Lauren Pratt is an Americana folk songwriter and expressive arts therapy student, whose haunting new album deals with grief, faith, and hope. But the best way to experience Lauren is to hear her tell (and sing) her story in her own voice. Listen to our audio documentary here.
(Find the full transcript below the article.)
Fresh off a night of performing on Nashville’s famous Music Row, Lauren Pratt went to sleep with a deep sense of gratitude.
“I just thought, wow, I can’t believe I’m doing this right now, but I guess I am,” Lauren recalls.
That night, however, she woke up to the sound of sirens and rushed from her apartment to find flames on the roof above her bedroom. Firefighters were able to save her chord book and several guitars, but almost everything else she owned went up in smoke.
“That’s when I first experienced somatic trauma, which eventually led me to this work at Lesley,” says the Americana musician.
After the fire, Lauren didn’t want to play music but still found herself drawn to creativity as well as a desire to help other people. She discovered Lesley’s master's degree program in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with a focus in Expressive Arts Therapy and headed north. Gradually, Pratt found her desire to play and perform return.
As she began to play venues across New England, Lauren also began to revisit songwriting, winning the 2018 No Depression Singer-Songwriter Award, and returning to the studio to work on her third album, "Young American Sycamore."
“The album is a story of love and loss and the things that haunt us,” says Lauren.
Lauren Pratt: There’s something in my sound that really resonates with people at particular moments of their life.
I’m Lauren Pratt. I’m in the graduate program here at Lesley studying clinical mental health counseling and expressive art therapy, and I’m a musician.
Music clip: Twenty-five ain’t nothing like I thought it’d be. It’s all smoke and mirrors and a tank of gasoline. No doubt my many sins will all catch up to me…
Voiceover: Growing up, Pratt’s dad introduced her to bluegrass and musicians like Alison Krauss. She soon began to practice her own singing – in the shower, when she was alone in the car, and at eventually church.
Pratt: I greatly identified with the beauty of music and I was just drawn to it.
Voiceover: Even though she often wrote poetry and her own songs, Pratt was skittish singing on her own until a turning point at age 13 when she summoned up the courage to sing a solo at her summer camp’s talent show.
Pratt: Imagine like 200-250 middle schooler and there were little rap groups. (Laughs) It’s, like, the early 2000s and all of these kids were in love with the rap boy bands. And I got up there with my guitar. I played this song that was really, it was really from the heart, and for about five seconds after the song ended, nobody said anything. Then they started applauding, but throughout the week kids came up to me and some of them were crying. What I wrote really hit a nerve with the people that it needed to touch, and that’s when I really started to consider that this could be something that I do, this could be who I am.
Voiceover: After her debut at age 13, Pratt kept writing songs and singing, eventually attending college in Mississippi, where she majored in classical voice and fell in love with opera. After interning with an opera company; however, she realized it wasn’t the musical path she was looking for, so she did what many a singer-songwriter does.
Pratt: I decided to move to Nashville.
Voiceover: Pratt hopped into her PT Cruiser with a brand new pair of cowboy boots and dreams of meeting her musical heroes.
Pratt: I was 22 and I was in a car driving to Nashville in a car where I knew nobody. I’m gonna make it work!
Voiceover: She began playing open mic nights and networking with other Music City musicians. Pratt recorded her first studio album called Days Like Tonight in 2015 and later laid down a live version. She even went on tour, but about a year after her album debuted, Pratt’s life went up in flames.
Music: They don’t know the hell I’ve been through…
Pratt: April 2016, we had just finished a songwriter’s night on Music Row with my songwriting group. So it was an honor to get to a place in my life in Nashville where I was managing this group and we had a residency at one of these historic places on Music Row and I just thought, wow, I can’t believe I’m doing this right now, but I guess I am. It was such a lovely affirmation. So we all went out and celebrated and I turned in early and I woke up in pitch black to shouts and sirens going off. Threw my jeans on and grabbed my cell phone and my keys and ran out the door and downstairs. It was a fire on my roof, right over my head. At one point I could see the fire falling into my room, through the ceiling. I just was in shock. That’s when I first experienced somatic trauma, which eventually lead me to this work at Lesley. But I was very much in shock initially. “Oh, it’s fine. I always wanted to be a minimalist anyway.”
Voiceover: Firefighters rescued several of her guitars and her chord book, but she was traumatized, and music was the last thing she wanted to do.
Pratt: I thought, well, if music isn’t helping me and I’m a musician, how can I think that music is gonna help somebody else.
Voiceover: Pratt put her music career on hold indefinitely and instead pursued a degree in expressive therapies and counseling, which is what led her to Lesley University. Even before she’d gotten her acceptance, Pratt had packed her car and headed north. The program turned out to be a great fit, and she simultaneously found her interest in music return. Pratt began performing again and entered songwriting competitions from Telluride Bluegrass Festival in Colorado to Fresh Grass in Massachusetts, which is where she won the No Depression Singer-Songwriter Award in 2018. She also finished her new album, Young American Sycamore, that came out in September 2019.
Pratt: The album is a story of love and loss and the things that haunt us.
Voiceover: In Young American Sycamore, Pratt sings about everything from lawlessness and infidelity to God and the fire that destroyed her Nashville apartment.
Pratt: The newest song, on the album, was called “Give and Take” and I wrote that the day of the fire. We had a songwriting circle meeting that night and I wanted to bring something and I was so totally in shock. So, I sat down and I wrote this song, “Give and Take,” and it was all about the God of give and take. Receiving and having things taken away and still being okay.
Music: My wavering faith, I must iron it out.
Voiceover: Billboard premiered Pratt’s album before its release and No Depression Magazine called her voice “angelic” and her delivery “striking.” Pratt has been touring around New England while also finishing up her master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling and expressive therapies. After that she’s not sure which of her two interests will take priority.
Pratt: I either want to do music full time — still on the fence about that — or work with military and do music on the side. I think either would be very rewarding.
Voiceover: Watch Lauren Pratt perform in our office, learn more about her music, and also learn more about our expressive therapies program at Lesley.edu.
Music: My wavering faith, I must iron it out. Smooth away the wrinkle of doubt. Smooth away the wrinkle of doubt.
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