7 Minutes ’till Midnight

-Photo by Hans Madsen
Guitarist Lauren Villarreal, 17, of Rockwell City, poses for a film portrait with her guitar. Villarreal has formed the band 7 Minutes ‘Till Midnight.

ROCKWELL CITY — It’s a sold out arena packed with thousands of alternative rock fans.

The crowd is singing along to every note that guitarist and lead vocalist Lauren Villarreal belts out.

That’s the dream that Villarreal, 17, of Rockwell City, is on her way to realizing.

She sings and plays guitar in a band called 7 Minutes ’till Midnight.

Villarreal’s band consists of five members including herself: Cris Juarez, 22, of Des Moines, lead guitar; Jalen Collins, 19, of Lone Tree, bass,; John Bowman, 33, of Gowrie, guitar; and Mitch Nordin, 31, of Gowrie, on drums.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Lauren Villarreal plays a few chords on her guitar recently. Villarreal has a band called “7 Minutes ‘Till Midnight.”

The band covers songs such as “Hurricane” by Halsey and “Zombie” by The Cranberries.

Villarreal also writes her own music.

One song in particular she wrote during study hall at South Central Calhoun High School in Lake City.

The song is called, “I am not ready.”

Villarreal, who will be a senior in the fall, said the song’s meaning is quite simple.

“I was in study hall, I should have been doing my math homework, but I wasn’t doing my math homework,” she said. “I was just bored and had 30 minutes left to do nothing and I wrote a song. It’s probably one of the best songs I have written.”

Other songs she leaves open to interpretation.

“‘Winter’ and ‘Gone’ have deeper meanings,” she said. “I kind of like to leave the song meanings subjective.”

She added, “Gone” is about going into a depressive episode. The first lyric is “clouds getting heavy.”

“I wrote it going into a bad place mentally and I wrote the song based on that.”

Villarreal said “Winter” is more of an upbeat tune.

“None of my songs sound the same,” she said. “I don’t like to keep myself in a box.”

Villarreal has been playing music for about the last five years.

“Pretty sure I was 12,” she said. “I have always liked performing and watching live performances.”

She spent time in band and choir.

“I was always in some type of music thing and liked listening to artists in seeing how they perform and how the instruments went together,” she said. “In a young person, it was embedded in me that I should do this.”

Villarreal spends most of her free time practicing. She has been involved in multiple different bands under different names.

The band 7 Minutes ’till Midnight was formed in February 2017.

Her mother, Teresa Villarreal, takes care of the booking, promotion, and marketing side.

“Every single thing that needs to done,” Teresa Villarreal said. “The only thing she needs to do is make it to the practice and make it to the performance and sing.”

She admires her daughter’s passion.

“My daughter is very talented and mature for a person her age,” she said. “She’s very strict about what she will and will not do. She does it her way and you’re not going to budge her.”

Being her mother and manager can be a challenge.

“I am her biggest fan and biggest critic,” Teresa Villarreal said.

Lauren Villarreal appreciates having her mother in her corner.

“I am very lucky to have my mom,” she said. “She does everything for me and doesn’t expect anything in return. She’s very selfless. I would rather have my mom be my manager than some random person.”

On weekends, it’s all about the music.

“Every weekend since I was 13 or 14,” she said. “All my weekends are shot.”

She’s come a long ways since she first started performing.

“The first time I covered Cranberries I was really scared,” she said. “Hearing that I did well on that by people who love the song drove me to want to perfect it more.”

Her biggest motivator, though, is those who tell her she can’t make it.

“Just people telling me I couldn’t do it drove me more to it and gave me a charisma,” Lauren Villarreal said. “Because when you are younger most people want you to have it as a backup plan. Someone telling me it was a stupid idea or wasn’t fathomable drove me to want to prove them wrong and work harder at what I do.”

She continues to study all types of music.

“Music can change your mood no matter what,” she said. “There is always a song that goes with what you are feeling. Or if you are sad, you can listen to something happy and it will make you happy. With music, you don’t have to keep yourself in a box. If I am listening to a song by Tender, I like listening to all the pieces in songs. I hear a lot of things most people don’t hear. I like listening to a song 1,000 times and listening to the layers of the song. Instrumental music is nice for me to listen to.”

She envisions people getting to know her music and enjoying it.

“I think the biggest dream I have is to prove people wrong,” she said. “I just like performing. If at some point a huge stage and an arena full of people are singing the lyrics I wrote back in study hall, that would be the ultimate.”