Dt: November 17, 2016
–EMERGING 15-YEAR-OLD SINGER, SONGWRITER AND MUSICIAN–
OPENS UP IN Q&A ABOUT HER 2016 DEBUT ‘HASHTAG’ EP
—On which instrument do you write your songs? Do you write both music and lyrics?
I usually write my songs on an acoustic guitar. Sometimes, I will play a few chords on the piano to get some inspiration, but since I started writing songs on the guitar, I’ve sort of stuck with it. I write the lyrics and music to my songs. Lyrics always come first with me. I don’t add in the music until I’ve written nearly all of the lyrics. For me, songwriting is just like writing a story. I work best once I have everything written out on a page, and then I start playing around with different melodies and structure ideas.
—What was your mindset when you wrote the songs for your EP ‘Hashtag’?
When I wrote the songs that are on my EP, I never imagined that that was where they would end up. I had just turned 13, and was trying to fit into the mold of the typical “Mississippi teenage girl” I thought was expected of me. I was really unhappy trying to be that girl. I used songwriting as my escape. It was like my own personal diary, except put to music. The songs on the EP were the first four songs I ever wrote. They are full of hope and self-discovery. My mindset in writing those songs was me just trying to be myself.
—Can you talk about the storyline in your single “Hashtag”? What inspired you to write it?
The idea for the song came about when I was literally “just daydreaming about what I would say” if I could say anything I wanted to. I was sitting in my room after another day at school filled with mean girls who wanted to make me feel as isolated as possible. So, I sat there thinking of impossible scenarios in my head, where I would stand up to them and tell them exactly what I was feeling.
—What triggered the song “Chase Your Dreams”?
“Chase Your Dreams” was the first song I ever wrote. I wrote it all in one night, and remember every moment of writing it. I was about to go back to school after Christmas break, and was thinking about what I really wanted to do with my life. I had so many dreams and hopes, but they just seemed too big to actually accomplish. That night, I realized that no matter how impossible my dream of being a musician was, I had to try. I was never going to fit the mold of the typical teenage girl. I remember realizing that I simply had to chase my dreams, and if it was meant to be, I would catch them. That night, I discovered who I was. I wrote the entire song in less than an hour. I felt so free writing all of my feelings down and turning them into music.
—What about “Inside”? This song seems to come from a painful place.
“Inside” is an extremely personal and vulnerable song. It is basically the story of the struggles I’ve faced with body image and bullying. There was a point in my life where I changed everything about myself in order to meet other people’s standards of “beauty.” There really was a point in my life where I felt completely overlooked by people, simply because I wasn’t “pretty” enough. I truly thought no boy would ever like me, no girl would ever be friends with me, unless I looked a certain way. I believed all of the lies about myself. I wrote this song after coming to the realization one day, that who I was, was not defined by what I looked like. The real me was on the inside, and I realized that that was the only me that mattered. Dress sizes, compliments, and meeting certain standards do not make people happy. The happiest people are happy with who they are. I discovered that life was so much better if you just didn’t care what other people thought of you. I went through so much pain trying to change myself. For a little while, it seemed that by changing who I was on the outside, I lost who I was on the inside. I didn’t want anyone to ever feel the way I once thought about myself. I didn’t want anyone to ever believe the lies that I once believed.
—“Told You So” also reels the listener in right away as you sing about warning the boy about a manipulative girl. What inspired the song?
“Told You So” is basically a letter written to a guy I had a huge crush on, but he only had eyes for another girl… a girl who wasn’t good for him. Of course, I would never actually tell him this, but I wish I could have. He was an amazing guy, and this girl only wanted to use him. Sadly, he couldn’t see that. He didn’t see that I really cared about him, and she only wanted him for his looks. I feel like this is a typical situation where the guy is so blinded by a girl’s looks, popularity, and social status that he doesn’t see her for who she really is.
—Can you describe your artistic chemistry with songwriter and producer Steve Freeman?
Steve is awesome. When I first met him, I knew we just clicked. It’s so great to have someone who understands exactly what I’m thinking or feeling when it comes to music. I’m so grateful that as a producer, he truly cares that my songs stay true to me. We have a lot of the same ideas and goals, and I couldn’t have asked for anyone better to produce my songs.
—Your vocals are full of confidence and vulnerability. Can you tell us about your experience in capturing that in the recording studio?
