Local musician finds voice in Eau Claire community

By Sierra Watson

Eau Claire is rich in musical talent. Crowds fill local venues just to hear the sounds of new and upcoming musicians in the area. In a dimly lit café, a young, soft-spoken blonde woman takes to the stage with an acoustic guitar in hands. She opens her mouth and, the room is hushed as the audience becomes enchanted by her unique and comforting voice.

Lauren Anderson practices for her shows at her home in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. She started playing music at the age of 9 after receiving her first acoustic guitar. © 2017 Sierra Watson

Eau Claire native, Lauren Anderson is a local musician on the rise. The 22-year-old singer has gained recognition in the Eau Claire community as the lead singer and guitarist of local folk-rock band, Idle Empress. Although there are challenges that she has faced, Anderson’s experiences have inspired her music and shaped her as a musician.

“When I was young, I didn’t really have anything that I was good at,” Anderson said, “but I had a connection with music.”

Anderson started playing music at a young age; she got her first guitar at 9, and was playing guitar and singing at church by the time she was 13. Not long after, Anderson said that a close friend encouraged her to play bass in a band with her. She made a name for herself in the community by playing in local coffee shops and other venues around the Eau Claire area.

In the summer of 2015, Anderson teamed up with friends, Josh Frederick and Elliot Heinz to start her own band. The trio tossed around several names before ultimately deciding on Idle Empress, Anderson said. When the band started out, they had little of their own material. While they did play a few songs that Anderson had written before the band formed, their sets consisted of mostly cover songs.

Elliot Heinz, the drummer of Idle Empress, said that Anderson’s personality and experiences have really shaped the band’s songs.

“Lauren is a very real, honest person,” said Heinz, “and it really shows through in the lyrics that she has written.”

Anderson said that the inspiration for her lyrics stems from several places. She writes about her personal experiences and places that she has been. While her inspirations are personal to her, Anderson said that she wants her songs to be relatable to her audience.

“I write about a little bit of everything really,” said Anderson, “things that I’ve experienced and other people’s stories, just common themes of life, I guess.”

Idle Empress released its first EP on Jan. 1, 2016, but according to Anderson the EP had been in the works since the band formed. Since the release of the EP, Idle Empress has played several shows in the Eau Claire area, as well as large music festivals such as Midwest Music Fest.

Meghan Laengle, a local music fan, has attended a few of Idle Empress’ shows and has since become a close friend to Anderson.

“Lauren is sort of a local celebrity here in Eau Claire,” said Laengle, “but she doesn’t let that kind of stuff get to her head and she is one the most humble humans I’ve ever met.”

One of the struggles that Anderson has had to overcome as a musician is her shyness. Watching her perform, it’s hard to believe, but stage fright was something that she struggled with from the beginning.

“I never thought I’d sing in front of people,” said Anderson, “I wouldn’t even sing in front of my mom.”

When she first started performing, she said that she would get nervous to the point that she would be sick. As she continued to perform, she got more and more comfortable until her nerves no longer seemed to faze her.

“Now it’s easier for me to sing in front of people than it is to talk,” Anderson said.

According to Anderson, her nerves aren’t the biggest challenge that she has had to face as a musician. Being a female musician, Anderson said that she has to put up with a lot of discrimination.

“As a female musician, people don’t always take me seriously,” said Anderson, “sometimes the sound guys won’t talk to me because they don’t think I know what I’m talking about.”

Although there have been obstacles that she has had to overcome, Anderson said that the Eau Claire community has given her support that is unlike any other. This support is something that has really helped her get over her nerves when performing for larger crowds.

“Everyone that is a part of the Eau Claire music scene is really nice,” said Anderson, “I’ve been able to build relationships and friendships with so many different people.”

The relationships that she has made have allowed her to be involved in several projects outside of Idle Empress. Anderson said that she has been able to play with other local bands and musicians in Eau Claire, across several different genres.

“I’ve worked with my friend Rachel Hanson who is a country-folk artist,” said Anderson, “I also got a chance to work with another local rock band called Byways.”

As for Idle Empress, the group has been working on writing new music with plans to record soon. The band also would love the opportunity to go on tour if they get the chance, said Anderson.

“I’m kind of just taking it one day at a time,” said Anderson, “but I am excited to see what the future has in store.”

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