FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Before she found her singing voice, a career consultant once suggested that Lauren Sanderson give online advice to her fellow teens to grow and monetize her sizeable social media following.

The Fort Wayne native followed that suggestion, sort of, and blew it up at the same time.

“That was such a crazy start to my career,” she told WANE 15 from her apartment in Los Angeles. She’s a featured act at this year’s Middle Waves Music Festival at the Foellinger Theatre campus June 17 and 18.

Sanderson, 26, seems to have deftly navigated her teen years with a smile.

In her Tedx Fort Wayne talk in 2015, she credited her confidence, and possibly other teen’s lack of it, to the things “our parents repeatedly say to us growing up.”

While the talk was well-received, she didn’t think it was “crazy enough.”

She turned instead to music, posting her original songs online, with a hint of positivity in each.

“I was in choir in middle school,” she said. “But I saw people [posting songs] on YouTube, and I was like, I can do that. Sony found it and they had me come out here [to Los Angeles] and the rest is kinda history, I guess.”

While most artists had to pivot to the internet during COVID-19 lockdowns, Sanderson was able to double-down on the online audience she already had.

Her music has been streamed over 100,000,000 times.

Still, she prefers connecting with fans in real life.

“In quarantine, you feel like you’re kind of talking to no one,” she laughed. “Sometimes if you’re not in real life, you forget who’s on the other side. It was really cool almost selling out Old National Center in Indianapolis since I went to shows there growing up.”

Her recent national tour included stops in Chicago, Atlanta, and New York. Later this summer, she heads to Europe. But first, a return to Indiana with her band.

“I’m excited to just be home with my family and hometown friends.”

As her audience grows, her positive message remains the same.

“It’s awesome to have people say, ‘listening to your music changed the way I see the world and it’s made me a more positive person.'”