When budding country artist Laci Kaye Booth traded her small town of Livingstone, Texas, for the bright lights of the American Idol stage in 2019, it pushed the normally introverted aspiring star out of her comfort zone. Her shy personality was in complete opposition to what the singing show is about — a hurdle she had to overcome.
“It made me think, ‘Dang, to be in this industry, you can’t always be shy and introverted,’ Booth shares in a recent interview. “I was used to playing shows in the corner of a restaurant or in a dark bar.”
Idol, with its TV production crew, live audience and at-home viewership, was drastically different from Booth’s usual gigs.
“Being on Idol, I didn’t know how many eyes you felt on you at all times,” the up-and-comer says. “It really helped because being in the music industry now, everything kinda makes more sense after going through that. It was me proving to myself that I could do it, and that’s what I needed.”
Now 26, Booth made it into the American Idol Season 17 Top 5 before being eliminated from the competition. She captivated her fan following with her raspy, soulful sound — a style that Booth calls “dreamy country.”
“When I was around 11, I discovered Stevie Nicks and Nora Jones,” Booth notes. “They influenced me more than anybody, along with all the country music I listened to.”
The desire to perform has seemingly always pumped through Booth’s veins. “I never knew a time in my life where I didn’t want to sing and play guitar and be a country singer, because that was just second nature,” she reflects.
Her family history helped: Booth’s father is country singer Jody Booth, and her paternal great-grandfather was in a Texas swing band called the Polk County Ramblers.
“His side of the family put on a jubilee every year for the whole county and some to come watch,” Booth shares. “I think at the age of eight was my very first time getting onstage and singing “Crazy” by Patsy Cline. It was in my blood even though I’m a naturally shy person …
“I just felt like it’s what I had to do. I was nervous, but it was just like, ‘Okay, everybody else in my family is doing it, so I’ve gotta do it,'” she adds. “After getting a standing ovation, I was like, ‘Okay, this is what it’s all about.'”
After her time on Idol, Booth moved from Texas to Nashville and signed with Big Machine Label Group. She released her debut project, a self-titled release featuring eight songs, in early August. Her song “Shuffle,” meanwhile, is an official country radio single as of Monday (Sept. 13).
Booth co-wrote “Shuffle” with Derrick Southerland and Sam Ellis. “I came to the write with a loose idea of how my grandma’s song that she dedicates to my grandpa at karaoke was [Tammy Wynette’s] “Stand by Your Man,”” the singer explains. “I wanted to compare that to a song that’s the complete opposite.”
Southerland, Booth recalls, suggested the Chicks’ “Goodbye Earl” as the foil, and they were off. In the song, she name-checks, among others, Shania Twain, Carrie Underwood and Trisha Yearwood — some of her idols.
“We wrote this about the songs from the country women I grew up on,” Booth says. “I knew what I wanted to say, but I just didn’t know what kind of song it could be. And it turned out to be one about having your heart on shuffle, both emotionally but also as a nod to how we listen to music now and shuffling through songs.”
Booth has come a long way since the days of singing in her bedroom — and she says she has her younger self to thank for it. “I feel lucky to be as introverted as I was — as I am …,” she says, “because I stayed home in my room and worked on that guitar and sat on my floor and wrote songs instead of going out,” she says.
Now older and wiser — and maybe just a little bit less shy — Booth can look back on that time with words of encouragement for the girl she used to be.
“I’d also say, ‘Have more confidence in yourself,'” Booth offers to her younger self, “because you’re worth it. You’re worth all of this.”
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