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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Hardy's Lauren Gray belts the blues on Idol

Thursday, February 23, 2012

It's a long and rocky road from Hardy to Hollywood, but a path local Lauren Gray gladly travels as she pursues her dream of a becoming a recording artist through her adventures on the American Idol television program.

The talented young lady is giving a dot on the map -- like Hardy -- nationwide attention. She has already made it from auditions in St. Louis, to the Golden Ticket in Hollywood, and on to Las Vegas.

The outgoing, pretty Lauren Gray is all smiles as she talks about anything Idol, and she speaks with pride as she talks about the most influential people in her life, her parents, Mike and Debbie Gray.

The 23-year old said she began singing as a child and has always loved to sing.

"As a child people constantly made fun of my raspy little voice, " she said. The pivotal moment in Gray's life when she realized she wanted to be a singer was in 2002, when she was 13, and performing at the Forum with her dad while debuting his new album.

After the performance, she knew she wanted to be a performer. Gray loved being on stage, the crowd and the excitement, "I was hooked," she explained.

Gray has never taken voice lessons, and gives all the credit to God for her talent. She said her voice has evolved through the years and been shaped through experience performing with her dad. Most of Gray's family on her father's side has musical talent. Gray said it is amazing how they can pick up any instrument and play it. As far as musical influences outside her family, she said Aretha Franklin is one female artist who she loves and feels her voice most resembles.

Lauren's recalled her first attempt to perform on Idol. She said she was 15 and really wanted to try out. She and her family were ready to make the trip to Memphis, when they received word the auditions were cancelled at the Fed Ex Forum because the center was being used to house refugees from Hurricane Katrina.

Gray said she honestly believes everything happens for a reason, and feels it was not her time.

She said she may have not done as well as she would have liked at that young age, and it could have ruined her esteem, causing her to possibly not compete later.

Gray took the opportunity to finally follow her dreams when she auditioned for the 2012 season in St. Louis last summer.

The shows that are being aired currently were pre-recorded and she cannot reveal anything to the media that has not been aired. While in St. Louis, she went through four preliminary rounds before actually meeting the judges.

In St. Louis, Gray was awarded the coveted golden ticket which assured her trip to Hollywood.

Like the proverbial Hollywood stars, Gray shined and received acclaim from the judges in Hollywood as well , and further progressed to the next round. Perhaps the best praise she received this far in the competition came from Idol Judge Jennifer Lopez after her first appearance, "One word, Lauren Gray." Those words were spoken in support of Gray's vocal abilities. Again, during her third appearance, Lopez could be seen moving happily as Gray performed, obviously pleased with her.

Gray said there are several rounds of the show that are currently airing which were taped in Hollywood. She said she will next be in Las Vegas but could not tell when the actual live voting portion of the show begins. Regardless, there is no doubt that Sharp County and the surrounding area, as well as the entire state, will come out in full force to support the home town girl's talent, and help promote her success and her future music career.

Gray said her parents have been far more than parents to her through her life, and in helping her follow her musical dreams on American Idol, "They have been my best friends, I can trust them with anything. I am so blessed to have such a talented supportive family. They are so strong and I hope to take that with me on my journey."

When asked if the publicity and sudden fame have intimidated her, the feisty young woman who seems to fit into any environment beautifully said, "I can do any interview you want. They don't make me nervous, but sitting in front of the screen waiting to watch myself makes me so nervous."

She explained she has been used to performing in front of crowds, but watching herself on television gives her an opportunity to be her staunchest critic.

She said it gives her the opportunity to see things she can improve. Before Idol, Lauren said she was pretty impromptu, and didn't get very nervous or even rehearse before shows.

Other than some breathing exercises, she said she was fine in front of a group after she gets that first note out of her mouth. Idol requires that contestants, "Record everything you practice, listen to it and perfect it. I have never done that." Gray said.

When questioned about obstacles she has had to overcome on the show, Lauren said there really hasn't been any, musically speaking, because she loves what she does and feels no pressure from it.

Gray said, whether or not she wins the show, she plans to pursue her musical career because it is what she really wants to do. She said the obstacles that have been hardest for her are the things her family has gone through including the floods her family's business in Hardy has had to endure.

She said, the bad times drive her to be the best that she can be.

Gray believes her competitive advantage over other competitors is her sultry, raspy voice and unique quality of sound. Gray explained the way the songs are selected for the competition.

"Idol gives contestants a list of 20 or less songs, some are female lists and some are male, while there is also a unisex selection." Gray said contestants get a small amount of rehearsal time. Depending on the phase of the competition, times range from one night to two or three days with the vocal coach and band later in the completion," such as during her most recent performance, Feb. 15.

The best memory on American Idol for the young Gray was aired on the last show. She said she had been sick and lost her voice prior to the show's group session.

Having never had a vocal coach, Miss Peggy, as Lauren calls her, was difficult to get used to. She said she was feeling somewhat better during the group performance, but her group was the only one that did not get to practice with the band.

Despite the setbacks, Gray said they had the vocals and routine down, although her voice was still not at its best.

The day of her scheduled performance, the part she practiced and her harmonies were changed.

Gray became emotional on the show and said , after Peggy consoled her and even gave her some tough love, she knew it was a turning point.

As a normal everyday country girl pursuing her dreams, Gray said if she is not performing with her dad and Backflash, or taping Idol sessions, she can be found outdoors.

She loves riding four wheelers, fishing, hunting, and lives for the Spring River. Now living in Shreveport, Louisiana where she works in quality control, Gray is never away from her beloved Hardy for very long.

She said she was so humbled and surprised at the support the small Hardy community has shown her.

From watch parties at many homes to social media support and funding from First Community Bank to allow her family to travel with her, she said it has been overwhelming.

When asked if there was anything the community could to do to further assist her, the selfless Gray, simply said, "Shop at my mom's store." Her family owns and operates Petals and Lace and Creekside Loft in Hardy, a catering and formal and wedding supply store.

"Whether or not I win the show, I want to continue to make music, conglomerate, make an album and get my songs and name out there, " Gray said. "There really isn't a lot of opportunity in Hardy, I don't think I will ever quit, this is what I am meant to do, I am always going to be pushing forward."

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