For musician / Coast Guard spouse Lauren Leiter, making music runs in her family. Creating songs with others is a way she stays connected and keeps communication flowing even with multiple military moves. Learn more about Lauren and ‘Lighter Ray,’ her duo with her sister.
Tell us a little about yourself, your journey as a military spouse, and where you are today.
I met my husband, Nick, in Corpus Christi, Texas on January 4th, 2008. Yes, I remember the exact date because it was a blind date. A few weeks earlier, he saw me on stage and asked his friend to ask my sister to set up a hang. And he will be so happy that I told you all. Haha. I was a college student who sang in a local band, worked at a hair salon, and was also a nanny on the side. We dated for four months and then we were engaged! At twenty-one, I moved out of my parents’ house, married a Coast Guard pilot and endured my first deployment.
I grew up a Navy brat. My father was a deep sea diver who served for twenty years. I knew what it was to say goodbye, start over, make new friends, and keep in touch. But I don’t think I realized how much more of a challenge it would be to be a military spouse. I call my mom a lot now.
This will be our fourth PCS this summer. We have been stationed in Corpus Christi, Texas; Atlantic City, New Jersey; Aguadilla, Puerto Rico; and Princeton, New Jersey. It never gets easier, but I do feel like I get stronger and a little wiser with each move.
How did you become a musician?
I don’t remember ever making the choice to become a musician. It’s just the way my family interacted. It was another way of communication for us. Every day when my dad came home from work, he would change out of his uniform and put on his bass. He would put on a record, usually Grand Funk Railroad, and sit in our living room and play.
My parents met in a rock band in 1981. My dad never stopped playing. He just introduced us to music, and we became a traveling band. Well, not a paid traveling band. The Navy did pay for us to travel though. *
Describe for us your creative work and the aesthetic of your music?
Writing is my happy place. The stage always pumps me with adrenaline, and it is incredible to connect and have a moment with a large audience. But honestly, it can be very draining at times. You really do give your audience every ounce of you and afterwards it can feel like a big low after the rush ends. When I write, I feel connected with something bigger. I feel charged. Co-writing is everything. To be able to create music with others is what I live for. Sometimes it’s like a blind date. You meet a writer, you chit chat, you find something you both are feeling, and you write a story. It’s amazing. I’m kinda into blind dates I think.
Country and blues is what naturally comes out of me. However, I’ve been influenced by every genre. My grandmother was a blues and jazz singer and she lived with us growing up. She would sing show tunes and old blues standards to us, at the edge of our bed each night. My timing is all because of her. Without trying to, I soaked it all in and now it’s just the stuck with me. I’m always a half beat behind when I sing anything.
What’s it like signing with a record company? Do you feel like you are in the big leagues?
When ‘Lighter Ray’ (our duo) signed with Capitol Records Nashville, it was a little surreal. My sister, Chynna and I were just focused on the music, and it kind of naturally happened. We didn’t have time to focus on the hype. We just really wanted to put out something we believed in and were proud of. I’ve never felt like I have “made it” but there have been many times where I have felt incredibly humbled to be working with some of the people I have been blessed to work with.
What’s it like making music with your sister? Do you tour?
Making music with my sister is more fun than anything. She has the best personality, and we laugh a lot. We give looks to each other on stage and know exactly what the other is about to do. We have a bond that I pray my daughters will have one day.
How has your role as a military spouse impacted your work as a writer- creatively, logistically, or otherwise?
Military life has definitely impacted my career in music. My sister and I are both married to pilots and for years we would travel every two to four weeks to pursue our dream. After seven years, Nick and I had our first daughter, JoJo. Naturally, that kind of travel became unrealistic for us. At the moment, Chynna is on The Voice in Australia, where she lives with her husband, and I am releasing my first solo EP. As you can imagine, being in two different continents puts some limitations on you.
Being a military spouse has made things more difficult, but I have written some of my best songs because of the challenges that come with the territory. I recently released a music video of a song called “Warrior” off my new EP. It gives people a glimpse into the struggles military spouses face daily. My fellow Milspos have been a huge inspiration for a few songs actually.
How do you cultivate your creativity?
I truly believe creativity is a learned trait. You must exercise your creative muscles daily as you would any muscle you want to strengthen. I try to sit down for at least 30 minutes every day and write something. I think co-writing is the best process because you have more than one perspective. You have so much more available to you to shape a story/song. *
How do you meet other artists or plug into the local arts scene when you PCS?
Over the years, as a child and adult, I have learned that it’s best to just jump into a new place. Show people who you are. I have never had trouble meeting other musicians because I go where they go. We’re into the same things so I run into people and we end up working together and creating. It’s fun meeting new folks and making connections.
What’s next for you?
I am currently working with my friend who has started an independent label called Novum Records, based out of Texas. We finished my EP in May and will release the second song “Silver Lining” next month. I’m excited to play some shows and always looking forward to the next song. *
What is the most practical piece of advice that you would give to other artists?
Don’t listen to the critics. Stay humble and keep creating.