SXSW Interview: Lauren Sanderson on the importance of vulnerability and authenticity

Last Tuesday night, Vevo House at SXSW showcased three emerging performers in front of a packed crowd. Among them was LA based Lauren Sanderson, who made waves last August with her breakthrough EP DONT PANIC! – her second to drop last year, but first to be released through Epic Records, and featuring tracks like “The Only One”.

We sat down at Vevo House with Lauren to learn more about the rising talent, whose musical output already goes back a few years, but now finds herself on the cusp of international stardom.

Welcome to the Vevo House.

Thank you.

We’re just saying, you just got in yesterday. Is this the only show you’re doing?

Yeah. This is a quick stop by, and then I’m gonna go home and keep working on my project.

So, what are you working on at the moment? The next record?

Yeah, currently working on the next project, and it’ll be good. My last project (DONT PANIC!) was my first project with my label, so this one is I feel a little bit more comfortable, a little bit more free, and a little bit more … I just want it to be truly expressive and authentic.

When you say more free, I mean, what do you mean by that? Did you not feel that with DONT PANIC!?

I think DONT PANIC! was free, but I wanna take it to the next level of depth and me, ’cause I’m at a point in my life where I’ve truly never been this vulnerable. I’m kind of learning vulnerability and how important it is to be available to other people, and even to myself. So, I want this next project to be a lot more vulnerable and just take it to a deeper level.

Does having the support of a label and having other people involved actually facilitate that, and make it easier to achieve what you want to achieve?

As far as being vulnerable? Or just as a whole?

As a whole.

As a whole, of course. I think it’s dope having a label, because whatever … really whatever you need, they’re there to help you out with that. As far as the emotional aspect of it, I think it’s cool being with Epic, because they truly support any emotion that I’m trying to express, any genre, any way I’m trying to express it, they can back that. As long as I think that we’re both putting in 100%, I think that there’s no doubt it’ll just soar.

Have you gotten to meet with and work with other co-writers and producers, and all this other stuff as well?

Yeah, on this project, one of my favourite producers, his name is Keith Varon, then I’ve been working with Bizness Boi, who does Rae Sremmurd, PARTYNEXTDOOR and stuff like that. That’s more in the R&B world, and then, yeah working with a few writers, but I just wanna make sure that my songs stay me, and truly authentic, my story, my vision and everything like that.

Which it feels like you’ve been doing pretty well to now.

Yeah.

I mean, these are personal songs.

What you know about that? What you know about that? *laughs*

So we’re barely scratching the surface, is what you’re saying?

More that it’s always gonna be that way. I could never release a song that I even felt a little bit not authentic about, I could never release something that wasn’t so true to me that it told a certain story, or talked about a certain place in my life and everything like that. So, yeah, fuck all the fakes. Fuck all the fake shit, I’m not about it, I just wanna do real stuff.

Is that ever difficult though? To put yourself in that situation where, you know, you might have a recording session at 3:00 on a Friday afternoon, and you know you’ve gotta get in there for that, and get in that mindset.

Honestly, the more vulnerable I’m getting, it is kinda difficult, ’cause you do have to truly relive experiences, relive memories, that you have with certain people, and not everything is just, you know, not everything is just on the surface like *da da da*, talking about whatever.

I treat my music like it’s my best friend.

It’s like, okay, I remember this one time, I was driving down the road with this girl and da da da, it’s deeper, and it’s just more emotional. But, as far as is it hard to truly put in the work? No, I’m so committed to this, this is a relationship to me, I treat my music like it’s my best friend. I’m there all the time, I wanna make it all the time, I don’t care what time, what day, I’m in there. Yeah.

I mean, the production on DONT PANIC! was phenomenal.

You liked it?

I loved it. I mean, it’s something that I only came across probably about a month ago though – it feels like you’re just starting to reach corners like Australia.

Yeah! It’s kind of weird, it’s kind of crazy. ‘Cause on Spotify too, you can see the map of where people listen to your stuff, and I did see Australia, Brazil, Paris, it’s like “Whoa, that’s crazy.”

So where do you see things going for you over the next year? Is there international touring planned?

I hope. I definitely am gonna finish this project, which I don’t know the title yet, I’m still trying to figure it out, but it’s gonna be vulnerable, and I’m excited. I want it to be right, so that when I can go on the tour, it can match that level of vulnerability, because before, I’ve just wanted to do like tour, tour, tour, like as many tours as I possibly can. I really wanna protect it, and treat it like it is vulnerable. Now I really wanna open up for somebody too.

Any bucket list artists you’d love to open up for?

Oh, I wanna open up for LANY or Blackbear, or who else? Yungblud would be cool, Halsey would be cool…. I think that would be my realm. I think it would be really easy for me to connect with their fan bases, and my number one rule is I do not … I will never be put on some random tour.

Yeah. It’s gotta be the right fit.

Yeah I’ve gotten a few opportunities, and I’m like, “That’s just not it, it’s not right, and I don’t think their fans would appreciate it.”

I’m dedicated to bringing three million percent energy.

So, tell me a little bit about the live set, how has that evolved? And what are we gonna see tonight at the Vevo House?

So, tonight’s gonna be amazing. I’m dedicated to bringing three million percent energy. All the jumping and whatever, and I actually saw some supporters standing outside my trailer that came seven hours away. So, and they’re just gonna listen to it from outside, which is absolutely crazy. But I actually started with just me and a track, and then next, I actually met my drummer on Instagram, ’cause I was like, “I’m looking for a drummer, blah, blah, blah.” He emailed me, aka my fake manager at the time, which is me, and he was like, “I would literally quit my job right now to play drums for Lauren.” I was like, “Well, can you send Lauren a quick video of you?” So, then he did, and then drove 30 hours, then we toured together.

Wow.

Yeah, very insane. Then it eventually is now growing into me, my drummer and a track. Then I think on my next tour, I’m gonna do a mini pad, so I’m gonna do my own stuff too. I really wanna look for a keys player. I think it would be dope.

So it’s ever evolving. I assume as well, as you’re in the studio working on new music, you’re thinking about that as well. It’s like, “How do I take this to the next level?”

For sure. My biggest thing is I do wanna keep evolving, and everything I do, I don’t want anything I do to just feel like I did it to do it. I want it to feel put together, and genuinely thought about, and I want people to be able to tell how much effort and care I put into it, you know? I always tell the label, I’m like, “I don’t give a shit how much money you’re offering me, or what brand or whatever, if it’s not me, I’m not doing it.” I just can’t, ’cause I’ve built up this brand, and it’s just an authentic fan base for so long, why the fuck would I ruin that now?

You know, it feels to me though that that’s been the case from day one.

Yeah. Yeah, it has, and that’s I think what my supporters know me well for. It’s got to be me.

Speaking of dedication, I notice your album title (DONT PANIC!) tattooed on the neck. I have to ask – is a Hitchhiker’s reference?

Well, it wasn’t, actually. But then it was like … everyone was like, “Is that from the movie, Hitchhiker’s of the Galaxy?” I was like, “What’s that?” Then I watched the movie!

Irrespective, it’s an important sentiment.

It really is. I mean, in a way, this is making fun of life…. how serious people take it. There are ups and downs and all the cliché quotes. But at the end of the day, you have to be happy, and you cannot let other people get in the way of that. I mean, it’s just that simple, as cliché or whatever as it may sound, it’s just like to the point, that’s what it is.

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DONT PANIC! is available now. For more on the artist, head to her YouTube Channel, or her Facebook Page.

Photo by the author.

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Larry Heath

Founding Editor of the AU review. You can find him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.