November 13, 2014 at 11:00 am EST | by Mariah Cooper
‘Let your love shine’
Crystal Bowersox, gay news, Washington Blade

Singer/songwriter Crystal Bowersox says the national exposure of a hit reality show can be a double-edged sword. (Photo courtesy Orrigami Entertainment)

Crystal Bowersox


Baltimore Sound Stage


124 Market Place




Tuesday 8 p.m. (Doors 7)


All ages


$20 advance; $25 day of



Crystal Bowersox was introduced to millions of people on television when she competed in “American Idol’s” ninth season. But viewers may remember more of the experience than she does.

When Bowersox auditioned for the show performing “Piece of My Heart” by Janis Joplin, it was clear she would be a top contender. The judges were baffled that she brought her guitar in for her audition. Unlike now, contestants were not allowed to perform with a guitar. Bowersox replied that it was like a comfort blanket for her. She went on to be a runner-up to Lee DeWyze for the season.

“Honestly the whole ‘Idol’ thing was a blur,” Bowersox, who plays Baltimore Sound Stage on Tuesday, says. “When I try to recall a moment of my own experience its hard for me to do that because it was such a high stress environment.”

Her strategy in the competition was to achieve an intimate feeling to her performances.

“I had a game plan in my mind to perform for the people who were there in the live viewing audience rather than concern myself with 30 million people watching through the cameras,” she says. “I think that’s really what kept me sane.”

It’s a strategy that worked. While Bowersox, originally from Elliston, Ohio, was stressing out during the season, America was loving her soulful voice. She was the third “Idol” runner-up never in the bottom three or two, behind fellow “Idol” alums Clay Aiken and David Archuleta.

After the success on the show, Bowersox went on to release two albums “Farmer’s Daughter” in 2010 and “All That for This” in 2013. This summer, she self-released an EP called “Promises” with her song “How Long” that explores the fame and success that comes along with being on a show like “American Idol.”

“There is a downside. ‘How Long’ is about exactly that. How long will the love be here? They love you when you’re up and kick you when you’re down.”

Some “Idol” contestants have noticeably dropped from the public eye after the ending of the show like fifth season winner, Taylor Hicks. It’s something Bowersox, 29, believes has less to do with the artist and more with the listener.

“Folks just assume that people who grace that stage disappear but they don’t disappear. Its just a matter of people having very short attention spans and people don’t seek out what they’re interested in,” Bowersox says.
Her success also allowed her to bring light to issues she felt were important. In 2013, Bowersox came out as bisexual through her Christmas song, “Coming Out for Christmas.” She had previously been married to a man and had one child. Yet coming out was worth doing for her after she started questioning her sexuality in high school.

“Hearing from people who I was close to that it was not OK to love someone of the same gender was a struggle,” she says. “You start this cycle of self-loathing and thinking there is something wrong with me.”

She thinks those feelings are ones that many other people can relate to and that’s why she wanted to share her own experience.

“I think that the more people in the public eye who come out and are honest about themselves gives kids in the middle of nowhere who are struggling the confidence to really love themselves no matter what. You are not flawed. You are human and it’s important to let your love light shine.”

She says her song “Coming Out for Christmas” is about not being afraid to bring your partner home for the holidays and having your family accept them. It’s a message she hopes is heard.

“Some parents don’t love their children unconditionally and that’s a shame,” Bowersox says.

Since “Idol,” Bowersox has collaborated with Jakob Dylan on the song “Stitches.” The two met through a mutual friend and bonded over the amount of bruises their children received resulting in the two singing the song she wrote. She also is in the works to play Patsy Cline in the Broadway play “Always, Patsy Cline.” All of these opportunities are ones Bowersox recognizes comes from the exposure she got on “Idol.”

“Anyone who has been on a reality TV show who doesn’t come out on the other side with something positive, I feel like that’s a choice rather than just fate or something beyond your power.”

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