Born Crystal Sarah Bowersox on August 4, 1985, in Elliston, Ohio, to parents Bill and Kelly Bowersox. Crystal shares her birthday with her brother, Carl, who is her fraternal twin. Crystal’s life started with several difficulties, including her parents’ divorce when she and her brother were barely 2 years old. By the age of 6, she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.
The family struggled with all the adjustments, including tighter finances and new family members. Bowersox channeled her frustrations into her music, teaching herself how to sing, as well as how to play guitar and harmonica.
By the time she was a freshman in high school, Crystal had devoted herself completely to her music. She left Oak Harbor High School to attend the Toledo School for the Arts in Toledo, Ohio, where she started writing her own songs including one she composed as a tribute to her father. By the age of 17, however, Bowersox’s home life had deteriorated to the point that she considered dropping out of school and moving out. She stayed home long enough to graduate, then moved to Chicago, Illinois, to perform in local clubs with various bands.
She returned to Elliston in 2009, where she began regularly performing with childhood friend and fellow musician Frank May. Her talent helped her snag a win in the Blade Battle of the Bands competition, and her success convinced friends and family that she should audition for the reality competition American Idol. She toyed with the idea for several months, but it wasn’t until she became pregnant with her son, Tony, that she decided to compete. “I needed to turn bar gigs into a bigger career,” Bowersox later told her local paper. “Kids aren’t cheap, and [my son] needs everything I never had growing up.”