Lauren Mascitti: “Project Empathy”

I started out so young that a lot of kinks were worked out before it really made a difference! One thing I do wish I would’ve done is move to Nashville sooner. I commuted for years, but it was hard to keep momentum up while still living in Ohio. Instead, I waited until I graduated […]

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I started out so young that a lot of kinks were worked out before it really made a difference! One thing I do wish I would’ve done is move to Nashville sooner. I commuted for years, but it was hard to keep momentum up while still living in Ohio. Instead, I waited until I graduated nursing school before we moved. I don’t regret my nursing degree, but I do wish I would’ve moved before starting school.

As a part of our series about Nashville’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Lauren Mascitti.

Country singer-songwriter Lauren Mascitti vaulted into the national spotlight in 2020, with her album God Made a Woman hitting #4 on iTunes Country Albums after her appearance on American Idol. An accomplished performer, Lauren has been on stage since she was 7 years old, becoming a Branson, MO standout at 12, and now performing across the country from the Grand Ole Opry to the Key West Songwriters Festival. Not only is she a talented artist, Lauren is a registered nurse who rejoined her coworkers on the frontlines in Nashville during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, Lauren will be releasing new music and touring as safety permits.

Thank you so much for joining us in this series! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit of the ‘backstory’ of how you grew up?

Thank you for having me! I grew up in the small town of Louisville, OH, and was adopted and raised by my grandparents. My papaw played guitar and sang old country songs all the time. My nana loved all kinds of music, especially gospel, soul, and Motown. We were also really active in the church I grew up in, Trinity Gospel Temple. I sang in the choir from the time I was twelve years old and then eventually became the worship leader in the youth group. Around that same time, I started my own ministry, traveling to different churches and festivals. I always had a love of music and always knew I wanted a future in it both as a singer and a writer. I moved to Nashville in 2014 after graduating nursing school in Ohio with my degree as an RN. I still continue to work as a night shift nurse.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I had always been surrounded by the music of my grandparents at home and knew I loved to sing. When I was seven, there was a woman in our choir named Cheryl Jamison who started giving me lessons. I always thought she was a famous rock star or something! Later the next year, she and her husband (who had been a sound engineer for bands like REO Speedwagon and Styx) produced my first album! That’s really what got everything rolling and I’ve never stopped. My Nana really helped me cultivate my dream and has always been my biggest support and cheerleader.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Wow, there are so many! One thing that people may not know is that I’ve played many Italian festivals and that I sing in Italian. My heritage is Italian and I’ve admired the Italian American’s footprint in the music world, from Dean Martin to Connie Francis. I was blessed to befriend Dean’s daughter Deana years ago while doing shows in Branson, MO. She told us about a festival held every year in celebration of her dad in Steubenville, OH, his hometown. She had me come and sing for it a few years in a row, where I met and became friends with actors Paul Borghese, Vincent Pastore, and Lou Martini (all from The Sopranos). Paul ended up being the entertainment director for another Italian Festival up in Tappan, NY, and has had me as a regular performer there for the last 11 years.

Can you share with us an interesting story about living in Nashville?

In May of 2016, the great Texas songwriting legend Guy Clark passed away from a long battle with cancer. My fiancé, Shawn Camp, was one of his close friends and main collaborators. He produced Guy’s Grammy Award-winning record, My Favorite Picture of You. In the days after Guy passed, Sirius XM’s Outlaw station put together a tribute show to honor his memory. The episode was recorded at Cowboy Jack Clement’s recording studio here in Nashville, hosted by Alamo Jones. On the list of guests for that day was Shawn, Bobby Bare, Verlon Thompson, Tamara Saviano, and Emmylou Harris. I got to tag along with Shawn that day and listen to all these legends tell stories and remember their friend and hero. Of course, being a woman in country music, Emmylou has always been one of my biggest idols and inspirations and I had never met her before. When she walked in it looked like she had just taken a shower because her hair was wet and she had it back in a silver hair clip. Throughout the taping of the show she kept taking her hair out of the clip, tousling it so it would dry, and then putting it back in the clip. At the end of the taping, everyone got up, took a few pictures, and started trickling out. Emmylou was one of the first to leave. Shawn and I were standing around talking when Bobby Bare walked over to me, holding Emmylou’s hair clip. In his trademark low, drawn out voice, he said slowly “Emmylou left this over here on the table. I think you might ought to keep it.” I said “Oh my gosh, that is so awesome! But don’t you think she’ll want it back?” Bobby said “Nah, she’s probably got a room full of those at home. You should keep it”. So that’s how I ended up with Emmylou Harris’ hair clip, given to me by Bobby Bare! Later down the road, we ran into her at another event here in town and told her about what Bobby had done. We all laughed and it’s something I will treasure forever. Emmylou is just as kind and down to earth as you would think and so is Bobby Bare.

