Be sure to purchase your last-minute tickets and come out to the University of Tennessee Southern campus green tomorrow (Thursday) at 7 p.m. for another installment of the amazing concert series The Songwriters Dream, featuring Shenandoah front man Marty Raybon; songwriter Mitch Rossell, who has had much chart-topping success through Garth Brooks’ resurging post-retirement career; and former Voice contestant Lauren Duski.
Duski grew up in northern Michigan where there was not a big Country music scene for a girl who would gravitate toward the genre.
“Unfortunately, there’s not a lot going on for the Country music scene there, as far as while I was growing up,” Duski said.
“My mom always tells me that from the moment I was able to make sounds, even before I could talk, I was always humming and singing. She would have Days of Our Lives or the Little Mermaid on in the background and I singing along. My mom is the biggest reason why I got into music. She would ask me as a kid, ‘Lauren, sing this’. Growing up my mom and dad listened to a lot of Bob Seger. I loved Bob’s voice and storytelling. I listened to a lot of Jackson Browne and James Taylor. Luckily, in my house, we listened to a lot of 1990s Country, especially the women of Country. Jo Dee Messina was my favorite, along with Martina McBride and Faith Hill. I love those classic voices like Johnny Cash, Garth Brooks and George Strait.”
Like her natural pull to singing, Duski’s knack for song-writing also came pretty early in life.
“I began songwriting when I was 13,” Duski said.
“You know, you are pretty fearless as a kid, so I continued to write and play a few years after that. But right around high school is when I began to face some pretty serious insecurities. Music was not the cool thing to do at the small Catholic school that I attended. So, I honestly started playing music pretty privately from my room from then on out.”
Due to this, Duski decided to attend the University of Michigan rather than pursuing her musical dreams and aspirations.
“I thought that direction would be a lot more practical, so I kind of gave up on the dream,” Duski said.
“Toward my senior year of college, there were some crazy things and a few important people that came into my life, I call them my angels, that encouraged me not to go to dental school. They said that is the worst idea you could have ever had and you should really pursue music. If it had not been for them, I would probably be at a practice right now treating patients.”
In pursuit of her Country music dream, Duski made a major move to Music City U.S.A., Nashville, back in 2013, and, after a few years of battling her confidence demons, embarked upon a journey that would launch her career.
“I would say that for the first three years here, I was still facing some confidence issues,” Duski said. “It took, yet again, an angel named Ann, right around the time ‘The Voice’ reached out to me to audition. She told me, ‘If you do not audition, I will never forgive you.’ So, I thought, well I am definitely going to have to do this, but I never thought anything was going to come from it.”
That 2017 season audition would eventually land her on Country superstar and show judge Blake Shelton’s team as well as the season finale and first runner-up.
“I blinked and somehow found myself on the finale stage and have been taking it very serious ever since,” Duski said.
“I have been really lucky this dream never stopped chasing me. It really never left me any choice and I am very grateful. Through ‘The Voice’ I learned that I was capable of a lot more than I really had ever believed I was. I had really not been on stage for about seven years prior to auditioning. When the pressure is on and it is time to go, you really can accomplish more than you think you can. I learned not to focus on the end or what the potential is. I learned to just focus on each moment and enjoy the journey, because it went by so quick. I never thought I would have made it to the end, but then there you are on the finale stage and then it is over. It was a remarkable experience.”
The biggest highlight of Duski’s musical journey and success thus far has been the connection to fellow artists through friendships and musical collaboration.
“Through ‘The Voice,’ I got to meet so many incredible people,” Duski said.
“I learned through this to believe in what they say when someone is encouraging you. I am really bad at taking compliments. So, when you have someone like Blake Shelton or Alicia Keys really encouraging you and giving you advice, sometimes it feels so hard to believe. They were so invested. Blake really paid attention to my voice and influences. He really helped me find my path in song selection and my journey through the show. He was so intentional in picking songs for the show, like ‘Ghost in This House,’ which is how I met Marty Raybon for the first time. I remember reading over the lyrics and thinking if it was not for Blake, I would not get to share a song this powerful and emotional. It was incredible. And in full transparency, Marty, who will be at this show, has been one of the most encouraging and best humans I have ever met. His advice has been so fruitful. I am so grateful for every opportunity to listen to him. He has the best advice. One of my favorite moments of my career thus far was getting to talk to him for the first time. I was in total disbelief he had even heard of me.”
Despite being a 21st century Country music singer-songwriter, Duski draws her inspiration from the well of those artists and records of years gone by that she grew up listening to, as well as real life experiences.
“Today, I do go back to those musical influences I had growing up,” Duski said.
“My heart never gave me a choice other than singing and writing Country music. Every time I open my mouth to sing or sit down to write a song, it is Country music. I believe in Country music so much because it has always been rooted in story and painting a picture for the audience.
“I tend to gravitate to those songs that rip your heart out. Those are the songs that move me the most and I want to be a part of that in any way I can.
“For me, as far as the writing, I struggle if I am not experiencing something myself. It is hard for me to just pick an idea out of thin air. It is easier to write about it when your heart has been through it.
“Everyone has an artist inside of them. You just have to sit down in the silence for a little bit and you will surprise yourself what will come. It is really incredible what will happen. The silence is where some of my favorite ideas and lines have come from. The less you think about it the better.”
Duski is excited that her first non-virtual show since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic is SWD, as an intimate songwriters round is her preferred performance style.
“I love shows like this due to being able to talk with people, because I struggle when the audience is not able to connect with the artist,” Duski said.
“I prefer this type of show, because I like hearing the story behind the song before you hear it. It is going to be a treat for me and I am looking forward to it.
“Music has always been an escape for people, including myself. Just getting out of the house, being around people and listening to music can be the best medicine and escape. This will be the highlight of my year so far.”
Duski is excited about her work on recording and releasing songs she wrote during the pandemic as well as future performance dates. Those wishing to listen to Duski’s music can do so through all major streaming and social media platforms as well purchasing tickets for tomorrow evening’s UTS performance.