Lauren Spencer Smith cares.
Other people in Smith’s position might be demure to admit the depths of their caring about how their debut album was received, but Smith doesn’t see much point in pretending she’s too cool to track streaming or TikTok numbers. After all, she titled the album Mirror because, for the longest time, she only let her bathroom and bedroom mirrors see (and hear) the real her. It just makes sense to hold a mirror up to the world once sharing her fullest, most vulnerable self with it.
“I’m so competitive with myself, and I always want to be better and be the best that I can be,” Smith tells tmrw. “I didn’t become Olivia Rodrigo or Billie Eilish overnight, which is obviously every artist’s dream goal for life, but [the album] has done great, and my fans know the words at all the shows. It’s been really cool to see everything face-to-face — see which songs people are gravitating toward.”
Thing is, people do draw comparisons between Smith’s breakthrough, platinum-certified ballad “Fingers Crossed,” which blew up on TikTok in late 2021 before its official January 2022 release, and Rodrigo’s debut-single-turned-perennial-No. 1 hit “Drivers License” from January 2021. Before that, ironically, Smith’s first-ever viral moment came during a memorable teenage drive.
Her dad was driving her from their home on Vancouver Island to Victoria, British Columbia, Canada to get an MRI on her knee, a byproduct of an adolescence spent playing soccer. From a young age, Smith had known she wanted to leave Vancouver Island behind for good — not just for a daytrip to the doctor — and believed her voice could carry her out.
“Now, I love where I live, but as a kid, I walked around being like, ‘I don’t want to be on this island. I want to live in a big city. There’s no opportunities here. Nobody from the music industry lives here. I need to be in a city. I need to leave this island,’” she says.
And for as long as she can remember, Smith had sung in the car with her family and friends — “We’d be like, ‘Oh, Lauren’s going to be [our] radio today!’” — and her parents would occasionally film it. On this day in early 2019, she chose Lady Gaga’s “Always Remember Us This Way” from A Star Is Born.
“My dad made me restart, and he was like, ‘I want to film it,’” she says. “The next day, when I got home, my dad had sent it to my mom, which is also hilarious because they are divorced, so I know if my dad’s sending it to my mom, it must be like, ‘We need to post this on Facebook. This video is good.’”
Millions of views later, Smith’s parents were validated in believing their daughter’s voice was special. The American Idol judges jumped on the bandwagon when Smith auditioned for Season 18 in early 2020, with Katy Perry saying, “You may be 16, but that voice is a thousand years old.” Since finishing in the top 20 on Idol, Smith has crammed a thousand lives into three years, and she isn’t at all ashamed about how she arrived in such a position.
“Ariana Grande came from Nickelodeon, even Olivia [Rodrigo] with the High School Musical series, there are so many huge artists in the world that came from doing something before, but no one talks about that anymore when you get to a certain level,” Smith says, adding, “I definitely don’t think it makes you less of an artist to come from a place like American Idol or TikTok. I’m of the opinion [that] whatever got you to where you are today could have been harder or less hard than somebody else, but it doesn’t matter. You’re doing music, and your music is impacting and helping others. That’s really all that matters.”
Smith’s music is unquestionably resonant, as reflected across Mirror and reiterated in every city her international Mirror Tour visits.
While “Fingers Crossed” captured the heartbreak of one-sided devotion and deceit, “That Part” swells with the love-drunk optimism of envisioning an idyllic future with the one. The “That Part” video features Smith and her boyfriend, Matt, alongside various other couples and their unique love stories. Proposals have been happening when Smith performs the swoonworthy song on tour. One was particularly eye-opening during her show in Portland, Oregon on August 14.
“The girlfriend proposed to her boyfriend, and when I went over to ask what happened, he was full-sob crying, and I just love men who cry,” Smith says. “He said something like he had gone to prison, and his girlfriend stayed with him, and now they’re still together. He just didn’t realize love was possible, and they could continue that through the hardship in their relationship. I could see in their faces how much they loved each other.”
Moments like that one keep Smith focused on her purpose when she’s understandably overwhelmed by her relatively new demanding reality. She’s quickly learning how non-negotiable self-care is, especially because she doesn’t have the luxury to “call in sick [when] having a bad day.” She takes vocal rest seriously, binge-watching Grey’s Anatomy or Suits to pass the time until she can sing again.
“Life is already hard enough to navigate anyway, but when my life constantly is about showing up to shows and making other people happy, that can make it even harder to take time for yourself,” she says.
She’s looking forward to recharging post-tour by spending December back on Vancouver Island. And when it comes time to use her voice again, her vulnerability will not be pigeonholed.
“Mirror is mainly about breakups and the one-off songs about friendships, but with the second album, I would love to write more about mental health and the things I go through that don’t have anything to do with other people and the relationships I have,” she says. “I don’t really see myself going to pop or doing anything too crazy — sticking more in my Adele roots, where all the albums are just going to be sad, piano ballads.”
Photographer – Dylan Perlot
Stylist – Tatiana Cinquino
H&MUA – Neicy Small
Words – Megan Armstrong