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Meet Courtney Lavender of Xs & ARROWs

Today we’d like to introduce you to Courtney Lavender.

Courtney, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Susan, Pam, and I started playing music together as teenagers. I play guitar, Susan bass, and Pam plays drums. With the intent to start a rock band and conquer the world (this is like every teen’s ambition, right?), we found a singer on a U2 internet group. We called ourselves EXIT. Our love of U2 united us and learning to play their songs together naturally (though unintentionally) led to us becoming a U2 cover band.

We built a following, then, as we began to write, gradually introduced original songs into our live sets. We played clubs all over Southern California, the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, and even did a USO/NATO tour of the Balkans, which was a life-changing experience. Our singer left, we found a second, and, incredibly, were pulled out of the crowd at a U2 concert to play with U2 themselves.

That was a thrilling and affirming moment! We cycled through a few more incarnations of the band lineup, landed on the name Xs & ARROWs, and found ourselves back as the original trio – Susan, Pam, and myself. Convinced that our chemistry works best as a three-piece, I’ve been upgraded from playing guitar and co-writing to also singing and being the main songwriter.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It seemed like just when we’d begin to make headway, we’d lose a band member and have to start again. We recorded a demo or EP in each major incarnation of the group, only for things to immediately shift thereafter. New musicians would have to be found, new songs would have to be written, and we would have to re-establish ourselves as a gigging band.

You start to question, or at least re-examine, what your goals are and why. It’s also been a big challenge for me learning to sing and front the band, instead of hiding in the shadows with my head in my guitar, which is more my nature.

Xs & ARROWs – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Xs & ARROWs is not a flashy group; we tend musically toward an understated simplicity.

As a lyricist, it’s the bittersweet that I find most attractive to attempt to convey. There is beauty in pain and pain in beauty, and I am drawn to the place where the two converge.

Our greatest strength might be our perseverance. Our commitment to artistic expression – and to each other – has kept us together in one form or another for almost 20 years.

First and foremost we are friends, and I think the ease of familiarity can be heard in the way we play together.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
Playing with U2 was probably the most out of this world experience, but I think I’m most proud of where we are now. We released an EP in October 2017 called From Here, made up of four songs I never thought would be heard by anyone, much less with me on vocals. One of the songs, Questions, I wound up singing a few years ago at a dinner party in Ireland in front of some amazing singer/songwriters, including Glen Hansard. At that time I had only begun trying to find my voice and was shaking in my boots.

Everyone was very encouraging and the experience affected me profoundly. Glen happened to be in LA just after I put down the final vocal last year, and realizing the song needed some harmonies, I asked if he’d be willing. He did such a beautiful job that I still get chills when I hear it. It was a true full-circle moment for me.

We’ve had a few songs played on specific shows on KBUU Malibu and 88.5 FM, but Questions was recently added to 88.5’s regular rotation. It’s my favorite radio station and they reach the entire greater LA area. To have my song (especially one that represents so much to me) heard on the airwaves among truly great artists is a dream come true.

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Image Credit:
Zoran Orlic, Jake and Kim Photo + Film, Amy Green

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