bands she now performs with – The Rockets and The Marchese-Hendricks Project, and has been playing local stages for about three years.
Lauren has a lot of love for the local scene and the current goings-on in Rock City’s music world. If you delved into her current musical library she would have offerings from John Willis and The Late Romantics, Sean West, and Epiphany. She says, “John is a friend and we get to sing together every Sunday at Argenta UMC. He inspires me greatly in his authenticity and commitment to making fresh, real, and interesting music.”
She’s been a little obsessed with Sean West’s newest CD, playing it nonstop. “It’s great and the features from Goines, Sarah Stricklin, 607, and ItsJusBobby are really strong,” she says. She also sees Epiphany as revolutionizing Arkansas music, and is excited to have a feature on his new work “I Am Not Them.”
Don’t think for a second Lauren is attempting to name-drop with her long list of local favorites. She says, “I think it’s important to recognize those who make us want to be better. These folks are growing the Arkansas music scene and they deserve to be heard.”
Even though many speak negatively of Arkansas’ scene, Lauren has a positive outlook. She says, “The only thing holding us back from national/international acclaim is ourselves. I think the minute promoters, folks booking shows, and artists decide to communicate with one another in a selfless way–a way that considers the good of the community over the good of the self, we will have the scene we dream of.”
This may not be easy, as she notes, “We have to show up for each other, quit double-booking, put our money in each other’s pockets, and work collaboratively as often as possible.”
If you’re looking to catch her at a show, follow the Rockets, who she plays with frequently each month. She sometimes also makes appearances at the #DrummerboyInfinity shows Cliff Aaron produces. “These are always packed to the gills with local talent and incredibly fun to participate in. I am honored any time I get to share my craft with others. It fills my spirit and rejuvenates me,” she says.
To hear some of her tunes, check out the solo album “Becoming.” There won’t be another like it, as in the future, Lauren hopes to collaborate with others. In the meantime, she’s really happy and plans to keep on doing what she’s doing – teaching by day and taking stages by night.
“In the last few years I’ve discovered that my purpose on this planet is to unite diverse groups of people and be a peacemaker. That’s why I find myself still teaching 9th grade after 5 years in the American public school system. … I am determined to be the change I want to see. I love my day job and I love my art,” she says.