For an artist like Lauren Aquilina who has felt music in her bones since she was young, who has doused herself in creative work since she was seventeen, and who has found and healed herself through art over the years, there is still nothing that comes between her and her health. From launching her career in 2012 with the release of an epically beautiful EP trilogy to opening for Taylor Swift in 2015, Aquilina is the kind of artist that shares her music and story with an open heart, no matter how joyful or painful. Her 2016 debut album, Isn’t It Strange? garnered the singer-songwriter a die-hard fanbase and a new world of music listeners who fell in love with her sincere lyrics and ambient sound. The following October, the artist took a step back from the spotlight to focus on her mental health and wellbeing, and slowly as if it was destiny itself, another profound piece of truth about the artist was uncovered during that time –
There is still nothing that comes between Lauren Aquilina and music.
After healing and rediscovering herself through life without creating music, she quickly realized it was something she still needed. Better than before, Aquilina announced her return to music by releasing the singles “Tobacco In My Sheets,” “If Looks Could Kill,” and “Psycho” in 2019. Now she’s back with brand new music that reflects her journey over the past few years in the most honest way she ever has. As her talent for lyrical creation has always shown, her 2020 single, “Swap Places,” shows more evidently than the strength, resilience, and substance that lives within Aquilina’s music.
Her die-hard fanbase has been a touchstone for the artist to come back to what she knows too well and what she is incredibly talented at– writing and creating. Today, she releases her brand new single, “Best Friend,” a heartbreaking yet brutally honest acoustic track that explores how excruciating it can be to lose a best friend. “‘Best Friend’ was the first song I wrote in lockdown and the song that made me realize I wanted to make an EP,” she shares.
“It’s a straight-up sad song and one of the most truthful, matter-of-fact lyrics I’ve ever written– inspired by my best friend ghosting me at the beginning of the year.” Though the track is inspired by artists like Phoebe Bridgers, Taylor Swift, and Alanis Morissette, the song remains unique to the artist’s signature aptitude for writing about pain in the most revolutionary ways because if it’s ever possible to communicate how heartbreaking losing a best friend compares to losing a relationship, it would only be at the pen of Lauren Aquilina’s.
“I don’t think there are enough songs about friendship heartbreaks but for me, it’s one of the most painful things I’ve ever gone through, so I hope people can relate and that this song helps them if they need it.”
Her fearlessness doesn’t stop there. More than just a singer and songwriter, Aquilina also uses her platform to advocate strongly for prioritizing mental health and wellness. Knowing all too well about the pressures of fame and the music industry, she is representing Girl & Repertoire, a new independent community and support system for young women in the entertainment industry. “Having this kind of community would have made all the difference to me. This would have saved my life,” she says, and just as courageous as her music is, so is her mission to better the same industry she walked away from and fell back in love with.
While 2020 has been full of unknowns, quarantine gave Lauren Aquilina the space to be the most creative she has ever been. With her new EP on the horizon, she gave us the inside look into her writing process, her newfound creativity, and how singing songs for herself have become a new kind of therapy.
It’s been a few years since your debut album Isn’t It Strange? came out. In the time since then, you said that the “cons outweighed the pros for being an artist,” but now you’re back with your own music coming out. What made you decide to release your songs again?
Yeah, I had a pretty rough ride with the music industry the first time around. It was really important for me to take that time off (even though I was convinced at the time it was over forever lol.. drama queen) and rebuild my relationship with music again. I actually did nothing for a whole year before I started writing for other people, and then eventually that allowed me the creative freedom where I started making things again just because I wanted to. I had a whole new team and was feeling stronger mentally, then when I wrote “Psycho” I just had this feeling that I wanted to put it out.
“Swap Places” is a beautiful song. Do you think it’s the most vulnerable you’ve been with writing you’ve released?
Thank you! I think the past 3 singles have all been really vulnerable and it’s something I’m actively trying to do when I write for me now. I love writing for other artists but it’s not that often that I get to tell my story, so now when I get the opportunity to do that I always wanna make it as real as possible. It’s therapy.
How has quarantine been for you? I know many artists have taken advantage of staying home by creating new music. Is that what you’ve been up to or are you more of taking it day by day and resting creatively?
This year has turned into the most creative period of my entire life. I ended up quarantining with my boyfriend Marcus Andersson and also one of my best friends Caroline Pennell, who are both incredible songwriters. We’d never worked together the 3 of us but once we started to we realized that we had this magic connection and we’re all comfortable enough with each other to be our true creative selves. Taking a break from the revolving door of writing sessions has helped me to feel more like an artist than I ever have and that’s been so exciting.
