Crystal Bowersox is a musician and a photographer and recently a seamstress, making masks for people to help stop the Covid spread. She’s been donating them and she even posted a video on how to make the masks on her Instagram account. Crystal’s songs have always pulled at the heart strings with stories of real life and real pain but of hope and brighter days as well. She just released a new song with a message of unity and kindness called “Courage To Be Kind” and she has a new full-length album, Hitchhiker due this fall. Last year she wrote and starred in an autobiographical musical called Trauma Queen, a one night only performance at the Franklin Theatre. I caught up with Crystal to find out about the inspiration behind her new song and video.
AnaLee: Congratulations on releasing “Courage To Be Kind”. This song was written a few years ago, following two specific tragedies. Would you tell us about the inspiration behind the song and will it be on your new album this fall?
Crystal: Thank you for the opportunity to talk about this song! It will be on the upcoming album, HitchHiker. Produced by Billy Harvey, and recorded here in Nashville. When Steve Seskin and I were writing Courage to Be Kind back in 2017, we wrote several different versions of the verses. The tragic mass shooting that had occurred in Charleston, SC was weighing heavy on our hearts. Steve and I asked ourselves if we would ever be capable of showing the kind of forgiveness that Felicia Sanders did. Ms. Sanders forgave the shooter who killed her son, and she did it the very next day, despite the fact that he showed no remorse. My own son is 11 now. I honestly don’t know what I would do if I were ever in her shoes, but I’d like to think that I could forgive in the way that she did. If she could do that, then we all can do better. Steve and I wanted to use examples of radical love and forgiveness in hopes to inspire listeners to be more compassionate with themselves and with each other. I believe that non-violence is a way of life for courageous people. I pray that kind of courage will make itself present within the hearts of everyone.
AnaLee: You incorporate the classic children’s Gospel tune, “This Little Light of Mine” with a powerful choir of voices at the end of the song. Many familiar voices are part of that choir including some artists I've had on the Local Brew Hour recently like Kristen Englenz, Sarah Jane Nelson, Amanda Broadway and more! Tell us about recording it and how you assembled that choir.
Crystal: Yes! it was a powerful day at the studio with so many amazing people. I had put out the call for women to show up for gang vocals intended for a different song that will also appear on HitchHiker. I was humbled and amazed by how many women actually came to record, as there was a crazy storm that blew through that evening. Several people had already canceled and I was starting to fear that the session would somehow turn out to be like the parties I tried to throw back in High School. When I saw that about 40 women had gathered, I was overwhelmed with gratitude. We finished the first tune, so I had asked if some of the group were able to stay a little longer. They did not disappoint. I love our community here so much. We have to support each other whenever we can. I'm also really glad we were able to record before the pandemic set in. Kristen Englenz, Kelly Hoppenjanz, Sarah Jane Nelson, Gina Frary Bacon, Alice Wallace, Molly Payne, Dottie Rager, Julie Delgado, Hannah Meyers, AMyliza DeJesus, Amanda Broadway and Lindsay Graves made up the powerful choir toward the end of the song.
AnaLee: You have a show on the books! That’s exciting! It’s not until November 19th – a rescheduled WMOT show with Steve Poltz at City Winery. I hope to see you there, but in the meantime, you’ve also given us a video for, “Courage To Be Kind”. Tell us a little about it.
Crystal: I do! I hope it will be safe to do so come November. I'm stoked to share the stage with one of my personal songwriting heroes, and I'm really looking forward to being back on stage, in general!
The video for "Courage to Be Kind" was shot by Andy Pollitt of Jeanz Media in my basement, in addition to the marches recently downtown. No crew. No hair and makeup. Andy and I did our best to practice safe social distancing while making the video, which also became part of the inspiration behind the entire theme. The computers used for the shoot belonged to a mutual friend of Andy and I, who recently passed away. This friend had appeared in my last music video, so we wanted to somehow include him in this one.
As a society, we seem so distant from one another. Yet at the same time, we've never been more connected. Every screen is representative of human life. People tend to say and do the cruelest things from the safety of their keyboards, but all too often fail to understand that cruelty and violence can hurt the same as it would if were delivered face to face. We use technology in so many ways. Social media is being used to create powerful social change. It's wonderful to see people going beyond the screen and into the real world to speak on issues that have been ignored by some for so long.
Ana Lee is on middays at WMOT, and is also the host of The Local Brew Hour, which airs Sundays at 7am and Mondays at 7pm on 89.5 WMOT and wmot.org.