Can you share with us a few of the best parts of living in Nashville? We’d love to hear some specific examples or stories about that.

My favorite thing about Nashville is probably the fact that on any given night you can go pretty much anywhere and hear live music. Downtown on Broadway, music venues big or small, songwriter rounds, you name it. One story that I thought was a very “Nashville” moment happened years before I moved here. I was a teenager, still in high school, spending my summers in Nashville trying to network as much as I could before having to go back to Ohio for the school year. One afternoon, Nana and I were sitting at Tootsies listening to the band (The Jimmy Snyder Band to be more specific. Jimmy was a fixture for a lot of years at Tootsies, as well as my sweet friend and incredible guitarist Rod Riley, and the late great band leader/bassist Greg Humphrey). The girl that was supposed to be their lead singer for the shift cancelled on them at the last minute, so Jimmy asked if I could stay and fill in for her. For the next three or four hours, I got to sing nothing but classic country and made some new friends. I’ve had a lot of sweet “Nashville Moments”, but this was one of the first, and it gave me encouragement to stay in the game, knowing there were people in town that supported me. That really makes all the difference.

Something that makes this story so full-circle for me, is that fast-forward about 10 years, I was asked to sing at the great Ryman Auditorium, just across the famous back alley from Tootsies, in an “Opry Country Classics” show honoring Dolly Parton’s 50th anniversary of being a Grand Ole Opry member. I sang “Coat of Many Colors” and got a standing ovation. That will always be one of the highlights of my life. I never would’ve dreamed sitting in Tootsies that day that my dream would come to fruition. I’m so thankful.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Oh boy! Well, I can’t really remember anything REALLY embarrassing. My biggest fear as a performer has always been falling on stage, which hasn’t happened *yet*! Something funny did happen when I was eight years old. A Christian TV station in our town gave me my very first opportunity to sing on TV! I was so excited! The night before, Nana put my hair up in pin curls for the special occasion. The morning of, we took them out and I had a head full of tight, bouncy banana curls! We got to the TV station and the camera crew explained where I was supposed to stand and where I was supposed to look, when, etc. I was always used to moving around onstage a lot (I got that from growing up in a shoutin’ church…) but because this was TV and marks were very important, I had to stand in one place for the entire song, which I was not used to. Anyway, they handed me the mic, lights went up, and my song started playing. It was an up-tempo gospel soul tune called “Testify”, and since I couldn’t move anywhere except my spot, I naturally started bouncing up and down. Little did I know that I looked like I was on a pogo stick and my curls just went right along with me! Luckily, I was eight and everybody thought it was cute. But out of that experience, I learned A) Don’t bounce up and down EVER and B) It is always important to watch yourself after performances and critique yourself. Look at what you’re doing that you like and fix the things you don’t like. I was blessed to have been a regular performer on that same station for many years after that, and still come on as a guest when I go back up to visit my hometown.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Anybody that watched American Idol this season knows who my Nana is. She is, and will always be, the answer to this question. I was adopted and raised by my grandparents and owe everything I am to them. My Nana is the one who inquired about singing lessons for me when I was seven, drove me to singing lessons, dance lessons, guitar and piano lessons. She’s the one that sat in the kitchen with me and helped me learn song after song, all while recording my practice tapes on the karaoke machine cassettes. She drove me to hundreds of churches, both in and out of state, and took care of booking for years while I was too young to know how to do it. Nana knew my love of music and instead of seeing it as a nice hobby for me to have while I grew up to have a normal job and life, she saw a future career path and helped me cultivate it in every way she could. It was never a “stage mom” relationship. She just knew my dream and did everything in her power to help me get it going. We laugh and say that she is my “Nanager”! We’ve been through a lot together, more than anybody will ever know, both personally and professionally. I’m so thankful that God chose her to be my mom.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I’m really excited to have released my very first music video “Losing My Mind”! It’s a song from off my record God Made A Woman that I released earlier this year, which really delves into my love of traditional country music.

