“The city has never looked better,” I joked as she pressed her face up against the window pane. The last time LOLO (Lauren Pritchard) was in town she performed at Mile of Music so I could only assume she was taking in the difference between December Appleton and August Appleton.
“It’s sparkly,” she said with a hint of Tennessee and wonder. That’s one way to describe our winter, I thought.
It was her 29th birthday – four days before December 31 – and she had returned to headline Mile of Music’s New Year’s Encore Eve. I met up with her at Lawrence Memorial Chapel to kick off her next trip around the sun and reflect on what was one hell of a year for the singer-songwriter.
But first, I lit a candle on a cupcake from my favorite bakery so she could make a proper birthday wish, and then she returned to her spot a few feet in front of Graham Washatka’s camera so he could take a few more snaps. She was wearing a mossy green poncho pretty much made for photo shoots.
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“This city is a wildly significant place in my life because my dad’s company is based here,” the Jackson, Tenn., native revealed. “I always knew about Appleton, and my mom grew up in Chicago so she used to spend summers at Lake Geneva and winters in a spot north of Green Bay.”
Her first Appleton performance took place in the chapel during Mile of Music’s “First Songs” kick-off concert, and the last time I was in the chapel was to watch her perform at that concert. Now we had the whole chapel to ourselves, our girl talk bouncing off the back of the empty blue chairs.
We didn’t know what to expect and we didn’t know what the response was going to be. When I got done singing ‘I Don’t Wanna Have to Lie,’ everyone stood up. That was very humbling. It was surreal.
“I grew up singing in church my whole life, and I still go to church on Sundays and lead song service when I’m home in Tennessee or New York,” she said. “Being in church for me is very comforting, so playing in a space like this chapel… it doesn’t get any more beautiful or peaceful. One of the things that Mile of Music does beautifully is it gives you the space to be whoever you are, so playing here was very memorable. We didn’t know what to expect and we didn’t know what the response was going to be. When I got done singing ‘I Don’t Wanna Have to Lie,’ everyone stood up. That was very humbling. It was surreal.”
It has always been about telling stories through song for LOLO. She played Ilse in the original Broadway production, “Spring Awakening,” which opened in 2006. She released her first album, “Wasted in Jackson” in 2010. She lent vocals to the song “Miss Jackson” by Panic! at the Disco, and in 2015, she wrote an off-Broadway musical titled “Songbird,” that earned praises from The New York Times.
Then came 2016. She released her new album, “In Loving Memory of When I Gave a Shit,” and co-wrote three songs on Panic! at the Disco’s 2016 album, “Death of a Bachelor” (including the title track), which was recently nominated for a Grammy. I didn’t realize it as it was happening, but the weight of her accomplishments washed over her in a matter of seconds and she caught herself in a moment of acceptance that moved her to tears.
I care so much about what I do. I’m not looking for a quick result out of any part of my life because I intend to be here a long time and in order to do it for a long time, it requires so much to be consistent and real. It’s so much bigger than I could have ever dreamed in my mind.
“I don’t know what the future looks like for me because the last two years have been remarkably transformative,” she acknowledged. “I’ve always wanted to be a composer, which I am now, and I wanted to be a Grammy nominee, which I am now. These are things I aspired to be… and I really thought it was going to take a long time for them to happen, and I most definitely didn’t think they would happen before I was 30. And not because I don’t believe in myself, but I’ve always been a realist. I care so much about what I do. I’m not looking for a quick result out of any part of my life because I intend to be here a long time and in order to do it for a long time, it requires so much to be consistent and real. It’s so much bigger than I could have ever dreamed in my mind.”
“My sole focus going into 2016 was absolute, unconditional, non-negotiable acceptance no matter what,” she continued. “Overall personal deep acceptance of everything and everyone. Period. The other thing was simply to create as much as I could. I, under no circumstances, could have predicted anything that happened to me this year. The only thing I wanted to do this year was play a live show every single day, which I almost did, and I wanted to put the record out. That was it.”
She picked up her phone, which had been chiming relentlessly since we sat down. The glow from the screen spotlights the smile stretched across her face. Her boyfriend was on his way to town to ring in the New Year with her. At that moment, he was on a plane in Detroit preparing for departure and sent her a text saying: “They’re clearing the ice off a wing, LOL.”
Watching her grin and gush over her person made me think of the verse in her song “The Courtyard” that she wrote last New Year’s Eve:
My Hello Kitty heart can’t believe the year is over
I didn’t call my mother and say goodnight
And I had a dream that she was yelling at me
Can’t you drink less and find your soulmate?
Like it’s so easy
“I’m not sure what to wish for in my next year,” LOLO confessed. “Not because I don’t know what I want. I’ve been working so hard and I haven’t been able to make other parts of my life a priority because so many other things have had to be a priority. In the next five years, I want to get married and build a life with someone.”
I might have some idea of what her birthday wish was.
More @ lolomusic.com
Text: Alison Mayer
Photos: Graham Washatka