Lauren Spencer Smith

Photography
Sami Drasin
Styling
Tatiana Cinquino
Hair/Makeup
Neicy Small
Assisted by
Kourtney Cain

Friday, July 14 was an pivotal day for singer-songwriter Lauren Spencer-Smith, to say the least. Two-and-a-half years following her musical breakthrough, the 19-year-old released her much-anticipated debut album, Mirror, via Island Records/Republic Records and also kicked off the first show of her world tour in Chicago that same evening. As you can imagine, she felt a rollercoaster of emotions. “I was definitely really stressed out,” Lauren tells EUPHORIA. on her day off. “Doing everything in one day was so chaotic because we were trying to make sure the show during the night was perfect. But also the album came out so I was trying to be on my phone and interact with fans and be excited.”

Even though a studio album has only been accessible for a couple of months, the name Lauren Spencer Smith has still been on the tip of people’s tongues for some time now. Recognized as the go-to singer for confessional pop ballads, she has been ushering in an international fanbase who identify with her stories and recently secured herself a spot on Billboard’s 21 Under 21 for 2023. Although she’s made her rise to stardom look rather effortless, getting to this point has required its fair share of hustling and groundwork — a motive that has always seemed so natural for the self-assured and driven teenager.

lauren spencer smith

For Lauren, it’s always been music that has fueled her fire. Born in the UK in the city of Portsmouth, she would find herself moving to Canada when she was a toddler and shortly developed her love for singing thereafter. “Since I was two or three, I have always sung along to the radio and been so obsessed with music. My parents started buying me karaoke machines, CD players, and albums that by the time I was old enough to really remember the memories of my childhood, music was already just so instilled into me,” Lauren explains. “I was that six-year-old that would tell all my teachers ‘Because I’m gonna be a singer’ after they would ask, ‘Why didn’t you finish your assignment?’ I was totally that teenager who just knew exactly what I wanted to do since I was really young.”

She recalls her first-ever performance taking place at a local karaoke competition in her hometown. “I sang ‘Rolling in the Deep’ by Adele, which I also still sing in my set now on tour because of that,” she says. Lauren would participate in small competitions where she would perform to crowds as tiny as 50 people. However, that number rapidly increased when she won the chance to sing on a stage in front of 20,000 people with Keith Urban at age 11, a performance which, to date, has been watched more than 7 million times on her YouTube channel. 

Lauren continued to alarm people about her talent by sharing covers of famous songs online. In 2019, her rendition of Lady Gaga’s “Always Remember Us This Way,” recorded while in the car with her father, was her first taste of virality and caught the attention of Steve Harvey, who invited her to appear on his show. She then released two live albums, titled Unplugged, the first of which earned her a Juno Award nomination. The following year, the producers of American Idol discovered Lauren and quickly came knocking, suggesting she should consider participating as a contestant for the 18th series. The hungry 16-year-old secured herself an American visa and took a chance on the opportunity. Eliminated during the Top 20 round, Lauren was by no means defeated, especially when her unexpected big break was just around the corner.

lauren spencer smith

Like a lot of her contemporaries (Tate McRae, Mimi Webb), TikTok can be credited for Lauren’s sudden overnight success. It was her song “Fingers Crossed” that she insists was the “changing point” in her life. Upon sharing a 47-second-long clip of the demo to the platform in November 2021, millions started to take notice and demanded it be put on streaming platforms. Two months later, the heartbreak ballad was self-released and became an instant global smash, entering the top 20 on the US Billboard Hot 100, top 5 in the UK, and even No. 1 in parts of Europe. As of writing this, “Fingers Crossed” has accumulated over 360 million Spotify streams. “Of course, I gained some followers from when I was on American Idol, but there definitely wasn’t a drastic change in my lifestyle or my career from necessarily being on the show whereas ‘Fingers Crossed’ was definitely more of a zero to 100 lifestyle change,” Lauren says.

That isn’t the only change that has occurred since Lauren’s claim to fame. Unlike before, using TikTok to promote your brand is no longer what used to be considered niche. It’s now the norm. Once upon a time, however, there was a small clan of emerging artists who set the trend for teasing unreleased material and going viral. Lauren, of course, was part of that gang. “There were like 20 of us doing it,” she says. “The app is so oversaturated now,” she adds. “Every creator and musician would agree, it’s way harder to have a viral video, especially with original songs because there’s just so many people posting on the app now.” It’s that exact reason why Lauren has expressed in previous interviews that she doesn’t believe “Fingers Crossed” would take off the way it did if it was released today. A statement she still stands by. 

“I definitely still believe that,” she says. “I think so many hit songs have been put out just at the perfect timing. ‘Fingers Crossed’ was put out at such a time that something like that emotionally was kind of going on in the world. It seemed like everyone my age on the internet was going through a breakup. It was Christmas time and everybody was sad because they were locked up in their houses. I feel like what’s kind of going on in the world socially right now isn’t the era of ‘Fingers Crossed.’”

lauren spencer smith

Serving as the oldest song on the album, “Fingers Crossed” is among 14 other tracks that shaped Mirror’s vision, which was to convey the up and down emotions she faced while writing it. With each title detailing the different chapters in her life, critics have been quick to praise and compare her autobiographical songwriting talents to the likes of Taylor Swift and Olivia Rodrigo, a compliment not to be taken lightly. “I don’t necessarily seek stuff out,” she says after being asked about reading reviews of her work. “I feel like I used to do that when I was younger and sometimes it can lead to just finding all the negative things about yourself, which I would hate to focus on. I just try to see the positive engagement and the fan stuff, which is all usually really positive and happy.” 

