Queer singer Lauren Sanderson finds freedom in returning to her indie roots


Musician Lauren Sanderson is coming to Dallas to celebrate Pride. She’s been on tour this month after releasing her newest single “Freak/Pinterest” and will perform later this year at The Dinah in September. Originally from Indiana, the singer moved to Los Angeles after releasing her first two EPs and signing a record deal. Since then, her online following has continued to grow,

She will perform this Sunday, June 23, at Sue Ellen’s at 8 p.m.

During a break in her tour, Sanderson took some days off at home with her girlfriend and dog and took some time to talk with Dallas Voice before getting back on the road.

Dallas Voice: How has this tour been going for you? Lauren Sanderson: It’s been really good! This is the first one I’ve gone into just wanting to have fun, not taking it too seriously. My shows have always been a fun and safe space, but this time I’m really going in with the intention of being in the moment and enjoying it.

What is your favorite part of performing live? The best part is seeing the emotional reactions of people. Being an artist can be hard because you put out music and get reactions online through comments and messages, but it’s not until tour that you get to see people react. It becomes real when you see them crying and laughing.

How has this tour been different from previous ones? The shows have been feeling more alive. They’ve always been pretty lively, so I don’t think the change is so much in my fans but in me. In the past, performing live was too surreal, it wasn’t hitting me. Now I’m in a place to really receive the love they give me. I can look around at these shows selling out, and let that soak in. It means I’ve been more energetic and more connected with the music and the audience.

Recently, you’ve gone back to being an independent artist to take a more hands on approach to your career. How has that been going? It’s been such a relief for me. It’s the best way for me to have this kind of freedom and control over what I’m doing. I might get to a point where I need the support of a label, but right now it feels like the best thing I can do is just keep going on this path. I feel a moment of growth and change coming, almost like a rebirth in my music. I want to see how big things can get with just me and my fans. It feels like I’m in a very monumental part of my career.

There are types of people that like to really take their time and craft the perfect story to tell, who work best with a label. That doesn’t work for me because I want to tell the story as it’s happening. I want to be very present, to do it in real time.

Is music the way you process everything that happens to you? I think it is a part of how I process things. I just feel so in-the-moment. I make a song as I’m feeling that thing and then want to put it out as I’m still feeling it. Being in a label was pretty hard because I can’t fake enthusiasm, I want to roll with what I’m feeling right now. I have some friends who are signed with a major label who made a song five years ago that didn’t come out until now. That just doesn’t work for me. I’m a Capricorn, so I’m very entrepreneurial, I want to figure it out as it happens. Once I write something I want to put it out and then get to sing it live. When I perform live it feels like the audience and I are connecting with the same emotions in the present moment. It makes me feel understood.

How do you continue to stay inspired and motivated? I’m still trying to figure that out. That might be the hardest part for me. I’m an only child so I’m used to having a big imagination and being creative. But during the COVID-19 pandemic, I couldn’t connect as much with my fans. I couldn’t see them and remember what it was like performing with an audience. Now that I’m back to touring it’s gotten a lot better. At shows and online with things like Instagram lives I can gauge what people want and see their reactions.

Do you feel like social media has impacted your career? Yes, it facilitates connecting with fans. When I started this tour, I went in with the intention of having fun and seeing what songs connect the most and what emotions they evoke. After seeing reactions in person and online I actually changed what song I am going to release next. I love party music so much, but decided to switch directions because what’s needed right now is a feeling of comfort and warmth. Fans can get excited for the vulnerable Lauren to come back out. That’s the beauty of being independent, I can make whatever decisions I want. And right now, the best thing I can do is let my fans lead the way.

What do you think makes your shows so unique? My shows are very interactive. I have segments where fans yell stuff out and it starts conversation. There’s one part of the show I call teatime, where I ask for people to share any queer gossip. We give them the mic to let them share, and with the queer community there’s always drama.

At one of my shows a girl shared that she broke no contact with a situationship from five years ago. The clip actually went viral on Instagram. I think we like to share the drama because when you’re growing up queer you miss out on that. Either we’re not able to express it or don’t even know we’re queer yet. Music is a place where many people find themselves. I didn’t have many queer musician role models growing up. That’s why I want people to feel like they can come as they are to my shows. It’s a place to celebrate pride and have fun.

As someone in the entertainment industry, do you feel a lot of pressure to label yourself and your identity? I have felt a lot of pressure. I think it’s important to check in with yourself and make sure you’re not letting what other people think affect you. Personally, I feel like people think I’m way more masc than I am. Growing up in a small town, it never felt like people understood me, and that happens as a celebrity as well. It adds an extra level of perception. People are very vocal with what they call artists and often think they know more about me than they do. I know that’s a big reason celebrities get in their heads; they hear so much feedback about who they are. I’m still trying to make sense of who I am, it’s just a little harder with so many voices.

What message do you have for younger fans figuring out their identities? If a label makes you feel better, find the one that feels right for you. But you can also just be who you are. You don’t have to feel pressure to find a label or to fit into a certain category. You just have to be present and honest with yourself. If it feels like a lot of pressure to find the terminology that matches you the most, you can free yourself from that and just be you.

Visit PartyAtTheBlock.com for tickets.