Crystal Bowersox on ‘American Idol,’ fame & family

Crystal Bowersox of “American Idol” doesn't mind answering questions about Simon Cowell, who she says is, "blunt, honest and direct" and "an incredibly intelligent businessman with an ultra keen eye for talent and good ideas" or the whirlwind of fame the show dropped into her lap.

It was after all, the show that changed her life. She rose all the way to number two in the show's ninth season in 2010. In the time since she has put out two albums, "Farmer's Daughter" (2010) and "All That for This" (2013). The most recent album features a collaboration with Bob Dylan's son, Jakob. She has traveled the world, dined with personal heroes and spoken with world leaders.  

She says people call her many things: recording artist, singer-songwriter, American Idol finalist, but her most important title is mom.

"I still spend my days when I'm home cooking my son’s breakfast, making sure he's doing well in school, and driving him around to classes and playdates," she says.

Call her what you will. She now gets to make a living doing what she loves. Bowersox plays BergenPAC on March 27.

Q: How was the experience [of being on “American Idol”] as you were going through it? 

A: Looking back on the experience, it seems surreal, and parts of it are emblazoned into my memory in a dream-like way.  I can close my eyes and re-live certain moments, like how I felt the first time I was rushed by a crowd of people after an Idol tour stop, and the relief I felt as I performed Patty Griffin's "Up to the Mountain" knowing I had made it all the way to the end of it all and I wouldn't have to compete again.  It was particularly difficult for me to have been away from my son who was so young at the time, and that kept me from fully enjoying all of the things that were happening during the process, but I wouldn't change a thing about it.  I know my boy will someday appreciate what I went through.  

Q: What did you take away from that whole experience?

A: If I had to narrow it down to one thing, I would have to say I'm most grateful to walk away having discovered my personal strength.  I learned a lot about what I was capable of as a performer and as a person, and had to step outside of my comfort zone to do so.  I also learned a few tricks to applying eye makeup and walking in heels But you won't catch me in a pair very often. Why do women do that to themselves?

Q: How did you feel when you first heard the finished product of "Farmer's Daughter?" 

A: A sense of pride, for sure. I remember driving around in my car listening to the whole thing from start to finish, making sure everything was just the way I wanted it to be.

Q: "All That for This," came out on Shanachie. How did you find your way to that label?

A: When Jive announced that they were folding into RCA and letting several acts on their roster go, I felt a lot of things.  I spent a few months in limbo, and it was uncomfortable, like walking a tight rope without a net over the gorge.  I spent some time in Santa Fe, NM, Label-less, writing and recording songs with Jono Manson. I had the intention to self release my second album, but when the good folks at Shanachie came along, I was relieved to have their support, even though it meant going back to the drawing board on album two.  "All That For This" finally came together in Portland, Oregon, under the wise direction of Steve Berlin, of the band Los Lobos, and Shanachie has been amazing to work with.  They are as artist-friendly as any label comes.

Q: How did you end up working with Jakob Dylan?

A: Jakob and I are both connected through a mutual friend,  who suggested we collaborate.  Jakob has four boys, I've got one, and so we bonded over the gray-hair givers of raising each of our rambunctious little guys.  The song, "Stitches" was written for my son, after he decided to dance with a coffee table. It was literally inspired by my son getting stitches, but became more about the desire as a parent to fix things up, to make it all better, whenever your child is going through something difficult in life.  I know Jakob can relate.  He was a pleasure to work with, and has been one of my personal music heroes since his band The Wallflowers album, "Bringing Down the Horse."

Q: Is there a question that no one has asked you that you would like to talk about? 

A: Oh sure, like, “when are you going to play Madison Square Garden?”  Maybe someday. More seriously, I love to brag about my son.  He is 5, already reading, and I learn more from him about the world than anything the news can tell me.

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