Lauren Jauregui’s journey as a solo musician began during a 2018 trip to Thailand, where she and three other members of Fifth Harmony got on a call and decided to go on an indefinite hiatus. “That was the opening of my creative floodgate because up until that point, I really thought I was broken, man,” she tells Bustle. “I thought I didn’t know how to write music. I thought I couldn’t.” Three years later, she knows she can. She has taken back control of her career — now as an independent artist for this new music era — starting with the Oct. 8 release of “Colors.” Jauregui will then release her debut EP Prelude later this year via her indie label Attunement Records in partnership with distribution company AWAL, she exclusively reveals to Bustle.
The first taste of Prelude is the piano-infused “Colors,” written with her friend Johnny Rain in his apartment and recorded in his closet. Lyrically, it finds Jauregui conversing with herself about “the sh*t that we all go through on a daily basis as humans: anxiety, depression, impostor syndrome, not feeling like you’re good enough, [and] unworthiness.”
The 25-year-old musician considers “Colors” the “thesis statement” of the project and recognizes that it’s not crafted for radio. For Jauregui, that’s not the point, which is why she’s not calling “Colors” a lead single in the traditional sense. “A lot of [artists] are moving in such a way where it’s so formulaic that you can assume how someone’s going to move,” she says. “I’m not trying to do that.” Upon her shift to independence, Jauregui has felt emancipated and free of nerves. “And then you realize, wow, this is an expensive little business here,” she says with a laugh. But despite the extra responsibilities that accompany her newfound freedom, she feels empowered: “This, to me, is another process of expanding as a businesswoman [and] as an artist.”
Throughout the process of creating Prelude, she’s rediscovered her drive for sharing personal thoughts and feelings in her music. “When you subject your art to being controlled by others, you lose the connection to why you do art in the first place,” she says. “It becomes about how much you sell versus how many people you’re connecting with.”
Jauregui’s foray into the music industry famously started when she auditioned solo for The X Factor as a 15-year-old and was later put into a pop group early in her season by judge Simon Cowell. Fifth Harmony quickly developed a devoted fanbase, called Harmonizers, and went on to score top-charting hits, including “Worth It” and “Work From Home,” throughout its six-year run. Jauregui says the group’s members rarely had creative control over their musical output, and when they did, it was “majority rules.”
“Sometimes I was in the majority, and sometimes I wasn’t,” she notes. But don’t mistake the liberation Jauregui felt upon parting ways with the group as animosity toward her former co-members, all of whom have since launched their own solo careers as well. She simply wanted to carve her own authentic path. “We’re all our own special lights that were brought together to do some real special sh*t and who are now doing their own special sh*t,” she says. “I have a lot of love for all of them forever.”
Following the disbandment, Jauregui remained with Sony Music Entertainment and envisioned a path of complete autonomy over her career. She released several critically acclaimed singles between 2018 and 2020 — “Expectations,” “More Than That,” “Lento,” and “50ft” — with the intention of building toward a full-length body of work. “[Those songs] all have a very specific story on my journey. I love each of them very much,” she says. “But at the end of the day, they were still part of a reality where someone else had the final say on whether or not I could or couldn’t share something.”
The only thing that makes sense to me at this point is to be completely independent and own my music. It’s intellectual property, and I believe that artists should own their songs.
During her time signed to Sony Music, which she recounts as a positive experience that spawned many tight-knit collaborative relationships she holds to this day, Jauregui says she was expected to continue on the pop music path. “When you’re young and you get involved in something, it shapes you in a lot of ways, and I think I was shaped and molded in ways that weren’t the shape I was born in or the shape that I was supposed to eventually form into,” she says. “There was no room for who I wanted to be as an artist.” Grateful for the opportunities and exposure afforded to her, she ultimately decided the major label system wasn’t the right avenue for her career. “The only thing that makes sense to me at this point is to be completely independent and own my music,” she says. “It’s intellectual property, and I believe that artists should own their songs.”
Sharing Jauregui’s enthusiasm about her new journey as an independent artist, AWAL Vice President of A&R Eddie Blackmon tells Bustle, “She embodies true independence and has a clear vision for her career, which are key components I look for in an artist. Her music is creative, authentic, and will speak to a global audience.”
With the upcoming EP, Jauregui asserts she’s striving for “complete unconventionality” and plans to thoughtfully deploy each track to unravel her story. “Each of these songs has a very important role,” she says. “I want you to pay attention to each of them in their own way, so I'll give you each of them in their own way.” But before fans are able to stream each song, Jauregui will unveil Prelude in full via a virtual performance on Oct. 14, presented with help from “elevated digital experience” company Moment House. “In my head, when I have it all playing out, it’s a literal film,” she muses, noting that she conceptualized the visual project with Matthew Daniel Siskin, her new creative director. “Each song had to have its moment, each song had to have its choreo, each song had to be brought to life. So that’s what we did in a really simplistic, minimal way, but that’s impactful and powerful.”
Accolades and radio play, if it comes, I’m grateful because that all would be a testament to the actual sh*t I want to do in this world. But success, to me, I already have it.
Siskin has previously worked with the likes of Kelly Clarkson, Florence + the Machine, and the queen of visual albums herself, Beyoncé — but Jauregui wasn’t looking to recreate anything already on his stacked resume. In fact, their mood board didn’t even include work by other musicians. “I have so much respect for the work that he’s done, but what I really love about Prelude is it’s completely a world that was truly living inside of me, that he was able to spur out of me through conversation,” she says. “It was really about conveying what this music said, and I don’t think what’s said in this music has been said, because it’s my perspective.”
Jauregui knows her fans have been patiently waiting for a full project from her, and she’s excited to finally come through for those who continue to support her authentic self. “They’ve known who I am for a long time,” she says. “But now I can give them context to why they’ve been so adamantly sure about what I’m able to give them. Accolades and radio play, if it comes, I’m grateful because that all would be a testament to the actual sh*t I want to do in this world,” she explains. “But success, to me, I already have it.”