Johnsburg country singer Lara Bell knew early on that she was going to be a performer. She didn’t know if it would be for acting, dance or music — she’s well-trained in all three — but she was convinced the Disney Channel was showing her true path.
Also, she was around 5.
“I was always a very theatrical and expressive person,” she said. “I wanted to be on Disney Channel. As a kid, back in the day, I would beg for an agent because I wanted to be Hannah Montana, literally.”
The subsequent piano and dance lessons and musical theater classes paid off for the now 25-year-old Bell as this weekend she releases a new single with her band, plays on the radio and hits two different stages for two wildly different performances.
Friday’s release, “Couple More Rounds,” taps into the country-heartbreak genre, but with Bell’s dynamic and sparkling vocals, it’s an upbeat and playful reminder that no matter how hard the party goes, the feelings are still going to be there. She said it was inspired by wine-and-Zoom nights with friends during the early days of the pandemic.
“All I would think about was ‘Man, I miss that person.’ This drink is making me want to see them and talk to them even though I haven’t talked to them or seen them in however long it’s been,” she explained. “That was the inspiration to write a song about how sometimes alcohol can make you really happy and have a fun night and forget everything. But for me, if I’m missing someone or I’ve been heartbroken or I’m just a little sad, this makes me miss them even more and kind of makes it worse in a way.”
The Lara Bell Band — Craig Schwartz Jr. of McHenry on bass and vocals, Sean McKenzie on guitar and Anthony Quirck on drums — has been busy this summer, playing a mix of rock and pop-country covers (as well as some of her original music) across northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin, playing venues, county fairs and even singing a song at the Country Thunder music festival with a friend’s band.
But growing up riding horses and with her mom’s roots on a farm, Bell said she’s “a country girl at heart for sure.”
“I was raised on all that ’70s music growing up,” she said, referencing her parents’ affinity for the stripped-down acoustic tunes of artists such as John Denver and Cat Stevens. “So that’s what I think of when I think of home, you know, that type of music and lifestyle.”
Bell emulates that in her original music, especially the storytelling aspect of the songs. And she looks forward to putting more of her work out there soon.
“I liked that they, not to be cliché, but they are a lot of times about getting your heart broken. And growing up, you can just relate to a lot of it, at least I think more so than some pop songs,” she said. “When you can hear someone’s heartbreak in their voice, it’s just so cool that you can be that vulnerable, and share it and other people can relate to it.”
• Bell’s release weekend kicks off early Friday, Aug. 19, with a 7 a.m. appearance on the STAR 105.5‘s “Sunrise Acoustic” showcase, where she will perform live before “Couple More Rounds” gets a spin on the airwaves at 8:10 a.m., followed by two live performances this weekend.
• • •
Lara Bell acoustic show with Craig Schwartz Jr.
When: 4:30-7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 19
Where: McHenry VFW Hall, 3002 IL-120, McHenry, vfwmchenry.org
Lauren Alaina with The Lara Bell Band
When: 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 20
Where: Niko’s Red Mill Tavern, 1040 Lake Ave., Woodstock, redmilltavern.com