Editor’s note: This is one in a series of profiles in the Humans of Wausau series, which is funded in part through a grant from the B. A. & Esther Greenheck Foundation. Follow the Humans of Wausau Facebook page here.
By Kelli Oligney for Wausau Pilot and Review
Lacey Crowe Mortenson, 32
Q: Where are you originally from?
A: Sudbury, Ontario. It’s about 10 hours to drive home and about a four hour drive north of Toronto. I married a man – a Wausau native.
You met him before you moved here?
I did. We were both writers. So, that’s funny. There’s kind of like a MySpace for writers and we had our books and stuff on there. Basically, other writers can read them and give you feedback and help you. So, we were both on there. I’ve been living here seven years now.
What were your hopes for a new life here?
I kind of wanted it to be similar to where I’m from, but a little different. I didn’t want it to be a huge culture shock and it really wasn’t. It was kind of in the opposite way because where I’m from it’s a little bit of a bigger town and I came here and it’s a lot smaller and more close knit. You run into people here more.
How would you say the friendliness of people compare to Canada?
They’re about the same, but Wausau is pretty friendly and been really receptive too.
Do they say “Ope” there as well?
Ope? What do you mean?!
A lot of people in Wisconsin say “Ope.” If you run into someone in the grocery store and need to sneak past them you say, “Ope, I’m just going to sneak past ya.”
Not where I’m from. That’s almost like a yooper accent. The “Dontcha know” was heard immediately – we say “Eh?” That definitely happens and it’s not really a stereotype – I definitely say, “Eh?”
Do all of your relatives still reside in Canada?
They do. I have a really big family. My dad has nine siblings so there’s a lot of cousins everywhere. My mom’s side is a little smaller.
How did they respond to you moving here?
They didn’t like it especially my Nonna, my grandma. My mom’s Italian and that’s how you say Italian Grandma. She was really funny about it and said, “You can have any guy you want! You don’t need him!”
Was that a difficult transition to have to leave your family?
Yes. We go visit them a few times a year. They’ve been here a couple times too.
How do they like it?
They like it and don’t mind the drive. It’s actually a pretty scenic drive. It’s a pretty drive – we go up through the UP and once you get into Canada there’s this four hour stretch that feels really long, but you go through about a million tiny towns where you have to go super slow.
What is something you are proudest of since moving here and why?
The band I’m in (Bourbon House.) I’m proudest of kind of reinventing myself. I’m not going to say I’m a different person or anything, but I’m doing a lot of different things here than I was doing there. With the music and playing a lot…
Do you all write the songs in the band?
Usually Jason and me. I write the lyrics and he writes the music. We actually have a new song we are working on right now that our drummer is writing – so kind of all.
How long has the band been together?
Since about 2017 we’ve been writing our own songs, but we’ve been performing since about 2014.
What are you hoping to accomplish in the future?
Many things. The future is weird and I wouldn’t have imagined that I’d be where I’m at right now. Five years ago I’d hear, “Look ahead into the future, where do you see yourself in five years?” Hopefully, I’m doing a lot more musical things because I’m really enjoying it. I’m enjoying being in a band and touring would be really fun and I think that’s something we are going to do. Hopefully, it will be sooner than five years.
Were you in a band at all prior?
No, I wasn’t. Jason was in a lot of bands. He was in about four, but they were all cover bands though. I think they did a few originals.
Have you always been comfortable singing in front of people?
God, no! No, that’s a very new thing for me. I was very shy and my voice was very different because I was shy. I was very mousey and say, “I’ll sing some Norah Jones!” I’m not like that anymore.
What advice would you give to those that wish to pursue similar dreams?
Open mics. Definitely go to open mics. That’s actually how we started. We’d go to Intermission like every Sunday night and do a song and it definitely helps in performing in front of people and getting your confidence up. You have to realize that some people aren’t going to like you and that’s fine.
What was one of the hardest moments of your life?
When I moved here, while going through the immigration process, there was a period where you can’t leave the country. I couldn’t leave here during that probationary period and you also can’t work. It was about a year or so that I wasn’t working and not able to travel home at all. It was really hard because there were a lot of things that happened in that time. My best friend got married and I was supposed to stand up in her wedding and I couldn’t go. One of my friends died and I couldn’t go to the funeral. Ya know, shit like that, but that was probably the hardest. I had no more savings after that.
What’s a hidden talent of yours?
I used to be a dancer. Actually, I was an aesthetic group gymnast. Nobody knows what it is. It’s more like the floor routines, if I had to describe it. I’m still pretty flexible, but not nearly as flexible.
How long did you do that for?
I think I started when I was three until about 17
What’s your favorite quote and why?
It’s my tattoo, “No one sings like you anymore.” This is a Chris Cornell tribute from Black Hole Sun. I felt like it was very fitting quote since he’s not singing anymore and that’s really sad.
What motivates you each day?
I guess I just wake up feeling pretty good everyday. Being healthy – I’m generally a pretty healthy person, people that I’m friends with, people around me are what keeps me going. If we were to talk about what keeps me going with being so far away from friends and family, I’d say the internet does. It helps so much and I talk to them everyday – especially my sister.