Lauren Shera: 14-year-old Songstress
At 14, Lauren Shera has an enviable singer/songwriter career.
Thursday, February 6, 2003
Lauren Shera''s bedroom in her family''s Corral de Tierra home could belong to any 14-year-old girl. The posters, photographs and poetry that adorn her walls serve as first-glance confirmation that Lauren is just another teen. But if you look a little closer, you''ll see that the stars she has pasted all around aren''t just inanimate objects at which she gazes; they''re her destination.
The day we chatted, Lauren was gearing up for a couple of big performances, though she seemed unfazed by their magnitude. It wasn''t just a role in a play, or a piano recital her parents would no doubt laud. Instead, the singer/songwriter/guitarist/poet was headed to her performance at Slim''s in San Francisco. From there, she''d head to LA and the Sunset Strip''s House of Blues to open for Jason Mraz and round out a week of magnanimous headliners: Vince Gill, Morris Day, Toad The Wet Sprocket.
Lauren''s accomplishments would be deemed sensational if she were an adult. That she''s not even old enough to drive a car and has just squeaked past the age of getting into PG-13 movies on her own makes them phenomenal.
Lauren''s mother, Tracey Levine, says Lauren''s been journaling since she was five. It wasn''t long after that that Lauren stumbled onto a book of poetry by Sylvia Plath and was hooked. By the ripe old age of 12, she was morphing her little-girl fairytale fantasies into award-winning poetry. At 13, Lauren fudged her age to get into the high school poetry circle.
"There''s a disadvantage to being young. People don''t take you as seriously," she says.
How Lauren summoned up the courage to take the stage for open mike night that very first time at Juice and Java in Pacific Grove is a mystery to Levine, who dubs her daughter a shy child, the type you''d see clinging to her mother''s leg in the grocery store.
Lauren says, "I was amazingly nervous, but I had ten minutes up there, and I just talked myself through it."
Thereafter, there was just no keeping quiet, not with a talent and free spirit like hers. Lauren describes herself now as a social bug, hanging out in coffeehouses "because if you sit there long enough, you''re bound to start talking to someone interesting."
Though an admitted reality-show addict, Lauren shatters pretty much every other conceivable stereotypical image of girls her age. I''d fallen into that trap myself. For days before our interview, I worried that I wouldn''t remember how to talk to a 14-year-old. I practiced out loud, and alone, phrases I thought were apropos until "dope" and "da bomb" and "down with that" flowed-as if they ever really do. What I learned within the first 30 seconds of our conversation was inspiring, and a relief, even to an old fogey like me. Lauren is grounded, and driven, wise beyond her years and more directed than most adults could hope to be.
Lauren is into dream interpretation and relishes her home-schooled existence. She''s an avid reader, recently taking up an interest in the Salem witch trials. She''s a believer in alternative medicine, and is easily upset "by the state of the world, discriminatory hatred, and by the negative energy in the world." She''s opinionated about everything from gun control to "depressed, angst-filled teens." She''s not a rebel but refuses to be a conformist. If it''s mainstream, you can bet Lauren''s not wading in it.
In one of her more popular songs, Lauren''s perspective on life in a yes-man, workaday society is incisive, if metaphoric. "The participants are bees and ants working in this colony and being controlled by the queen bee," she says.
She''s entranced by the storytelling ability of performers like Bob Dylan. She eagerly dissects the intellect and motivation of performers like Fiona Apple and Alanis Morissette, and rolls the names of poets off her tongue like they''re candy. To her, they are.
But her one true thing, her everyday inspiration, comes from her mother. In that regard, Lauren didn''t drip too far from the gene pool. "My mother is so strong and so amazing. She''s alternative and doesn''t let people''s opinions faze her."
When it comes to talking about her musical performances, Lauren''s voice takes on a melodic tone of such contentment that you''re sure she thinks it can''t get much better than this. "It''s such an emotional high, the adrenaline rush before and after. I love being on stage and watching people, hearing their reactions to my music. It''s an escape absolutely," she gushes.
Lauren''s an essay away from high school graduation, but her mother isn''t consumed by what life holds next for the precocious teen. "I just want her to find her passion and to follow it through," she says.
Lauren''s take is similar. "I want to travel and take my music as far as I can without selling out and becoming superficial. I don''t want to be famous because I respect people who are not at that ultra level of stardom." But considering her accomplishments thus far, that may be the point at which fate and she have an absolute parting of the ways.
Lauren Shera will sing and play her signature purple guitar "Titania" Tuesday, Feb. 11 at 4pm at the Monterey Public Library, 625 Pacific St., Monterey. Admission is free, and a high school poetry open mike session follows. 646-3949.