She continues, “Anytime you put out a song you’re like, ‘Oh, are they gonna like it?’ ‘Are they gonna hate it?’ But I feel like the reaction from my fans has just been so positive and I felt really good about it and really happy with how people are taking in the songs.”

In a world where many artists today are reliant on collaborations, Lauren almost opted for Mirror not to contain any as she valued the key messages behind the songs and their ability to remain authentic. “It definitely was important to me to make sure that my album just felt like it was mine as the stories were all coming from my heart,” she says. Her mindset would later shift when she would invite her peers GAYLE and Em Beihold to feature on the completed version of “Fantasy.” Although, the idea didn’t feel like a big compromise as Lauren explains it wasn’t done for tactical reasons.

“I’m such a big fan of GAYLE and Em. I love them both. Because we’ve had songs come out at the same time, we found ourselves always doing the same radio festivals and just being always on the same charts and included in the same post by radio stations and whatnot. We kept bumping into each other and then we started forming a group chat and talking all the time and being friends. It was just a really natural process,” she says. “After a couple of months of having a group chat with them, I sent them “Fantasy” and was like, ‘Hey, do you guys wanna be on this? No pressure, feel free to say no.’ They were both super happy to try and be a part of it. We went back in the studio and they wrote their parts and we recreated the song to fit all three of us. Once it was finished, we were stoked to put it out.”

lauren spencer smith

Lauren admits that even though the songs are written from her own personal life experiences, she still faced a few setbacks during the creative process. “‘28’ was probably the hardest to write,” she says. In fact, there were others involved in the making of the album who weren’t all that keen for the song to have a place on the tracklisting. “I debated putting it out for a really long time and the rest of my group who helped me decide what goes on my album didn’t necessarily want it on the album,” Lauren recollects. “It was kind of a song I had to put my foot down on as I really wanted it on the album for my own reasons.” Even when they were down to the wire, Lauren remembers there were still a handful of songs that still didn’t feel as if they were quite done yet. “We were cutting it very close to our deadline on a lot of songs, honestly,” she says with a laugh. “There were probably about five songs on the album that we couldn’t get the production perfect and we almost did not cross the finish line,” she adds. “You’re up every night till 3 a.m. trying to finish a song, but magically, we did it!”

One of those songs Lauren managed to complete right before the deadline was the album closer “Do It All Again,” which she believes summarizes the journey listeners have been following her on for the past two-and-a-half years. “I feel like the ending message of the album to me has always been that everything happens for a reason. There are so many sad concepts in the album and of course, I did feel that way at the time, but I think it’s really beautiful and cool that towards the end of the album I started to feel grateful for everything that had happened to me,” Lauren says. “I definitely hope people who are listening to the album, especially as a whole, get to the end and feel as if they’re leaving this album realizing that hopefully they’re gonna get to feel it the same way that I feel. I want them to realize that everything happens for a reason, good or bad and they’re gonna get to where they need to be in life no matter what the rollercoaster was to get there.”

lauren spencer smith

On a couple of occasions, Lauren confessed she was anxious leading up to the release of Mirror, revealing that she’s very number-driven and feels the pressure to meet certain expectations. She blames social media algorithms for giving her this mentality. “Honestly, I feel like a lot of people might not agree with this, but I feel like being an artist literally depends on your numbers and your stats,” Lauren declares. “If you’re wanting to get to the top, which a lot of artists obviously do, you’re always having numbers just shoved in your face. If you’re trying to get to the top of a chart, you’re trying to get X amount of streams. I feel what’s constantly in our faces is always numbers and especially with social media now, it’s always shoved in our face and you can’t really escape the numbers. I feel like no matter what you do, there’s always like a cloud in the back of your head that makes you feel as if you need to hit a certain number.”

Racking up an impressive 1 billion global streams, it goes without saying that the numbers Lauren needed to succeed have been there all along, as well as the fans who are invested in her music beyond the trends, something which isn’t always the case for the younger generation releasing in the digital age. Having already completed the North American and European leg of her tour, Lauren is set to conquer Australia and New Zealand in the forthcoming weeks. With additional dates added and venues needing to be upgraded due to high demand, the opportunity to sell out shows is something she doesn’t take for granted. “Honestly, I feel like doing the shows and hearing people sing the lyrics back have been the most career-highlighting moments,” Lauren says. “It’s really wild and it’s really crazy because obviously I love music so I feel like there’s songs and artists in my life that really literally changed my life or changed the way that I viewed things or helped me get over something. It’s really crazy to hear and meet fans say the same thing about my music and feel like my music actually has a purpose in the world to help other people has been really, really cool.”

lauren spencer smith

With her whole life leading up to a debut album, Lauren is already eager to start working on her sophomore and knows where she wants to take her artistry next. “I have a million concepts written on my phone for the second album. I already know kind of what I want the artwork to be, and what I want the title to be, and I already know when I want it to come out. I’m like a big planner organizer,” Lauren says. “I’m really excited about the second project even though the first one just came out. The first album has just really inspired me to just keep writing new things and meeting with fans and hearing how they love the songs or what they don’t like has really inspired me to start writing some other songs.” 

Lauren is well aware that the time she has to write a second album needs to be a much shorter period than the first. She describes the idea of that as “a little scary.” However, it’s a challenge she’s looking forward to coming face to face with. “Now that I’ve written an album, I know the process and I know who I wanna write with and how to get it done the right way. I’m really excited and I think it’ll be a lot smoother than the first album,” Lauren says. If everything goes to plan, that album will drop at the top of 2025. In the meantime, the Mirror era is still very much active as her new single, “Sad Forever,” out October 13, will serve as an extension of the album.