Lights fading from purple to pink illuminated the walls behind LO and her band at the woman-owned WAAS Gallery in Dallas. A hard-hitting drum track and deep, rumbling lines on the synthesizer accompany her soulful voice. The performance marked the release of LO’s new self-titled EP.
Though her parents’ background in music seemingly set her up for success, she has been faced with instances of discrimination in the industry since she was about 13.
“Ultimately, this EP is about finding myself, but part of that is going through the motions of getting past this discrimination and speaking my truth,” she says. “It’s so important and I don’t want the people experiencing that to feel alone.”
She was born Lauren Cole, and music was always a big part of LO’s life. Both of her parents were musicians. They would play Prince, Michael McDonald, Joni Mitchell and the Beach Boys to LO as a child.
“I grew up in such a musically diverse household,” she says. “That was just a part of my daily life.”
While she got her first guitar for her 13th birthday — a Guild guitar that still hangs on her wall today — she says piano was her first love. When she was old enough, she would sit on the bench and mess with the keys of a piano her parents had since before she was born.
Artistry was not expected of her, but it was something LO was called to do, she says. Growing up with her parents was like getting an education. All the different styles she was exposed to trickled down into what she would later write and create.
“That’s what makes my sound my own, that fusion of all these different things,” she says.
By the time she was 13, she was performing at songwriting expos. Oftentimes, she would get belittled, she says. Her male peers would get praised for having half the talent that she had, she says.
“I feel as though women have to work so much harder to make an impression and especially to keep their integrity intact,” she says. “As a woman you have to be strategic about it unfortunately.”
LO says she has worked hard to surround herself with people who uplift women. She does not want to compromise her integrity to be successful in her music, she says. Through her EP, she has been able work with who she calls “boss girls.”
“I feel as though women have to work so much harder to make an impression and especially to keep their integrity intact. As a woman you have to be strategic about it unfortunately.” – LO
Some of these “boss girls” are with Creative Currency, a women-run artist consulting agency. They have helped her develop as an artist, she says. Before teaming up with Creative Currency, she says she was filled with self-doubt. If it weren't for the agency, she may not have been confident enough to release her EP.
“I actually end up addressing that in this EP in a track called 'Fire,'" LO says. "It just talks about my experience with misogyny in music, and how disappointing it can be. You can have all the talent in the world, but it can get in the way.”
She's a Cuban-American, and discrimination has been a problem for LO her whole life, she says. It is being less tolerated today, however, and she says social media has allowed for a light to be shined on those who do not uplift women.
She hopes to act as a symbol for people who face discrimination, to show them it can be overcome. Through working on her EP, she was able to be heavily involved in the production process.
She looks forward to getting back into the studio and exercising her production skills.
“There aren’t a whole lot of women who find success in this industry,” she says. “I want to support them as much as I can, and for them to support me because it's just such a beautiful energy.”