July 22, 2014

Larissa Lundstrom: Redemption Songs

May 2013 Feature

By John Gusty

Let’s set the scene: October of last year. The venue is the majestic Schermerhorn Symphony Center in Nashville, TN. The event, The 2012 Inspirational Country Music Awards Show. The presenters are reading the nominees for “New Artist of the Year.”

Then… those famous words: “And the winner is…”

As Larissa Lundstrom makes her way onto the stage to accept her award for 2012’s New Artist of the Year, the countless miles, smiles and heartaches that went into the making of her debut CD “Where I’m Going” all seemed to culminate together into this one single moment of hope and achievement.

Larissa, the artist, had arrived.

Larissa Lundstrom, the person, spent the first year and a half of her life on a tour bus.

The oldest of three daughters, Larissa and her two younger siblings, Lindsay and Lacey, carry on a unique family legacy simply through their names. “It was a family tradition on my dad’s side of the family for my dad and his brothers, along with their kids, to all have names that start with the letter “L”.

Her father, Leon Lundstrom, was a drummer for his brother Lowell’s band. While Larissa’s father may have planted the musical seeds in her life-path, his influence on his daughter stretched far beyond the drum set. “My dad… he is a person of integrity and character like you rarely see. He loves and cares about people so much.”

“And my mom… what a selfless, hard-worker who loves people unconditionally. She’s an angel on earth.” Clearly, Larissa is a woman with great love and respect for those who brought her into this world.

By the age of two, a young Larissa was enjoying life on her grandfather’s South Dakota farm. Riding around on the tractor with her father, listening to George Strait. That was where she first fell in love with Country music.

“Probably my most cherished musical memories are of the times I’ve gotten to sing with my dad or my sisters when I was younger. I would sing for just me. Even if no one was around. It’s in my soul.”

As fate would have it, Larissa’s other grandparents owned a Wisconsin ranch that was home to her grandfather’s horse-trading business. The ranch also hosted regular rodeos.

“I love horses. I had my first horse when I was about two or three. My mom’s father was a horse trader his entire life. So horses were always in the picture for me.”

Although humble about her riding abilities, let it be known that this is a girl who knows her way around the horse stable. Right down to driving the truck and trailer loaded full of our equestrian friends. “I drove for about eight years, through college and a little after. All throughout the Minneapolis area.”

Safe to say… Larissa Lundstrom has got “country” in her blood.

Armed with a healthy love of George Strait, Vince Gill and downhome family values, Larissa packed up her truck (and a supply of Caribou Coffee Coolers – a guilty pleasure) and set off for North Central University in Minneapolis, MN where she earned a bachelors degree in Music Performance. The big city definitely broadened her perspective. “Moving to Minneapolis for college… I found a love for the city in addition to my love of the country.”

After graduation, the plan was to relocate to Nashville to pursue a career in music as a singer/songwriter.

That plan was soon sidetracked when Larissa met the man she was going to marry that very summer. They were married soon after.

What happened next found Larissa literally living out a real-life country music song cliché’.

In June of 2009, she discovered her husband was having an extra-marital affair. She wanted to work things out… he did not. Completely devastated, Larissa’s world quickly turned dark. She had lost her will to go on and move forward. She literally did not want to live anymore.

“I whole-heartedly believe in marriage and believe in commitment in marriage. I don’t think it is correct how flippant people are about getting divorced. It is a commitment before the Lord. People can get divorced as much as they want, but it is affecting them far more than they know or realize. Whether they think it is or not. “

Although by today’s pop-culture standards, divorce is accepted as commonplace, Larissa was experiencing first-hand the very real damage and pain that affects the victims of spousal betrayal.

“Even though I was the one who was cheated on, and he chose to divorce me, by Biblical standards I am free. But it has been a long process of healing and working through a lot of emotions to truly be free. Even though there’s a legal document that said I was free a long time ago.”

With the support of her friends and family, and most importantly her faith in God, she made it through. Larissa told God that if He brought her through all the hurt and pain, that she would shout from the rooftops. YES! You CAN make it through an affair! And YES! There is still a life to be lived!

So in the fall of 2009, in the midst of hurt and recovery, Larissa began writing songs for an album. An album designed and created to help people through the despair and devastation of a loss. And bring them through it with the hope of a peaceful life and future.

By spring of 2011, the songs were finally ready. Larissa then fulfilled one of her life-long dreams. She recorded the album in Nashville, TN.

Released in November of 2011 (on 11-11-11 in fact!) “Where I’m Going” is a collection of 13 songs, produced by Tyson Bowman, that chronicle her experiences thus far.

The release of “Where I’m Going” showed almost immediate response from fans and radio alike. In May of 2012, Larissa released a video for the song “I Feel Yellow.” The song is a fun and upbeat, positive country tune about enjoying that special someone in your life. Definitely a far cry from the heavier subject matter Larissa tackled elsewhere on the album.

The video was well received and was a fine introduction to the new artist. But so much more was yet to come.

Then in June of 2012, Larissa’s next single “It Ain’t Gonna Be Like This Forever” had the distinct honor of being her very first number one single as the song climbed to the top of the Power Source Inspirational Country Music Charts. Larissa’s message of hope and encouragement had connected with a radio audience that was eager to hear someone singing words that were easily relatable. There’s a lot of broken hearts out there. Larissa was hardly alone. Now she had validation.

That validation continued when later that same year, she was named the 2012 Inspirational Country Music Association’s “New Artist of the Year”

“At the beginning of 2012, who would’ve ever thought I would be here! 2012 has been one of the most memorable years of my life!”

And what about 2013 and beyond? What can we expect? New music? Some well-deserved downtime? One thing is for certain: through forgiveness, life has definitely evened-out for the singer/songwriter. When she’s not performing or working on new music, she can be found enjoying the simpler things. Like watching episodes of The People’s Court (another guilty pleasure) playing Scramble on her phone or enjoying some good old-fashioned comfort food. “I am a home cooked food kind of gal. And potatoes are my favorite food. But not all potatoes are created equal!”

Larissa reflects, “The journey my life has taken to arrive at these songs was a road I would have never chosen to travel.”

But she knows she didn’t travel that road all by herself. “As hard as it was, God was with me every step of the way. My prayer is that these songs bring hope and healing. That is what HE always gave to me and wants to give to you.”

Healing indeed. And by releasing and performing this particular collection of songs, Larissa found something even more profound than the songs themselves… she found forgiveness. “Not being able to forgive is a tie that will hold us to our past and keep us from moving forward the way we could or the way we should. No matter what somebody has done, we need to forgive.”

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