Music has been a part of Ruth Jerez's life since she was a little girl when she spent her weekends listening to Dominican bachata music with her father and singing in church.

Now the 28-year-old Lawrence resident, who records as Cristal, is bringing her own voice to that musical heritage, with her first single, "This Love." The song is slowly gaining steam, breaking the top 10 in the Atlanta market earlier this year, and getting airtime on local Spanish radio stations.

A bachata artist now herself, Cristal says her music speaks to universal themes of love, loss, betrayal and redemption. It's because of these themes that people have responded so powerfully to her music, Cristal says.

"I get responses mainly from women," she says. "They can relate to what I'm saying, they're going through it ... it touches them."

She sings about not only getting hurt in love, but also how to overcome that hurt and still find the beauty in new love, she says.

Cristal's music career seems to be taking off — she's even garnered praise from Latin Grammy winner Jose Luis Morin, who, according to Cristal's website, said, "she will touch the hearts of those who meet her and hear her sing."

Although she's only been performing professionally since 2010, Cristal has been performing most of her life, first at church, then in competitions and local charity events. In 2002 she sang at two events to raise awareness about domestic violence, and one of those performances included a song called "Then and Now," which Cristal wrote about domestic violence.

"When I write any song, I write things that will touch anyone else that will hear it," she says. "It's a real life situation, a story."

Even her artist name — Cristal — tells a story.

"I love things that stand out, I love the concept of the name," she says. "How fragile a crystal is, and what I try to interpret in my songs."

For Cristal, the next few months will include local radio and TV appearances as well as performances in New York. As she promotes her single, she'll also be working on her debut album and hopefully landing a record deal, she says.

Like the message in her music, Cristal is hopeful about the future and dreaming big, all with the constant support of her family and fans.

"I want to see myself in the Grammys instead of watching it on the TV," she says. "I feel I'm getting there slowly ... from A to Z, you've got to take it slow. Everything's just patience and dedication and persistence."

And she continues to hope that her music will reach larger audiences in the coming months and years. She says she eventually sees herself singing onstage for thousands of people. But she says positively affecting people's lives is the most important thing to her as an artist.

"That's the reason I'm singing," she says. "I feel that I have so much to say, and think that many will be touched by my signing."

To learn more about Cristal visit cristalmusica.com.

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