Crystal River native finds success in Nashville

Carrie Underwood

Not many people have the career they dreamed of as a child, but Lauren Black (previously LaFrantz) does.

“I wanna interview country artists on the red carpet one day,” Black told herself as a young girl. “My dream came true.”

Today, Black is editor-in-chief of Country Now, interviewing the likes of Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan, Blake Shelton and Lady A. She covers major award shows like the Country Music Association (CMA) Awards, the Country Music Television (CMT) Awards and even the Grammy’s.

Typically, Black is the one doing the interviewing.

“It’s weird to be on the other side of this,” she admitted.

Black has had a deep rooted love for country music ever since she could remember, which she carried into adulthood and into her career.

“I’m so passionate about it,” Black said. “I just remember driving around Citrus County with my parents in the car. They were always playing country music.”

One of the songs that really stuck with her was “She’s in Love with a Boy,” by Trisha Yearwood.

Black reminisced on the days of going to Rock Crusher Canyon concerts.

“For Crystal River, it was a really big thing,” she explained.

Black also recalled attending her first Kenny Chesney concert in 2004, who was and still is one of her favorite artists.

At Crystal River High School, Black was on the yearbook staff where she gained experience at writing and taking photos. She also got a video camera in high school, which she said sparked her interest in digital media.

After graduating from CRHS in 2006, Black went off to college.

“I didn’t even waste any time, I went straight to summer school at UCF,” she said.

There, Black graduated with a degree in broadcast journalism in 2009.

“I remember interning at the local MBC affiliate in Orlando,” Black said. “It’s not as glamorous as you think it is.”

Above all, Black was still drawn to the world of country music.

“I realized I didn’t want to go into TV news.”

By this time, Black was already running CountryMusicIsLove.com (CMIL), a blog that she started with her best friend. Funnily enough, “we met at a Kenny Chesney concert,” she said. “I wouldn’t have started my initial website if it wasn’t for Kenny Chesney.”

Soon enough, Black began getting contacts in Nashville and travelling back and forth.

Although she and her CMIL partner went their separate ways in 2012, Black kept the blog alive. As it got more and more popular, she and her husband picked up and moved themselves to Nashville, the heart and soul of country music.

In 2015, Black sold CMIL to a major record label, which was then rebranded. She remained there for about two years as editor-in-chief.

“I’m really grateful for that experience,” she said.

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In 2019, Black launched Country Now and remains there to this day as editor-in-chief.

“The response has been amazing,” she said.

The Country Now website averages roughly 1.2 million page views a month.

“The growth of it has been incredible.”

Even more incredible, Black runs the entire operation by herself.

“I don’t even have a staff,” she said. “I just now recently got access for more of a budget for freelancers.”

One of the things that Black is the most proud of is that she has succeeded in making Country Now a positive environment.

“I don’t bash artists, I don’t post gossip and things like that,” Black said. “Stick to your guns and follow what you believe in.”

Black is also beginning to step in front of the camera to host live Twitch shows.

“I’ve never really branded myself as a host,” she said. But now she is at 9 p.m. Wednesdays for Country Now Live and 2 p.m. Thursdays for Connect with Country Now. “It’s cool to bring live music back at a time when we haven’t had access to that.”

In addition to her booming career, Black has a family of her own now. She and her husband share a 7-year-old son and a 2-year-old daughter. As her children get older, Lauren said she looks forward to sharing her career with them.

“They know that I write about country music,” Black explained. She’s excited to bring them to live shows in the near future. “Now with COVID, and now that they’re older, I haven’t gotten a chance to bring them.”

Despite her success in Nashville, Black still comes back to Crystal River from time to time.

“My whole family still lives there,” she explained. “I definitely miss it.”

She especially misses the easy access to boating and day trips to the beach.

However, anyone who talks to Black can see Nashville is where she truly belongs.

To those who are nervous to take that next step to pursue their dream, Black offered some advice.

“Work hard,” Black said. “It sounds like a no brainer, but I eat, sleep and breathe country music.”

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