When you play songs for pocket change, you learn how to turn on a dime.
Just ask LALA. She’s been busking since she was 10 years old, playing guitar and singing Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried” for crowds at Market Square in Knoxville and later performing in front of popular tourist restaurants in Pigeon Forge – anywhere people were lined up waiting for a table.
“It’s where I fell in love with performing,” she said. “I played for older people who loved classic country, I played for younger kids who loved Taylor Swift, and I played for the crowd in between who loved James Taylor, Fleetwood Mac, and Chicago. I was connecting with a 7-year-old and someone who was 70 – and everyone in between.”
With your audience at arm’s reach it’s do or die on the sidewalk. And LALA learned early how to make fans and fill her guitar case with dollars with undeniable musical skills, razor sharp intuition, and a fearless drive to perform. Even if her mom had to drive her to work.
She was an early prodigy in a family that loved music but didn’t have lofty musical aspirations. But they recognized it in LALA as early as two when she sang “This is the Day the Lord Has Made” solo in church and they encouraged her every step toward an eventual career in Nashville.
She started playing piano by memory when she was four and guitar when she was eight, but the street corner was the gateway for a musical journey that included being mentored by the region’s best bluegrass performers, performing with the Knoxville Symphony, and joining the cast of the popular variety shows in Pigeon Forge, including the Old Smokey Hoedown and Country Tonight, where she was the “youth talent” dressed in gingham and rhinestone belt buckles, which she still finds charming (she will admit to being a “bit of a dork”).
Pleading for lessons and regularly surpassing the skills of her teachers, LALA was a quick study. She inherited a crisp, finger-picking Taylor guitar from her bee keeper dad when she played it more proficiently than he could. When he handed it over, he made her promise she would use it to follow her dreams.
Self aware and adept at mining the right moment – LALA found her creative home at Riser House, a full-service label, artist management, and publishing company co-founded by Jennifer Johnson, who saw sparkle and promise when LALA was just 14 and later signed her to a record and publishing deal.
Now a seasoned performer and gifted songwriter at 21, LALA is getting ready to release her first EP and share what she has learned as a wry observer of everyday life.
With a mental inventory of 500 songs, she’s a walking jukebox and there isn’t much she can’t play. And she brings that wealth of musical knowledge to her songwriting. Her foundation was forged in country and bluegrass, but she calls her sound “Southern Blue-Eyed Soul” due in large part to the influential female singers she emulated growing up from Dolly Parton and Patsy Cline to Karen Carpenter, Bonnie Raitt, and Stevie Nicks.
Performing more than 300 shows a year teaches you something about yourself and she carries herself with undeniable confidence. She knows who she is as an artist with a firm hold on what she wants to say as a songwriter.
“At an early age I was able to connect with people though music and see the value of music and what it can do,” she said with complete humility. “At every age, you can make an impact with music. I love knowing I can do that.”
That’s not to say it’s been easy – it rarely is for any kid this talented who would rather play for tips than go to football games and sleepovers. But what she gained was a huge audience of fans from around the world who fell in love with the bright, talented little girl with the big guitar and bigger voice.
Even her name is an homage to her musical leanings. Nothing trite, it is an acronym for Logan Ashley and she has it tattooed on her left arm above her wrist as a reminder of the power of music to move people. Her mission is to influence people to be kind and not be afraid to be their true self – no matter where they start or where that leads
“Being kind and being real with people is something I am really passionate about with the songs I sing and the message they leave behind,” she said.