America’s next musical sweetheart, à la an early Taylor Swift, could very well be Lauren Black. The 22-year-old Aliso Viejo songstress pairs her sweet, soft voice with an acoustic guitar to create cover songs that have gained her popularity on YouTube and have won her competitions.
Black, who also performs original music and says she began singing before she could talk, won MTV’s International Cover of the Month competition in June with a rendition of Machine Gun Kelly’s “At My Best.” She worked with LA-based performer IDRISE on a toned-down take on the song and the slickly produced video, which also showcases Black’s emotional acting chops. Soon after it was released on YouTube, MTV contacted her to let her know it was holding a contest for Machine Gun Kelly covers. “That blew my mind,” she says of the support that began flowing in. “People would tag me on Instagram and show they just voted, like, 20,000 times in one day. That’s crazy. How do your fingers not fall off? It was crazy how much the support grew.”
But encouragement is not unfamiliar to the musician who spent her childhood in Arizona before moving to Orange County. In 2010, she won Alice Cooper’s Proof Is in the Pudding Competition; her prize was opening for the Grammy-nominated, Hall of Fame rocker. “I never get nervous, but I was a little bit that day,” she recalls. “I think I would have been fine if my mom hadn’t invited everyone I know.”
Now, her audiences are mostly visitors to luxury South County coastal resorts—including the St. Regis, Montage, La Casa Del Camino and Skyloft—where she plays weekly residences. In her spare time she also does private events and weddings.
Her first EP of original songs, One More Time With Feeling, was released last September on DNT Entertainment. Though she’s made a splash by churning out heartfelt covers by artists such as Banks, James Bay and Chainsmokers, her talent for original songwriting isn’t lost in the mix. The single “Scope,” a toe-tapping tour de force of contemporary country, was named runner-up in the Nashville Songwriters Association International’s 2016 competition, hosted by CMT. Tracks such as “You Gotta Be the One” and “Snowflake” also showcase Black’s experiences as a young twentysomething wading through the murky waters of life via her crystalline voice and open heart.
She supports her music through performing about five times a week, as well as private investors. Black worked with manager Dani Thompson to draft a 20-page business plan that allows her to retain creative control.
“I think in today’s day and age, it’s very possible to stay independent and still reach your goals,” she says. “When you’re an independent musician, there’s a lot of competition with major labels. It’s really hard to stay motivated and find something that makes you stand out. At the same time, I’ve just met really amazing people, especially when I moved to California at 18. I was mentally prepared for meeting shady characters. Everyone I have met has been so helpful.”
Black intends to unveil her next original song—”Fireworks and Rooftops,” her first non-cover released since last year’s EP—later this month.