LVNDR: Success So Close She Can Smell It

Growing up, Lowell native Lindsey Garcia was the unlikeliest of aspiring pop stars. Now known as LVNDR, the singer, songwriter and “The Voice” contestant hid away her vocal talent until she was 16. 

Homeschooled in a religious household, and the youngest of six siblings, she first learned piano from her oldest sister who performed in church choirs. But with the piano out in the family living room where everyone could hear her, she instead learned guitar from watching YouTube videos in her bedroom, privately practicing, and developing her now signature soft, sultry, soulful style from watching artists like Ingrid Michaelson, Colbie Caillat and Amy Winehouse.

“When I was 16, I forced myself to play at our local talent show, because I’ve always had these daydreams envisioning myself on a big stage with important celebrities watching me,” Garcia said. “And I could never shake that dream. So I was just like, ‘I’ve got to put myself out there and see if it feels right. And if it doesn’t, I can just let this go, and I can focus on something else.”

Placing third in the talent show, and taking her parents and friends completely by surprise – since they’d never heard her sing – she started taking baby steps into music, playing small coffee shop shows and bar gigs where she could perform more as background noise.

She also kept putting stuff out online, and when she was 17, NBC’s “The Voice” called to fly her out for an audition. 

“This is when the show was kind of new,” Garcia said. “I had never played in front of that many people before. So when I got to L.A., things that are virtual now were in person then. So all of the little rounds you have to get through before the big one was all in person at that time. And I froze and I forgot my lyrics in front of everybody. I forgot how to even play the guitar.”

With the goal of one day redeeming herself, Garcia kept performing for bigger crowds. She won Grand Rapids’ WOTV Idol twice, first in 2019 and again in 2021, earning her auditions on “American Idol,” and helping her gain more experience. 

She also turned inward, working on her confidence by ultimately coming up with the stage name LVNDR (pronounced lavender, like the flower).

“When I’m on stage, I wanted something to separate my personal life from my music career,” Garcia said. “And I have this lavender spray that I use. It calms you down and it’s like a pre-show ritual for me… It just helps me to be the artist that I want to be and to connect with my fans on a more personal level and I’m able to get the messages from my music across easier when I’m able to be confident on stage.”

Now 27, and feeling like she’s ready, she earned her second chance on “The Voice” as LVNDR last year. 

Garcia sent in her beautifully recorded performance at Grand Rapids’ Dogtown Studio, and the producers decided to bring her on the show. 

Performing a jazzy rendition of Drake’s “Hotline Bling,” for her on air audition, she had both judges John Legend and Niall Horan interested in being her coach, with her ultimately selecting to be on the One Direction member’s team. 

“It’s a whole other world out there,” Garcia said. “You’re being treated like an actual celebrity. You’re in L.A., in a hotel, you get paid to lay out by the pool on your off days. And getting to meet the coaches, I thought I would be way more star-struck than I was. But because of the things that they put you through, before you get to actually see the coaches, when it comes down to the day of your blind audition, they have it down to a science where they make you feel comfortable when you’re up there… 

“It is different for everybody, but I don’t know, it still feels like a fever dream. Luckily it’s on TV so I can go back and watch it, because I’m like, that didn’t happen. It’s like you black out when you’re on stage and then all of a sudden it’s over.”

After joining Horan’s team, she lost her battle round on episode 11, performing Billie Eilish’s “Everything I Wanted.” So although it wasn’t exactly the outcome she wanted, she still very fondly looks back on the experience now.

“While I was in it, you know, it was the most stressful thing that I’ve ever put myself through,” Garcia said. “But I think I needed that to grow as an artist, because I’ve never really taken big risks or big chances until then. So because I was able to put myself through that and see that I could do it, I have a lot more confidence now in my abilities as an artist.”

She’s taking those next steps now in the new year, working on new songs, with plans to record and release more music. She’s also performing a special show with her friend and fellow “The Voice” contestant Lennon VandeDoes at The Midtown in Grand Rapids Jan. 19. 

“I have a goal of by the end of the spring I’ll have my EP out,” Garcia said. “But if you’re at the Midtown show, you’ll hear some of those songs before they’re released, so you should probably go so you can be one of the first people to hear them.”

In addition, LVNDR also has a free 21 and older show Jan. 8 at Tip Top Deluxe Bar & Grill (760 Butterworth St. SW, Grand Rapids) with her frequent collaborator Olivia Vargas, as well as another free show at Hillards Corner Lounge (3508 18th St., Wayland) Jan. 20. 

Wsg. Lennon VanderDoes
The Midtown, 123 Ionia Ave. SW, Grand Rapids
Jan. 19, 6 p.m. (doors), 7:30 p.m. (show), $20,