Photographer: Robby Klein / Courtesy of BMLG Records
At a small venue in Huntsville, Texas, eight-year-old Laci Kaye Booth stood on a stage for the first time. She headlined the Ogden Family Jubilee — a family reunion for the musically-inclined. Even though she sang only for family members, she had massive stage fright, and swayed back and forth for her whole cover of Pasty Cline’s “Crazy.”
“I still get so nervous that I feel like I’m about to puke,” Booth says.”I compare
It’s difficult to imagine an American Idol finalist like Booth coaxing herself onto a stage with breathing exercises, but it’s true. Laci Kaye Booth is an introvert. She loves performing, but her favorite part of music-making takes place in a studio. Fortunately, after finding success on Season 17 of American Idol, she made the industry connections necessary to secure a record deal and start doing what she really loves: songwriting. On August 6, Booth’s debut self-titled EP will release with BMLG Records.
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Booth grew up in Livingston, Texas. Its 8 square miles houses about 5,000 people. The closest metropolitan area is Houston, about 90 miles south, but the only lands in between the two cities are state parks and swanky suburbs. Her stepdad, a carpenter, built their family home. But for the nine years that the home was under construction, Laci slept in a barn loft.
Booth’s dad, Jody, is a musician. They performed together throughout Laci’s life, but she was too shy to share her songwriting. “There’s a vulnerability in songwriting that I was scared of,” Booth says.
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But she loved playing music, so she made money in college singing cover songs from the corners of local bars. “I was used to playing in restaurants, where no one paid attention to me,” Booth says. Then, she auditioned for Idol. Suddenly, 60 million people were paying attention.
Idol was a test. If Booth could handle the extroversion of prime-time TV, she could pursue a career in the music industry. Booth reached the Top 5. After the season, she packed her bags and moved from Livingston to Nashville.
Something that set Booth apart on Idol, and sets her apart from many other popular country women, is her hushed, lulling vocal quality. Often, she sings less like a stadium-buster than one of her indie dream-pop contemporaries like Clairo or Billie Eilish. “I’ve been telling people that my genre is dreamy-country,” she says. “I completely made it up.”
This is because Booth’s biggest musical influence is Stevie Nicks. Yes, she learned songwriting from nineties country women like Reba and Shania, but she fell in love with the sounds of Nicks and Norah Jones.
Booth calls her debut a “well-rounded collection,” and various song styles — including her coined “dreamy-country” — are on display. She wanted to appeal to fans following her from Idol, while experimenting with newer sounds. “Used to You” is an unexpectedly-sweet exhale about settling into the “comfort” stage of a romantic relationship. “On The Fence” recall her feistier country women predecessors. She even name-checks these influences on “Shuffle,” a song attributing her fluctuating emotions to the strong women in her music library.
“My country playlist / is real persuasive / Boy you’re in trouble / My heart’s on shuffle, babe,” she sings.
Booth dips into slower tracks as the album progresses, finally punctuating her artistic debut with an ode to her home state. Inspired by the sorrow she felt upon moving to Nashville, the song imagines “Texas” as a lover, with Amarillo-blue-sky eyes. “Now he’ll have to burn without me,” she sings.
Leaving Texas was one of the most difficult decisions Booth had to make. Nashville is 700 miles from Livingston, and Booth’s grandparents are getting older. But she says leaving, so far, has been worth it.
“This is all I’ve ever wanted,” she says. “Texas is home, but at least Nashville is the next-best thing.”
I”m a freelance journalist based in Houston, Texas and New Haven, Connecticut, where I study English and Creative Writing at Yale. I grew up in South Texas on a steady diet of The Chicks and Baby Bash, and “Big “Ol Freak” by Megan Thee Stallion has been my most-frequented track since its release. I often cover both rap and folk-influenced music. I”m particularly interested in how women and nonbinary artists navigate the hip-hop and country music industries, collective action, and how artists stay financially stable in the internet age. I can be found on Twitter at