Following the “American Idol” finale, runner-up Crystal Bowersox made it abundantly clear that she had no plans to carry on the tradition of releasing a shiny, happy debut album. And it turns out she was a woman of her word.
Because her post-“Idol” bow, Farmer’s Daughter, which dropped Tuesday (December 14), is anything but traditional, at least not in the Seacrest-ian sense of the word. Of the 12 songs on the disc, she wrote eight (and co-wrote two more) and worked exclusively with not only producer David Bendeth — who’s twiddled knobs for the likes of Paramore and As I Lay Dying — but a team of crack studio musicians, including Jeff Kazee, Tommy Byrnes and Chuck Burgi, who have logged time with Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen and the Blue Oyster Cult, to name just a few.
It’s a soulful, crackling album, full of the kind of big vocals (and even bigger ideals ) that won her a legion of fans during her run on “Idol.” In short, it is very much the kind of album only she could have made — so long as she stuck to her guns. And for additional proof of all this, fans need look no further than the first single, the solemn and scathing title track. In it, Bowersox details her tumultuous — and abusive — relationship with her mother (sample line: “Honor thy mother/ And father too/ But I know there ain’t no way in hell that God mentioned you”) over little more than a spare guitar line. Not surprisingly, the folks at Jive didn’t want it to be the first song out of the chute — they were angling for “Hold On,” a song co-written by Kara DioGuardi and Nickelback’s Chad Kroeger — but Bowersox was adamant. And, in the end, she won.
“It wasn’t necessarily a battle, win or lose, it was more of just convincing the label that putting ’Farmer’s Daughter’ out as the first single was the best choice, as far as representing me as an artist and a songwriter,” she told MTV News. ” ’Hold On’ is a great song — it’s the safe choice — and I didn’t want to just do the cookie-cutter, safe choice. Nothing to discredit the song, I gave it my best shot, I hope I did Kara and Chad proud, but as far as a first single goes, ’Farmer’s Daughter’ was the right choice, and I had to slowly get the label to agree with that, and they did.”
And after getting them to agree, Bowersox had to prepare herself for the fact that, for the foreseeable future, at least, she’d be performing “Farmer’s Daughter” — and airing her family’s dirty laundry — in front of millions while doing the promo rounds. But, once again, she didn’t flinch.
“Well, it is a darker song, it’s just … bluntly and brutally honest, though. Sometimes you can’t handle the truth; I’m OK with it,” she smiled. “When I wrote the song is when all of those emotions left me. I don’t carry them around in my heart. It’s not part of me as a person … so every time I sing the song, it floods back in, which gives passion for the performance, but when the song’s over, I’m back to smiling, happy, bubbly me.”
So while she didn’t win “American Idol,” Bowersox can look back on everything that’s happened since as one gigantic victory. She made her album her way. She fought the label to get her single heard first, and now, she can sing her demons right out of her life. The past is the past, after all. With Farmer’s Daughter, Bowersox is pushing hard and heavy into the future.
“It was a dark time for all of us growing up … but I think in the long run, it’s being honest and telling our story,” she said. “The song’s a healing song … and once you start to talk about any issues you’re having, these childhood issues, you can begin to heal.”
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