Crystal Bowersox is in a happy place. She just moved into a new house in Chicago with her husband and son. Taking a break from unpacking, she's sitting on the back porch doing a phone interview with Billboard. But Bowersox, 25, is quick to become impassioned about the world outside her domestic bliss.
"If I have a name out there from this thing called 'American Idol,' I don't understand why anyone wouldn't use it for good," she says. "That's the way the world should work."
Since finishing second on "Idol" in May, Bowersox has appeared on CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360" to talk about her experiences with bullying, performed with Melissa Etheridge as part of the Pinktober concert for breast cancer awareness and spoken about being a juvenile diabetic on behalf of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. And while it's apparent that these causes are close to her heart and her support of them isn't a cynical bid to gain attention, the exposure has kept her in the public eye in advance of the Dec. 14 release of her debut album, "Farmer's Daughter" (Jive).
"You have things that give artists texture and perspective and help round them out as human beings," Jive senior VP of marketing Lisa Cambridge-Mitchell says. "I think that has to inform the art."
Indeed, the album's music is true to Bowersox's persona on "Idol" -- rough-and-tumbled country with a bluesy heart. The title track and the song "Holy Toledo" were written before Bowersox's tenure on the show. In fact, a significant snippet of "Toledo" aired on "Idol" when Bowersox visited her hometown for the show. It was the first time a contestant's own song was performed almost in its entirety on "Idol."
But it's Bowersox's first single that had "Idol" bloggers atwitter during the course of the show earlier this year. That's because "Farmer's Daughter" is a painful recollection of child abuse. However, Bowersox says she hopes the severity of the track will draw attention to the topic.
"It's a pretty dark song about my relationship with my mother and dealing with her fits of alcoholism and physical violence," she says. "People don't really want to talk about that, but too many people experience that kind of thing to not talk about it. I see it as a healing song . . . I love my mother, and we have a pretty good relationship now." The album also features a cover of Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth" and "Hold On," a song written by former "Idol" judge Kara DioGuardi and Nickelback's Chad Kroeger.
The album's cover photograph was shot in Monticello, N.Y. -- near Woodstock -- and shows Bowersox reclining on the tattered frame of a couch situated on the porch of a shack. A big dog placidly sits next to her on a cushion.
"Her name was Angel, and she belonged to the owner of the property where we had the shoot," she says. "She just jumped up on the couch and we were hanging out. This sounds really cheesy and weird, but the pitbull is a sweet animal that just wants love until it's provoked -- that's kind of how I've lived my life, too."