We had the good fortune of connecting with Lauren Kunkel and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lauren, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
Becoming a musical artist was never the plan–it wasn’t even on my radar until the end of high school. However, looking back now, all the hints were there, and the honest reason I pursued a creative career was because I couldn’t not pursue it. It was the natural choice, the gut feeling that I couldn’t ignore. Growing up, I didn’t come from a musical family. But music was a part of my being that showed itself constantly. For instance, I was famous at my church as the six-year-old who belted psalms loud enough that people across the building could pick me out. It wasn’t until performing for the first time in the sixth grade talent show that I fell in love with being on stage and decided to start taking voice and piano lessons. Still, this was only a hobby. While I liked music, I was just as much of a STEAM whiz, fascinated by chemistry, physics, and calculus, and I valued the technical side of my brain as much as the artistic. As someone raised by two engineers, it was my unspoken understanding that a more traditional field of study would be my future. I wanted to be a doctor, but once I started applying for college, music was the only thing that stood out as a path. Once I let myself consider the option of studying music, I couldn’t turn back. It was my passion, and I didn’t want to regret never trying to follow it. I fell in love with music for its ability to connect people. There’s no feeling quite like commanding a room, captivating an audience, and baring myself in an emotional performance–and I had to pursue that.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’m a 21-year-old pop-rock musician based in Miami, Florida. I studied contemporary music, songwriting, and music business at the University of Miami Frost School of Music, and what sets me apart from other artists is how I mix my influences of contemporary music, musical theatre, and poetry to tell meaningful, yet catchy, stories through original songs. I’m most at home on the stage, performing with a contagious charisma and energy that make it obvious how deeply I feel the music. I can’t sit still on an upbeat song, but I draw audiences in with emotional pieces as well. I create records that highlight the sound of a live band, raw vocals, and honest lyrics. There’s something in it for everyone: the production is high-quality and professional, the upbeat rock sound makes it fun to listen to, the lyrics add a sincere edge, the vocals exhibit strong female power, and the music is compelling to both advanced musicians and average audiences. I’m most proud of the two singles that I have produced, released, and promoted independently, called “September” and “Feeling February.” They can be found on all streaming platforms under the name “Lauren Kunkel.” I’m also currently working on recording my debut album, which is slated to release in fall 2021. Pursuing a creative career is never easy, and it’s taken a lot of work to get here. The process of releasing music is particularly difficult. You have to find the right producer and musicians to work with, write the songs, arrange them, record in a studio, produce the music, create album artwork, set up all the administrative aspects, and promote the music, among other things. It’s an extremely expensive and time-consuming task–but luckily, I had tons of resources available to me as a student at the University of Miami. Going to college for music was a huge step in discovering my sound and gaining experience as an artist. I worked with a student producer to produce my songs, hired peers to be the musicians on the tracks, booked campus recording studios, and sought guidance from my teachers on the release steps. I’ve learned so much about the music business through school, and the difficulty of it all made it that much more satisfying to finally see my name on Spotify and iTunes. On a deeper level, there’s also a big internal struggle that just comes with being a creator. Art is subjective and competitive, and like most musicians, I’ve had moments where I doubt myself or question the decision to go into an unreliable field. But at the end of the day, these moments pass–and as soon as I step onto the stage or hear my song on Spotify, I remember the excitement that convinced me to go into music in the first place. The biggest lessons I’ve discovered are to learn from your peers and be perseverant in your art. My sound has changed and improved so much just from being around a community of other talented songwriters and musicians, and I would not have been able to achieve nearly as much without their help. Also, all artists have creative slumps or music that doesn’t appeal to everyone. But this is a part of the path, and you have to push through and keep writing without letting these challenges get you down.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
First of all, you can’t visit Miami without going to the beach! I’d take my friend to Virginia Key, which is a particular beach in Biscayne Bay that’s absolutely beautiful and much calmer than South Beach. Also, there are often people riding horses around in the water there, which is not something you get to see every day. After that, I’d take my friend out to dinner at Taco Craft, which is exactly what it sounds like–a local taco place with great queso and fantastic margaritas. Throughout the week, we’d visit Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, a beautiful place to walk around outside, and Wynwood Walls, a huge art exhibit with outdoor murals. Both are great places for photo shoots! On one evening, we’d walk through Coconut Grove, a cute spot with a bunch of cafes and shops, and on another night we’d enjoy wine and cheese at Lagniappe. If time permitted, we’d also stop by the Frost Museum of Science, where I’ve seen some cool laser light shows. Finally–and this one is very niche and a personal favorite–we’d go to Puppy City, a nearby puppy store that’s built on the model of letting people come in and just play with the dogs. I go there almost every week for a huge mood boost!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There are two people who deserve a ton of credit in my journey and career: Michael Koch and Paul Mow. They were my first mentors and music teachers, equally influential in different categories. Both instilled in me the basics of musicianship that laid the foundation for the rest of my career. They taught me about both classical (Mow) and contemporary (Koch) techniques, back in seventh grade when I didn’t even know what a chord was. They were the reason I got seriously started with music, and they pushed me to dive deep into being an emotional, vulnerable performer. I’d also like to shout out Kat Reinhert and Alyce Lindberg. Kat was my vocal teacher in college, and her guidance helped me grow into the artist that I am today. I would never have discovered my full songwriting and performance abilities if she hadn’t placed me as a singer-songwriter in AMB, a premiere school ensemble that she led. She constantly pushed me in my singing, collaboration, writing, and leadership. Alyce was my best friend and roommate throughout most of college, and she constantly inspired me with her exceptional songwriting. I picked up a lot of things just by being around her, and it always pushed me to be better than I was. Much of my edge comes from what I’ve learned from her.
Other: Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/6KmCW0um8LKybRXNk23HY7 Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/user-371037282
Timolyn Esson Michael Koch