Home for the Holidays: Crystal Bowersox returns to perform with TSO

It’s good to come home.

Singer-songwriter and American Idol alum Crystal Bowersox hasn’t been able to visit northwest Ohio much recently. She dropped in this fall to (very) briefly see family, but has mostly been spending 2020 sequestered in Nashville, her current home.

On December 19, Bowersox will make a big return to the Glass City, where she launched her musical career, by performing a one-night-only Home for the Holidays show with the Toledo Symphony.  “I know that people are experiencing a lot of hardship right now, and to be able to come home and perform with the TSO . . . hopefully we can raise someone’s spirit a little bit,” Bowersox explains.

The show won’t feature a full orchestra— no woodwinds, for safety reasons— but Bowersox is clearly thrilled to get a chance to perform with these talented musicians.  “I’m working with (violinist) Merwin Siu, who is incredible, and he’s doing string arrangement on some of my original songs, and then there might be a couple Christmas tunes in there, too.”

A new medium
Bowersox is also thrilled to get a chance to perform as, since the arrival of COVID, her usually busy touring schedule has been “non-existent.” She has continued to host shows, though— via social media. “It’s just learning to adapt to this new medium, which provided challenges at first. It has become a one-on-one connection with the fans, and you can watch the comments coming in live, and respond and interact with people in a way that I don’t think previous generations of musicians and artists have ever done. It’s wonderful! It’s just real time,” Bowersox said.

“I definitely miss the energy, the electricity in the air, when you’re in the same space with your audience. It’s synergy, it’s symbiotic— we need each other, artist and audience.”

That connection has been a part of Bowersox’s life since she was a kid, as the native of Elliston attended Oak Harbor High School and the Toledo School for the Arts. Music was a passion, whether as part of the choir in school or playing gigs at local venues like Papa’s Tavern and The Village Idiot.

Toledo’s Idol
Of course, Bowersox’s visibility exploded with her appearance on American Idol’s ninth season in 2010. She looks back on her time on America’s television screens with a detachment— an experience so different from her current life as a performer. “It almost feels like it didn’t happen. It’s like this dream state when I think back to it. I live a normal life, I just have a different job. A not-so-typical job.”

“Courage to Be Kind”
That job means there are always new songs to write— such as “Courage to Be Kind,” a single she released this past summer. A powerful exploration of the divisive nature of today’s world, the song came about as Bowersox and her co-writer Steve Seskin were sitting at her kitchen table, trying to process the shootings in Charleston in 2017.

“We read the newspaper and it had said that the mother of one of the victims, through her tears, forgave her child’s killer. It was unbelievable and such an incredible act of forgiveness and compassion for the very person that tore apart her world. And I admired that, I don’t know if I could live up to that, but it’s definitely something to, I think, strive for,” Bowersox said.

Giving Toledo a hug
“Courage to Be Kind” is part of Bowersox’s next studio album, HitchHiker, scheduled for release in 2021…maybe. “Ideally, I’d like to wait to release it until I can actually tour in support of it. So I’m just kind of sitting on this record, we’ll see,” she said.

In a tumultuous time, Bowersox said she hopes Toledo audiences get a sense of warmth from her show with the TSO. “If I could hug every single one of them, I would.  After shows (I’ve always loved to) meet people in the lobby and hug everyone who wants a hug. So this is my way (in these current times) of hugging everyone and telling them I love them.”

8pm. Saturday, December 19.
Toledo Museum of Art Peristyle Theatre, 2445 Monroe St.
419.246.8000 | toledosymphony.com
Available for streaming at https://stream.artstoledo.com/products/an-evening-with-crystal-bowersox