Lauren Sanderson Tried the Whole Major Label Thing — Now She’s Doing It All Herself

It’s a Thursday morning in Silver Lake, Calif., and singer-songwriter Lauren Sanderson is already feeling the fatigue set in. “It’s been all hands on deck 24 hours a day,” she sighs. “Anyone who’s in this industry and not drinking coffee might be insane.”


The 28-year-old singer has a good reason for her exhaustion. While Sanderson spent much of her career bouncing between major labels (she signed to Sony’s Epic Records for her 2018 EP Don’t Panic before departing the label in 2019) and more boutique organizations (Rix Records, Young Forever Inc.), the singer is now taking the do-it-yourself approach to its most literal conclusion.

“I’m an only child, and I think the more I grow up, the more I realize how much I might sometimes be overly independent,” she says, laughing at herself. “I would rather go into this year, make the best album of my life and really meet the specific goals and vision I have for myself than rely on someone else. If a manager can do it for me, then I can do it for myself.”

The aforementioned best album of her life is still coming down the pipeline (with a tentative July release date set in place), but those wondering what it might sound like recently got a first taste. “They Won’t Like This,” the recently released lead single from the new LP, features Sanderson at her most confident as she casually asserts that she simply doesn’t care how people perceive her. “I got a theory, yeah, it’s something they won’t like,” she raps on the song’s swaggering first verse. “‘Cause I’m not supposed to be myself, but I just might.”

The song was born out of what Sanderson calls “rejection exposure therapy,” where the singer opens herself up to the possibility of being dismissed in order to overcome her fear of it. “There’s that moment where you’re about to do something that you really want to do, but then something in your brain is like, ‘They’re not gonna like that, they’re gonna judge you,’” she explains. “But you can’t mistake judging yourself for other people judging you. It’s like, are they gonna laugh at you? Or are you laughing at yourself?”

Despite the confident persona she projects to her fans, Sanderson still struggles with rejection — even when it comes to a song about the combatting that very idea. “I loved this song, but I still got in my head and told my girlfriend, ‘I don’t think that I should put it out, I don’t think people will like it,’” Sanderson says. “She looked at me and said, ‘Girl, then what the f-ck did you make this song for? Isn’t that the whole point?’”

Part of the reason the song immediately resonated with the singer is precisely because it reflected the sound of her early career, when she still lived in Indiana and started releasing rap-influenced pop tracks on her own. That, she points out, was her goal in approaching new music for 2024.

“My biggest inspiration for this whole album, this single, all of it was my younger self. It was for the 19-year0old girl who had no clue how to make a song, but she just started saying how she felt on a beat,” she says. “It’s actually really cool to now look back at her, to hear her words for big dreamers and to apply them to my current self.”

That dedication to her younger self also manifested with her new approach to doing business in the music industry. After spending the last six years of her career deferring to managers, promoters and executives at various labels, Sanderson is back to doing all of work for herself.

Sure, the prospect of managing her own career can be daunting — “It can be, like, ‘Oh, f-ck, this is a lot,’ and the goal is not to manage myself forever,” she says — but the singer-songwriter points out that she’s done it all before, albeit on a smaller scale. “This is exactly how I started in Indiana,” she says. “I was my own fake manager, I was a fake booking agent, and I booked an entire 28-city tour that I drove myself around on … I don’t know if it’s because I’m a Capricorn or what, but I love to send an email. I love to make a Dropbox folder.”


Part of her promotion strategy, as it has been with nearly every artist making their mark in the industry as of late, has been TikTok. Over the last few years, Sanderson accrued over 500,000 followers on the app, posting videos ranging from teasers of her latest songs, to diaristic entries on mental health, queer affirmation and more.

Now, that particular tool in her promotional strategy is in jeopardy. In January, Universal Music Group announced that they would be pulling their entire music catalogue — including the work of signed songwriters — from the app saying that TikTok was “trying to build a music-based business, without paying fair value for the music.” In the intervening months since, multiple music organizations have come out in support of UMG’s protest, and even independent promoters have warned clients against relying too heavily on the app for virality. Meanwhile, the House of Representatives recently passed a bill through to the Senate that, if made a law, would effectively force ByteDance — the company that owns TikTok — to sell the app to another company or have the app banned throughout the United States.

For her part, Sanderson recognizes the influence that TikTok has over the music industry right now — but she’s quick to point out that adaptability is more important to success than chasing viral trends. “Some people have built TikTok to be this thing where musicians feel like if you don’t have a million followers on the app, then you might as well just write yourself off,” she says. “TikTok is literally just an app, it is not the make or break for every artist. It definitely would suck if TikTok stopped existing … but if it was gone, I would definitely just start posting Reels. It’s really that simple.”

It certainly helps that before she pursued a career in music, Sanderson worked as a motivational speaker in her teens and early twenties. She could be giving a TED Talk or simply posting an inspirational video on YouTube, but Sanderson always made it clear that her goal was to help uplift anyone who were willing to listen to her.

That facet of herself remains entirely unchanged — even on “They Won’t Like This,” as she’s done with many of her past releases, Sanderson spends the song’s outro instructing her fans to “stop f–king doubting yourself and be this god that you are.”

She chalks up her mood-boosting tendencies to a “delusional confidence” she’s had since she started her career in Indiana. “I had to go to this place in my head and be truly so delusional and convince myself I already did massive things that I hadn’t done. In my head I was like, ‘I’ve already sold out Madison Square Garden,’” she says.

But now, she points out that some of the fantasy has already become reality. Over the last five years, Sanderson has opened for bigger artists like Finneas and Chase Atlantic on their respective solo tours, helped write songs for alt-R&B star Joji’s chart-topping album Smithereens, and cultivated a motivated, ever-growing audience of fans.

“Sometimes I forget that my confidence isn’t really that delusional,” she beams. “Now I have actual proof that I can do this.”

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