Lauren Mink’s career has had a lot of big moments already, competing on American Idol twice and opening for artists such as Maddie & Tae and Hunter Hayes. She got to add to the list of dizzying highs May 12 when President Bill Clinton — campaigning for his wife Hillary Clinton, prior to the May 17 Kentucky Democratic Presidential Primary — showed up at Thursday Night Live, where The Lauren Mink Band was playing.
So of course, we had to ask Lauren a few questions about that moment and her burgeoning career.
Q. So, a former president walks into your gig — what did you all think when President Clinton showed up at your Thursday Night Live set?
A. I believe that’s called being in the right place at the right time! As I’m on my way to TNL, my bandmates were texting me about the Secret Service being there and how bad the traffic was going to be with the president coming downtown, which I brushed off as them pulling my leg (they tend to do this often). I called up my husband to check social media and he quickly told me to hurry up and get downtown, otherwise the president was going to beat me there! I arrived downtown at 4:45 and walked up on stage to sing at 4:50. Talk about trying to give the performance of a lifetime with no sound check and trying to watch what all is going on around you. That’s a lot of pressure! Excuse me, while I add “performed for President Bill Clinton” to my resume. …
I don’t care if you are a fan of his or not, it’s not every day you get to meet a president. To top it off, he walked up on stage and asked us if we’d like a picture! He was very nice and just took his time taking pictures and talking with folks. For him to want to come to TNL says a lot about how much downtown Lexington has to offer!
Q. We could see on video that while President Clinton was working the crowd, you sang Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop,” which was his campaign theme song. Was that part of your repertoire, or was it a spontaneous performance?
A. We have never played that tune before as a band. The Secret Service asked my acoustic guitar player, Dale Adams, if we could play the tune since it was a favorite of the president’s. Of course we knew of the tune and we’ve all played it a bit here and there over the years, but could we pull it off? And in front of the President? My band is unbelievable — the best of the best musicians around. I knew they’d pull it off, but who knew we’d do so well as to get a “thumbs up” from President Bill Clinton? It’s definitely going to become a part of our set list from now on. Thanks Mr. President!
Q. What kind of impact has being on “American Idol” had on your career?
A. American Idol is one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences that very few people get to achieve. Season 11, I made it to Hollywood and they followed me around my work with STRIDE on a hometown visit. Season 12, I made it to the Top 24 Girls, which far surpassed my goal of making it past the first round, where I was eliminated the prior season. The publicity and exposure the show gave my music career cannot be bought — it catapulted me into being a household name in Kentucky overnight. The Idol high was so intense and although it has started to fade, the music is still there. Idol allowed me to open for artists I never would have dreamed of including Danielle Bradbury, Maddie & Tae, Hunter Hayes, Dustin Lynch, and Justin Moore. There are so many relationships that I am truly grateful for that have come from my Idol experience from radio and TV hosts, music venue owners, but mostly I’m thankful for the people that have gone along on this journey with me — my fans.
Q. What has been your favorite performance thus far in your career?
A. Gosh, I have to choose just one?! My favorite live performance was a toss-up between 2 shows in 2015. There were no celebrities. There weren’t thousands of people. They were just a killer good time! Thursday Night Live last year, I was eight months pregnant and the band just jived that night — we planned the set list perfectly and people were lovin’ it! I’m pretty sure there were a few people watching and waiting for me to pop, but that just made it even better. I love to prove people wrong and surprise them by doing the unexpected. Hopping around singing on stage at eight months pregnant in August heat was just that! The second performance was CMA Fest in Nashville. We drove down there that morning, played a killer two-hour set in Honky Tonk Central, packed up our gear and left that place knowing we deserved to be there. It was a sort of rite of passage for me. When you’re in Nashville and people are shocked at your performance in a good way, you know you’re doing something right. You need that validity every once in a while to let you know you’re on the right track.
Q. What is STRIDE, and how does it affect your work as a musician?
A. STRIDE is a program for adults with disabilities in Winchester. They are a therapeutic program that aims to increase the quality of life for every participant by developing friendships, participating in Special Olympics and learning life skills they can use every day. This program means the world to me. When American Idol chose to do a hometown visit, I knew that I had to include the STRIDE program, not only because they are amazing and are in no way shy of a camera, but because I wanted this experience to benefit them just as much as it would me. I knew there was fund-raising opportunity there. We actually received a check from someone in California a week after my appearance on the show just to show appreciation for the work I was doing. That’s amazing to me. Although I am no longer the director of STRIDE, I still coach some of their Special Olympic sports and am extremely involved in their fund raising. I’m very excited to be the band playing for Special Olympics Opening Ceremonies coming up on June 3 at EKU! For more information about STRIDE, visit Strideky.org! Our next fundraiser is the STRIDE wild game dinner and auction, coming up on June 24. Come out for a great time to support some amazing individuals!
This feature is Five Questions online. Go to LexGo.com for a lot more from Lauren Mink.