You’ve penned incredible tracks for artists like FLETCHER and Olivia O’Brien. What do you love about writing songs for other artists?
Aw, thank you– I love helping other artists tell their stories. I never go into a session trying to write a “hit,” I always just want to come out feeling like the artist was the most authentic version of themselves in the song and that I made them comfortable enough to do that. The best part has been making friends! I feel like when I was younger I subscribed to the whole industry thing of ‘other artists are your competition’ and I didn’t really communicate with my peers but now I don’t feel like that at all.
How do you know when a song should be sung by you rather than someone else?
It’s a gut feeling.. and if I start strutting down the street with it blaring in my headphones pretending I’m doing the music video then it’s probably meant to be mine.
Your writing and way of communication are very introspective, which I think is what makes a lot of your music very moving and relatable. Because of that and your way of looking inward to create art outside of you, do you prefer being able to write over performing for an audience?
Yes, absolutely. I’m a huge introvert and I find shows and touring really really stressful.. not the actual performing part but just everything surrounding it. When I’m writing I feel no stress at all and it’s more of a release.
Where do you look for inspiration when you’re struggling to find it?
I give myself a break and try and live a bit! I’ve also been reading back through old journal entries recently to get inspired.
What’s a song, album, or artist you enjoy that people would be surprised you listened to?
Haha, I’m really into 90s grunge stuff at the moment l, but I also grew up on dance music. Deadmau5 is one of my most listened to artists of all time which I feel is probably unexpected for me!
“Bad People” is a deep, dark, and yet truthful song. What inspired you to write that?
It’s pretty dark but I was in an abusive relationship with someone much older than me when I was a teenager. I was blackmailed into it and didn’t manage to get out for 3 years. Then more recently, I watched that person go on to have extreme career success. It made me question if karma is even real and I just couldn’t understand how the universe had allowed that to happen. I’d been trying to write a song about it for a long time but don’t think I could have summed it up better than I was able to in ‘Bad People’.
“Swap Places” is about the way you see yourself and how comfortable you are in your skin, and sometimes wishing you didn’t care about success, appearance, or approval. Do you think social media plays a role in our culture to bring us to this way of thinking?
Absolutely… I can’t even imagine what it’s like to be a 15-year-old right now. There’s so much pressure on appearance and how you’re presenting yourself online it’s exhausting. It’s crazy how something as small as a “like” can be tied to such huge feelings of approval and acceptance, and that’s definitely a trap I’ve fallen into MANY times.
Social media is beginning to be a catalyst for releasing music though. As an artist in the digital age, what are your thoughts on that? Do you think any of this digital interaction can make up for how it feels to be interacting with fans at a show?
Yeah I mean, I don’t know if I’d even have a career without social media! It’s been such an amazing tool for me and even though it does have a lot of negatives, artists have never been able to connect with their audiences as much as we can today and I love that. I don’t think it will ever get close to the feeling of being in the same room as your favorite band, screaming lyrics with a thousand other people though.
How much of your childhood influences inspire the music you make today?
Avril Lavigne’s Let Go is one of the first albums I remember owning and that’s been a huge influence on my new EP. It’s definitely different from my older stuff but hopefully, my writing is the common thread that ties it together and makes it still feel like me.
What’s your favorite song off Folklore?
“Invisible String.” That’s it. That’s the tweet. But also, the entire album.
“Thought I’d have it figured out by 25, but I keep dreaming of a different life.” What did you mean when you wrote that lyric, and what dreams are you still trying to chase?
I remember when I was a kid thinking 25 was so grown up and that I’d be a full ‘adult’ by this age.. oh how wrong I was haha. I guess for the past few years I’ve been denying a huge part of myself by not being an artist, but that’s always been my true childhood dream. I’m letting myself chase it again now.
If you could swap places with anyone– dead or alive– for one day, who would it be and why?
Miley Cyrus. She’s so fearless and iconic. I wanna know what it’s like to be in her head for a day… and her wardrobe tbh.
What advice can you give to anyone who’s aspiring to be a songwriter in the pop space like you are today?
Don’t let anybody rush you! Let things happen as you’re ready for them to. Make sure everything you put out into the world is something you’re proud of and something that feels like a true representation of you. Be your own biggest fan.