Future projects are still under construction, but include writing and working on some new music to release. I will also be announcing some new bookings for next year, which I’m super excited about!

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

I don’t think I have 5! I started out so young that a lot of kinks were worked out before it really made a difference! One thing I do wish I would’ve done is move to Nashville sooner. I commuted for years, but it was hard to keep momentum up while still living in Ohio. Instead, I waited until I graduated nursing school before we moved. I don’t regret my nursing degree, but I do wish I would’ve moved before starting school. Another thing I wish someone told me is how important social media was going to be for the future of music and how much of a difference it can make in a fan base. When I first started, social media didn’t even exist. I was never great at anything technology-related anyway and never gave it much thought until I was already behind in numbers. I always just preferred physically playing shows and shaking hands, growing my fan base organically. I didn’t realize how important it was to do both. Same with digitally releasing music. I always preferred CDs to streaming sites, so I’m still learning about that. There’s just so much to know as far as marketing strategies go. I’m still not great at it, but I might’ve been if I started at it sooner.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Mark Twain said “Find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life”. I’m a big believer in that. If you don’t love what you’re doing, it’s not only obvious to you, but to those around you, and burnout is inevitable. That doesn’t mean you’ll always have it easy and enjoy it 100% of the time, but if your passion is music, you have to love it so much that you’re willing to go through some hard times because you love playing music so much. When that love goes away, what’s the point?

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

If I could start a movement, it would be to make people empathize more. These days, it’s hard to tell if anybody still remembers how to put themselves in other people’s shoes in order to understand their situation or where they’re coming from. I keep my political opinions separate from my music career because I believe that music is healing to ALL people and transcends whatever differences we may have. It breaks my heart that friends, even family members, are breaking ties because of opinions or ideas that differ. Empathy is such a beautiful and powerful thing. I think if we all made it our mission to sit down together and try to, not necessarily agree, but understand where each other is coming from, the division and hostility on both sides would stop. As a Christian, I believe that empathy is the real key in loving our neighbor as ourselves, and seeing people as Christ sees them: worthy of love, forgiveness, and grace. And there you have it, “Project Empathy”.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Honestly, the quote that I live by is “Growing old is mandatory, growing up is optional”. Yeah, it’s a cute quote, kinda funny, but I think there is a lot of merit behind being young at heart and having fun with life. It’s such a freeing feeling when I remind myself that I don’t have to live by the societal constraints of time.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

DOLLY PARTON! She is one of my biggest inspirations, both as an artist and as a woman. Her song catalog fascinates me, her career path fascinates me, and her electricity on stage is like no other performer I’ve ever seen. I love how, in a man’s world, she didn’t let being a woman stop her. In fact, she used it to her advantage! As a female in country music, I find her attitude very inspiring and I think she is one of the most intelligent business women out there. I’m convinced God sent her as an angel on earth!

How can our readers follow you online?

I am on every social media platform! Lauren Mascitti Music on Facebook and Instagram and Lauren Mascitti on Twitter and YouTube! You can also go to my website and you’ll find all the links there. My latest album God Made A Woman is available for download and streaming on all digital platforms, as well 🙂

This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

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