“I’m a Survivor”: Musician Lara Price Turns Pain Into Purpose

Belting, Austin-based blues musician Lara Price performs at SXSW. A seasoned performer, Price channels her life experiences into her music. I just love music, Price said. Even when its bad, I can still find something good in it.
Belting, Austin-based blues musician Lara Price performs at SXSW. A seasoned performer, Price channels her life experiences into her music. “I just love music,” Price said. “Even when it’s bad, I can still find something good in it.”
Courtesy of Lara Price

To be an artist is to constantly explore the dichotomy of having thick skin in an often unforgiving industry and the gift that vulnerability and sensitivity bring to their art. The seemingly inextricable link between suffering and creation has inspired artists of all kinds to integrate this concept within their art. For blues musician Lara Price, her art turns pain into purpose. 

An Austin-based musician, Price has been releasing music since 2000. Price is a member of multiple bands that span a myriad of genres — including blues, soul, and Americana — as well as maintaining her own solo career and playing live gigs across the country. 

However, Price’s path hasn’t been easy. Orphaned at birth, Price was a part of the contentious Operation Baby Lift that evacuated more than 3,000 Vietnamese children to the U.S. during the collapse of South Vietnam. 

“That’s where everything starts. That’s the big hole. I was abandoned at birth. And I don’t know why,” Price said. 

Following her evacuation, Price was adopted by an all-white family. 

“That was always tough, because people never thought that I was with them. So I’ve always kind of felt isolated, even though I was adopted,” Price said.

Unfortunately, the hardships of Price continued past her adoption. 

“I was sexually abused by two of my family members,” Price said. “My mother, she’s like, ‘I rescued you from a war-torn country, and then I couldn’t take care of you in my own house.’”

 Growing up in the Bay Area, Price was exposed to music and the fine arts from a young age. From ballet to piano classes from Howard Jones, Price was able to channel her emotions and experiences into musical expression. 

“My first experience [with music] was when I was five years old, and I was in ballet. And the music moved me,” Price said. “You learn at such a young age; your hand goes to this beat and your foot goes to that beat. It gets in your bones when you start dancing, [and] I think that’s where I got hooked.”

Eventually, that passion developed into a career in music. Over the years, Price has consistently worked to improve her craft and create music that she finds compelling and fulfilling. 

“I don’t love writing lyrics, but I love singing so a lot of my lyrics come out as simple words because I want to sing a certain vowel at that note,” Price said. “Some people just have something to say. They want to write about their experience [or] their heartbreak. And I do too, but mostly, I just love singing.”

Price finds inspiration for her music in her everyday life, turning the seemingly mundane into melodies, lyrics, and chord progressions. 

“I color outside the lines,” Price said. “I don’t start with a melody or a title. It’s all over the place.”

Lara Price is a survivor. That’s the first thing you see when you visit the artist’s website, and it’s the truth. But Price is more than the sum of her past trauma. The pain she endured as a child gave her creative drive. 

“I’m a survivor of several different things, you know, domestic violence [in] two countries, right? Fighting and then sexual abuse. All those things equate to art. So it’s definitely driven me this whole time and saved my life,” Price said. “Had I not had an outlet to do these kinds of things, I don’t know what I’d been doing. At some point, I’ll be more grateful for the trauma, because without the trauma, there wouldn’t be the art.”

At some point, I’ll be more grateful for the trauma, because without the trauma, there wouldn’t be the art.

— Lara Price

Price has turned her life experiences into an ethos of channeling her trauma into the message she puts out through her art. 

“A lot of artists, we have a lot of pain. We turn our pain into purpose,” Price said. “That’s why we’re artists. In my opinion, the best art is through pain.”

Beyond her personal music career, Price finds healing and purpose through mentoring foster kids and giving them free music lessons. 

“I think that there’s an unspoken bond with these children. For me, I get to give them guidance in a way that they don’t go into a dark place when they’re dealing with their [stuff],” Price said. “Even though that may seem like a nice thing to do, that helps me too. It’s a symbiotic thing, being on a journey with other children [and] just trying to help them do music.” 

Price does not allow the negative experiences throughout her life define who she is and instead uses her music as a vessel to show others that they aren’t alone. 

“I think it’s important for me to tell my story because I think it’s important for people like me to know that this doesn’t have to be a dark place — that you can turn pain into purpose, and that it doesn’t have to define you,” Price said. “You know, that did happen, it sucked. But I’m this other person that’s making music and playing with great people. We have joy in our life because of art, and I’m really glad for that.”

Price’s journey as a musician has not been without its hardships either. From struggles to book gigs, achieve recognition as an independent musician, and garner a decent revenue from streams (which pay artists approximately $0.003-0.005 per stream), being a creator is a daily struggle. 

“It’s hard. If you come from the bottom, you literally are clawing your way up,” Price said. “The competition is fierce. And people are not likely to be like ‘hey, here’s a booking number.’”

If you come from the bottom, you literally are clawing your way up.

— Lara Price

However, Price chooses to grow and focus on perfecting her craft and finding opportunities for artistic growth. 

“It’s painful. But like I said, it’s made me rise to the level,” Price said. “I’ve been forced to look in the mirror as an artist and find what my weaknesses are. I’m learning, you know, I’m [going to] step up to the plate and learn how to be better.”

As of right now, Price has recently finished recording her eighth studio album, Half and Half. An homage to the music scenes in Northern California and Austin, Price wanted to focus on creating different sounds on the record. 

 “This record, I really went with an intention to sonically produce something that I’ve heard here in town. I came to Austin eight years ago, and I’ve let this music scene sink into my DNA. I want different flavors on the record,” Price said. “Half of the record was recorded here in Texas. And then the other half [was] recorded in Northern California, which is where I came from. I wanted to include both families.”

I came to Austin eight years ago, and I’ve let this music scene sink into my DNA.

— Lara Price

Price hopes the record will serve as a document of appreciation for the people and cities who have made an impact on her life and music career. 

“The people that have influenced me and my music are all over the place. So I want that to be reflected. And it will, naturally, because that’s where you are in your life. Records are just a notation of where you are artistically at that moment,” Price said. 

Price hopes that people are able to connect with and enjoy her music, even during life’s simplest moments. 

“I just want people to be entertained. You know, I want [them] to put it in their car on Spotify, cruise down the street with it, or clean their house to it. I think that one of the best compliments I’ve gotten is [when a] lady told me that she cleans her house to my whole record,” Price said. “You want people to appreciate the [musicians] who work their ass off enough to learn their songs, and to think that they’re great as they are.” 

Half and Half  by Lara Price will come out in April 2024. Check out Price’s website for updates on live events and new music.

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About the Contributor
Mayla Montgomery
Mayla Montgomery, Reporter
Class of 2026
I have always had a passion for writing and telling stories, and I am so excited to be working on press this year! When I’m not writing, I love watching my favorite shows, watching all the horror movies in existence, reading books, listening to music, and spending time with my friends and family.

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  • R

    Rob OrmeNov 14, 2023 at 1:05 pm

    Having lived in the Bay area for 36 years, I saw Lara live probably 25 times (once at a party I had in my own backyard). Lara consistently delivers the goods, she just NEVER has an off night. One of my favorite singers.

  • D

    DebraNov 9, 2023 at 10:38 am

    I will never forget seeing you for the first time with Laura Chavez. You both blew me away. I took my (abusive) mom to see you and she loved you both. Believe me, there wasn’t much in life my mother liked. Thank you for getting me through some hard times and making good times even better. You helped me in my trauma recovery. All the best to you

    Debra L., SF Bay Area