I absolutely loved recording the songs in the studio. It was an incredible, yet very emotional experience for me. It had always been my dream to have my songs one day heard by people, and the studio was the first step to that dream coming true. When I sing, I can’t help but get lost in the words. I feel like I’m basically just telling someone a story about something in my life. If the song is sad, so am I, and my voice reflects that. If the song is upbeat and filled with confidence, so is my voice. Singing is basically like talking for me. It’s never something I have to think about.
—You’ve performed at festivals, state fairs and the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville. What has been the best part of performing live? And what are the challenges to winning over an audience?
I love everything about performing live. Nothing can compare to it. I am never as happy than when I’m on a stage performing. Watching people connect with the music and relate to the songs I’ve written is an indescribable feeling. The stage is one of the only places I feel that I am truly myself. It’s a time to be completely free, while doing everything I love. There are many challenges to winning over an audience. Factors like the setting, sound equipment, and number of people in the crowd all play a role in getting their attention. Festivals tend to be tough because there are so many different things going on that pull the crowd’s focus in different directions. It can be frustrating and upsetting at times, but all you can do is keep performing and having fun.
—If you overheard one fan talking to another after leaving your show, what would you like to hear them say about you?
I would really just want to hear that my songs made them feel the way I felt when I wrote the music. It would mean so much to me to know that my songs meant something for people.
—Describe your life in Mississippi…a typical day…
There are two sides to my life in Mississippi. There are so many things I love about it. My home, friends, family, and memories are all here. Everyone knows each other, the cities are full of history and culture, and all of the food is so good! However, there is the part of me that wants something more. Here, my days are filled with school and typical teenage girl problems. As much as I love Mississippi, there will always be the drive to go off and do and see more in my life. I’m so grateful for everything my life here has taught me, but am excited for new experiences and opportunities in the future. But for right now I’m living the life of a typical teenage girl. I’m getting ready to take my permit test, I go to school five days a week, and I’m trying to balance all of my extracurricular activities including cheer and student council.
—Which musical artists have had the most impact on you and what do these artists possess that attracts you to their work?
Artists such as Taylor Swift, Echosmith, Halsey, Ed Sheeran, Shawn Mendez, 5 Seconds of Summer, and countless other bands and musicians continuously impact me with their music. I greatly respect the fact that they all have something to say and simply know how to say it. Their music is raw and nothing is held back. I also appreciate that their music tells a story, which is extremely important to me. They’ve taught me that there is no mold or criteria when it comes to songwriting. When you listen to their albums, their songs do not all sound the same.
—Beyond music, where else might you draw inspiration from? Books, dreams, observing other people…?
I get inspiration from anything in my life. I never know what might inspire me to write a song. Sometimes it’s just hearing a certain phrase, or it’s seeing the way a cute guy walks down the hall with his hands in his pockets. Life is my source of inspiration. I love to read. I’ve written several songs where books were my inspiration. Some of my earliest music I wrote was based off of the character Percy Jackson from the Percy Jackson series. He was one of my first crushes when I was younger! I also wrote a few songs based off of the Selection series by Kierra Cass. I find those books so romantic and elegant, that I’ve written a few love songs based off the characters in the series and their lives. I’m also a big people watcher. I think it’s so cool to observe other people and the way they live their lives.
—If you were to record a duet with an artist outside the pop genre, who might that be and which song would you cover?
Outside of the pop genre, I would love to record a duet with Ed Sheeran. I think he is an absolute genius and would love to see how he works in the studio. I think I would want to cover “Say Something” by A Great Big World. It’s such an emotional and powerful song, and it would be so cool to do as a duet with him.
—What was the first album you owned and how did it impact you?
My first real album had to be “Fearless” by Taylor Swift. I was seven years old and knew every word to every song on the album. Everyday on the ride to school, I’d have my mom turn on our minivan’s radio, and we’d rock out to Taylor. By listening to that album, I learned what music was. It was real. I was listening to her actual thoughts and feelings. It also kick started my dreams of becoming a musician. It showed me that if a real girl like her could do something incredible with her life, so could I…
—What was the first concert you attended? What do you remember about it?
I will never forget my very first concert. I was twelve years old, and for Christmas my parents had gotten me tickets to the Taylor Swift “Red” concert in Dallas, Texas. That was one of the best nights of my life. I was in literal awe of the arena. I could feel the energy of the thousands of people brought together by one girl’s music. I remember feeling the bass of the drums in my chest and the sound of everyone in the building singing at one time. I also remember the joy on Taylor’s face as she sang. She was in heaven, and that night, I was too. I knew that I wanted to do that one day. I wanted to experience those feelings of euphoria again and again. I realized I wanted to be a performer.